Brattleboro Reformer

I never paid attention to the argument that (say) Beethoven should be played on a modern piano because he would have composed for one had it existed. Well, it didn’t; and he wrote for what he had. So I was most interested in hearing a CD from Divine Art, titled “Mersenne’s Clavichord.”

Here Terence Charlston plays French keyboard music from the 16th and 17th centuries by composers whose names are familiar only to specialists: Antoine de Fevin, Jacques Cellier, and Nicholas Lebeque—not to mention the ubiquitous Anon.—among several others.

While few of the 21 selections could be considered masterpieces, they do represent the popular tastes of the times (when there was little if any distinction between “popular” and “classical” music) in which the upper classes demanded more and more elegant music for their entertainment.

But 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. (The temperament, for those who care, is quarter-comma mean-tone. (Google that for yourself, please.) 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