Johann Sebastian Bach - Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E-flat, BWV 998 - Dongsok Shin, lautenwerck

JS Bach's Music performed at Lautenwerck, his favorite instrument

April 27, 2021 0 By Artes & contextos

Lautenwerck, JS Bach's favorite


If we want to hear the music of Johann Sebastian Bach interpreted by the instruments that actually existed in the 17th and 18th centuries in which the musician lived, there are ensembles specialized only in that.

But a complete musical revival is not exactly simple: although there are baroque cellos, oboes and violas out there, not all the instruments that Bach knew, played on, and for which he composed survived.

Take for example the Lautenwerck, (Cravo-Alaúde), a category of “gut instruments that resemble the Harpsichord and imitate the delicate soft timbre of Alaúde”, according to the

Of the eighteenth-century harpsichord artisans of Germany, remembered by history, a name stands out: Johann Nicolaus Bach.



Johann Sebastian's second cousin, “built several types of Lautenwerck. The basic model resembled a small manual carnation in the shape of a wing, of the ordinary type. It had only a single scale (with gut string), but it sounded a pair of tuned strings an octave apart in the lower third of the measure and in unison in the middle third, to get as close as possible to the feeling given by a Lute. The instrument had no metal strings ”.

This gave Lautenwerks a distinctive sound, very different from that of Cravo as we know it today. You can hear it - or rather, a reconstructed example - reproduced in the video above, in a brief presentation of Prelude, Fuga, and Allegro of Bach in E flat, BWV 998 by the ancient music expert Dongsok Shin.

“If he had two copies, they couldn't be more different”, says Shin about the composer and his relationship with this instrument, now little known, in a recent article by NPR . “The gut has a different kind of touch. It is not so bright. Lautenwerck can arouse certain emotions ”. Just as the sound of each Lautenwerck will have exhibited its own distinctive characteristics in Bach's day, so will every attempt to recreate it today.

Johann Sebastian Bach - Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E-flat, BWV 998 - Dongsok Shin, lautenwerck

Johann Sebastian Bach - Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E flat, BWV 998 - by Dongsok Shin in Lautenwerck

"The small handful of artisans who currently build the Lautenwerks are basically forensic musicologists," notes NPR correspondent Neda Ulaby, "reconstructing instruments based on the research and the sound they think they produced."

As for the only man we can be sure of knowing them with enough intimacy to understand the difference, he would be making 336 years old right now.

This article was translated from the original in English by Copywriting Artes & contextos

The original article was published @ Open Culture
The original article appeared first @ Open Culture

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