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GRAMOPHONE (05/2022)
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Harmonia Mundi



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Artists and their instruments:

Benjamin Alard on the Hieronymus Albrecht Hass harpsichord of 1740

This instrument is part of the collection of Alan Rubin, in Provins, France, one of the most important private keyboard instrument collections in the world. It is the only three manual harpsichord to have survived in the world, and even at the time it was built three keyboards was very unusual. There is a harpsichord by Hass in Yale, but it only has two keyboards. It was very di icult to build an instrument with three keyboards, it’s a real masterpiece. We can imagine that Hass built it over a period of two years or so because it is so perfect – if you look at how every piece of this instrument is chosen, how everything is perfect in the way that it functions, it is unique.

With the three keyboards it seems like an organ – at that time keyboardists played all the keyboard instruments, it was very important to play the organ, harpsichord, clavichord and later piano. The 16-foot strings are for me like the principal of an organ, and you have two different colours possible with it, the normal colour, or you can add a buff stop to create something softer: for me this like the open diapason and the stopped diapason on an organ. The are lots of possibilities of colour on the instrument, and another very interesting one is the Nasal Register, where the strings are plucked very near to the nut.

This instrument is very big, but very elegant. The conservation of it is also unbelievably perfect. We don’t know very precisely its provenance before 1890, though we do know that Wanda Landowska later wanted to buy it but when she came back to Paris to do so the instrument had been sold to another person. After that it was not played, and the irst big restoration was at the end of the 1950s for Rafael Puyana, who was the owner of the instrument before Alan Rubin.

When recording Bach’s earlier works it was interesting to play different instruments, but the Well-Tempered Clavier is the irst work of his that needs something new. I have a lot of colleagues who play Bach so well, so it’s not necessary to record the work again if you don’t propose something new.

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