9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Perfect Vibrations: Pasquali’s “Art of Fingering” and the New Keyboard Aesthetic

Joyce Lindorff

In the “Art of Fingering,”  (1758, published after his death) Nicolo Pasquali sought to impart all his knowledge of harpsichord playing. He provided information in the areas he considered basic and important: fingering, technique, ornamentation, touch, and tuning. Also included are his personal opinions about the suitability for the harpsichord of certain contemporary compositions. In these comments can be read evidence of the changes in touch, texture and performance style which became part of the transition away from Baroque textures and into those we now consider Classical. Only a few years earlier, the “usual” touch had been described as detached by C. P. E. Bach. Pasquali clearly asserts that legato, as the usual touch, creates the perfect vibration of the strings, through continuity of sound. Works championed by Pasquali--the Concertos of Handel and the Lessons of Alberti--are seen to contain textures in keeping with this sought-after fullness and continuity. Examples will be demonstrated. Although Pasquali’s suggestions were thoroughly harpsichordistic in seeking fullness through texture, they must be viewed as transitional; it was this very desire for fullness and sound that led to the harpsichord’s eventual demise and the ceding of its role to the pianoforte.

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Last updated on 9 June 2000 by Yo Tomita