On this disc, Gustav Leonhardt uses a repro-duction of a German harpsichord (School of Silbermann, c1735, by Anthony Sidey) and a claviorganum. The latter, though a great rarity today, was already in use in Europe by the beginning of the 16th century and continued until the late 18th century; the last surviving harpsichord made in England was part of a claviorganum. It consisted of a one- or two-manual keyboard instrument with a chamber organ beneath it. The reconstructed instrument used here has a one-manual harpsichord (after Aelpido Gregori) and a chest-like chamber organ with two stops. The harpsichord and organ may be used separately or together. One hopes that those who maintained and tuned the claviorganum were well paid!
Although no music is known to have been specifically intended for the claviorganum, the catch-all use of the word ‘keyboard’ leaves the door open for its use. The sound of the two keyboards used together is fascinating but Leonhardt uses it sparingly, as solo voice in the items by Hassler, Strogers and Byrd (Queen’s Alman) and to add a pedal bass to Pachelbel’s brief Toccata – how he does this is unclear! The organ has its solo day in Gibbons’ Fantasia II and the remaining items are played as harpsichord solos. The otherwise admirable inlay booklet does not indicate what is played on what.
The programme includes some rarities and Leonhardt is at his mature best. The warmth and flexibility of his phrasing belie the severity of his personal appearance. This recording is a must for all aspects of the performances – and the arguably overdue reappearance of the clavi-organum.