Historical Harpsichord Technique

Historical Harpsichord Technique

Developing La douceur du toucher
Yonit Lea Kosovske
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/11/2011
Format: Hardback 13 b&w illus., 34 music exx.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35647-5
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Yonit Lea Kosovske surveys early music and writing about keyboard performance with the aim of facilitating the development of an expressive tone in the modern player. Reviewing the work of the pedagogues and performers of the late Renaissance through the late Baroque, she gives special emphasis to la douceur du toucher or a gentle touch. Other topics addressed include posture, early pedagogy, exercises, articulation, and fingering patterns. Illustrated with musical examples as well as photos of the author at the keyboard, Historical Harpsichord Technique can be used for individual or group lessons and for amateurs and professionals.

Author Bio

Yonit Kosovske performs on both modern and historical keyboard instruments as a soloist and chamber artist. She has produced several solo CDs, the most recent of which include La Gracieuse, French chaconnes, passacailles, & preludes (La Douceur, 2010) and Keyboard Music of Girolamo Frescobaldi (Focus, 2010). Kosovske lives in Ireland, where she performs as a freelance artist and teaches at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.


“The basic approach to playing the harpsichord with sensitivity which Kosovske encourages is absolutely right, and this will be a valuable reference book for those setting out to play the harpsichord seriously. Because so much of the material presented here is relevant to any early keyboard instrument, it will be of value to other performers as well, particularly those playing the fortepiano. ”
 — The Consort

“Well-conceived and well-written, Historical Harpsichord Technique offers valuable information for all who have an interest in developing good harpsichord touch.”
 — William Wiggins, Oberlin College and Conservatory

“Surveys early music and writing about keyboard performance with the aim of facilitating the development of an expressive tone in the modern player. ”

“Kosovske’s book is an important addition to the literature on harpsichord playing. The focus on touch, and sound production in particular, gives it its own weight and importance. . . . [I]t will certainly remain an important reference work for many years to come.”
 — Early Music Performer

“Period performance has established such strong norms by now that students too often simply follow notable current performers, not bothering with historical performance sources. Excellent and necessary as it is to follow a good model, returning to the sources is the best way of then developing one’s own individuality and creativity. Those starting out on the journey need a reliable guide, and that is what Kosovske provides.”
 — Early Music

“[This] book is methodical and well-written, and it is a strong contender for inclusion in any harpsichordist's library.”
 — Early Music America

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Table of Contents


Introduction: La douceur du toucher
1. Preparing to Play
Beginning Lessons
Selecting an Instrument
Position at the Keyboard
Arms and Elbows
Curvature of the Hands and Fingers
2. Touching the Instrument
Warm-up Exercises
Touching the Keys
Stroking the Keys
Motion of the Hands and Wrists
Playing Different Keyboard Instruments
3. Articulation
What Is Articulation?
"Ordinary Manner"
Staggered Playing
Grace Notes and Trills
Detached Playing
Agogic Accents
4. Fingering
Comfort and Context
Strong and Weak Notes
Use of the Thumb
Contraction of the Hand
Artistic Freedom

Appendix: Brief Biographical Notes on People Mentioned in the Text

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