Mersenne’s Clavichord



Not one example of an original French clavichord survives. The instrument played on this historically important recording is a new construction following the specifications published by Marin Mersenne in the 17th century. It’s therefore the only example of how early French keyboard music may have actually sounded to the first audiences. A range of works from the 16th and 17th centuries are presented, all French except the well known Toccata by Sweelinck, whose music was prevalent around France at the time.

Also by Terence Charlston is The Harmonious Thuringian (DDA 25122).

Track Listing

    Antonie de Fevin:

  1. Sancta Trinitas (4:57)
  2. anonymous:

  3. Prélude sur Chacun Ton (4:06)
  4. Longtemps y a que je vis en espoire (3:05)
  5. Pierre Blondeau:

  6. La Magdalena (2:22)
  7. Anon/Guillaume Costerley/Nicolas Gombert; arr. Charlston):

  8. Prelude/Fantasia/Hors envyeux (3:41)
  9. anonymous:

  10. La Bounette (1:19)
  11. Antoine Gardane:

  12. Gamba Gagliarda – Moneghina Gagliarda (1:14)
  13. Pierre Megnier/Jacques Cellier:

  14. Prelude/Pavane (2:26)
  15. anonymous (arr. Charlston):

  16. Canaries – Borree – Volte appellee la Marcielleze – Pavane de Aranda – Fantasie sur l’air de ma Bergerer (2:54)
  17. Charles Racquet:

  18. Fantaisie (7:06)
  19. Pierre de la Barre:

  20. Tu crois, on Beau Soleil (2:36)
  21. Mercure d’Orléans:

  22. Praeludium – Volta (2:27)
  23. anonymous:

  24. Four Preludes (2:27)
  25. jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck:

  26. Toccata (4:01)
  27. anon/Antoine Boesset/Germain Pinel (arr. Charlston):

  28. Bergamasca – Gavotte – Courante ‘La Chabotte’ – ‘Hereux séjour de Partenisse’ – Bransle ‘Les Frondeurs’ (4:12)
  29. Gerard Scronx:

  30. Echo (3:05)
  31. Jan Henry d’Anglebert:

  32. Prelude (5:15)
  33. Jacques Champion:

  34. Sarabande (2:28)
  35. Louis Couperin:

  36. Duo (2:40)
  37. Nicolas Gigault:

  38. Recit à 3 (3:06)
  39. Nicolas Lebegue:

  40. Noel: Laissez paistre vos Bestes (1:49)



This is more than just an historical documentation, for the various works are drawn from a wide variety of sources. The result is a slow meandering of over a century and a half of music that is rarely, if ever, on a program. Charlston’s playing is skillful and interesting, with discrete and appropriate ornamentation and a knack for never obscuring the melody, no matter what sort of counterpoint is going on.

” —Bertil van Boer
British Clavichord Society

This CD by Terence Charlston is more than just a recording: it reflects a research project in a field which has been to date largely neglected. The sound of the clavichord is impressive. This is clavichord playing as it should be. A highly recommended landmark recording.

” —Paul Simmonds
Brattleboro Reformer

The important thing about this disc is that the instrument used is a reconstruction of a clavichord as it was described by one Marin Mersenne in 1637. This pleases me because what I hear on this CD is as close I am going to get to hearing what they heard back then. The booklet is packed with information about the instrument, the composers, and the selections. I can picture music departments wanting a copy of this very interesting collection.

” —Frank Behrens
CD Hotlist

I confess that I’m a sucker for the clavichord. Its sound is limited and idiosyncratic but definitely charming … clavichordist Terence Charlston uses the instrument’s radically limited expressive range to full effect.

” —Rick Anderson
The Chronicle

This pleasant album is more important for scholars of music and keyboard buffs than your casual listener, though it’s a nice enough collection. It’s got a nice early music feel to it…it’s a music geek’s delight, as Charlston plays music of the period, recreating a sound that has probably not been heard for several hundred years: it’s how early French keyboard music would have sounded to the audiences of the day. You’ve got to admire the energy behind the enterprise.

” —Jeremy Condliffe
American Record Guide

Clavichords are notoriously difficult to play well. Terence Charlston’s performance is miracu­lous, with everything perfectly in place; yet it does not sound cautious. This is top-level work. The result is one of the best clavi­chord albums I have ever heard. The sound, historical essays, photography, and the booklet production are deluxe in every way. There is nothing more to say… buy this.

” —Bradley Lehman
Musical Opinion

This is a very important disc, one which deserves to be taken very seriously. The performances are beyond criticism, as is the clear and natural recording quality.

” —Emily Allison

This is a unique recording in that for the first time we hear a clavichord in French keyboard music. It is also a groundbreaking recording … because of the possible impact on the approach to French harpsichord music in general. The programme is well put together, including many pieces which are unknown and are played according to the performance habits of the time. Charlston once again proves to be a very stylish and sensitive interpreter. His performances here are simply superb. I should not forget to acknowledge the efforts of the technical staff which has managed to make the clavichord sound very natural. Ample reasons to label this disc Recording of the Month.

” —Johan van Veen

Terence Charlston’s new CD of 16th and 17th century French keyboard music combines delight and illumination to an uncommon degree. Charlston’s playing is sure and vivacious throughout; the recorded sound is detailed and warm. The liner notes are unusually generous. Highly recommended!

” —Paul Rabin
The Consort

Throughout the recordings, Charlston’s careful attention to details of articulation and ornamentation is impressive, and the range of dynamics he draws from the instrument should convince the most sceptical of the potential of the clavichord. This CD is an excellent introduction to this repertoire, much of which is still largely unexplored and unrecorded; it will appeal not only to the specialist performer but also to those non-players who are keen to expand their knowledge of less familiar repertoire.

” —John Collins
The Classical Reviewer

This is a remarkably entrancing disc. Charlston extracts so many fine sounds, lovely sonorities and ear catching timbres from this remarkable instrument. This is a terrific survey of French music of the 16th and 17th century refracted through an instrument of many fascinating and attractive qualities. The recording is ideal; the microphones set perfectly with much detail and intimacy. There are excellent detailed notes by Terence Charlston as well as a beautifully produced and illustrated booklet full of facsimiles of the music and photos of the instrument. It is terrific that Divine Art continues to bring us such treasures as this.

” —Bruce Reader
Clavichord International

Charlston’s playing throughout is sensitive to the music as well as to the instrument, drawing maximum expressive power from each on every track. The sound of Bavington’s instrument is lute-like, with marked differences in the various registers, the whole blending into a color spectrum that provides great clarity and definition to the music presented on this recording. The recorded sound is clear and lifelike – indeed, the entire production is a model for recordings of this kind.This disc is not only beautiful, it is important.

” —Gregory Crowell
CD Classico

Peter Bavington has made a splendid specimen [of the clavichord]. One can not remain indifferent to the enveloping sound of this instrument. Passionate and at the same time reflective in his playing, Terence Charlston expresses in this recording a total act of love towards this so delicate and particular keyboard.

” —Andrea Bedetti