Musical Pop Quiz

The Composer. Perhaps.

I’ve always been fascinated by the aural  and emotional differences between “The Big Three” keyboard instruments — the organ, piano, and harpsichord.

The organ’s ability to serve as a sort of mini-orchestra is astonishing. The harpsichord’s tintinnabulatory clarity is wonderfully suited to the continuios (continuii?) that underpin so many of my Baroque favorites. And my personal experience on the piano has always given it a special place in my musical heart. In fact, the three bring such distinct strengths to the musical table that I often find myself forgetting that they’re from the same (roughly) instrumental family.

Which is why I love finding pieces that are performed on all three instruments, like the following versions of Bach’s Sarabande con Partite in C major, BWV 990. (According to David Schulenberg’s “The Keyboard Music of J.S. Bach,” Bach’s authorship of this particular work is open for debate. The “wide-spanning scales and arpeggiation in several of the variations” suggest a later compositional birth date than the piece bears, apparently. One thing is certain: it’s wonderful music, whether Bach or no.)

First, Andreas Liebig on the organ:

Next, Maria Grinberg’s piano version:

Lastly, Robert Hill and his trusty harpsichord:

There’s at least one more version — arranged for lute-harpsichord — that is a) too idiosyncratic for my tastes and b) not readily available. So I can’t make this post quite as complete as I would like. (Is this what a “First World Problem” looks like?)

Also, I just realized that the word order of one’s title is vitally important, and this one’s a trifle misleading. Apologies to those who clicked through with a very different combination of “pop” and “music” in mind.

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