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Introduction to Harpsichord Sound & Touch

with Pawel Siwczak


About this course

Introduction to Harpsichord Sound & Touch is an exploration of an expressive sound of the harpsichord. This course is aimed at everyone who wants to improve the quality of sound and understanding of the basics of toucher (touch), name given to the technique of playing this instrument. It is an entry level presentation particularly well suited to pianists and organists exploring the sound of the harpsichord, and to those at the beginning of their journey of learning this instrument. Techniques discussed here will also apply to playing virginals and spinet.

A starting point is a brief overview of the mechanics of the harpsichord and how they affect the playing techniques, such as broken style (style brisé) or over-legato. Three ways of spreading the chords (arpeggios) are presented on an example of La Léon, Sarabande by Jean-Baptiste Antoine de Forqueray, following the composer’s instructions.

Click on the  (menu) in the video player above or on the circles in the timeline to navigate between the following chapters:

  • Harpsichord mechanics and toucher
  • Touch, registers, and voicing
  • Stagger, force, avoiding harshness
  • Expressive sound
  • Style brisé (style luthé)
  • Over-legato (überlegato)
  • Arpeggios, rolling the chords — with an example of Forqueray’s La Léon (that you can download as a PDF to follow the music)

Follow with the music

Link to PDF download

About the tutor

Pawel Siwczak

Pawel Siwczak is a Polish & British musician based in London. He has a passion for historical keyboards: harpsichord, clavichord, virginals, chamber organ, and fortepiano, which he studied extensively and continues to explore in his career.

Following the completion of his postgraduate piano studies at the Frederic Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw (2004) Pawel continued to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London earning his master’s degree and a diploma with distinction (2008). He is the winner of the 8th Broadwood Harpsichord Competition and the Sir Anthony Lewis Memorial Prize (Musica Britannica).

Pawel’s performance history and recording career are diverse, ranging from solo recitals, working with singers and conducting from the harpsichord, to collaborations with numerous orchestras and ensembles in the UK and abroad. He has given solo recitals as part of Waterloo Festival, Galway Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Manchester Pride, an independently organized series at the Cello Factory (Art Gallery in London).

His recordings include “Dialogues” for guitar and harpsichord by Stephen Dodgson, a few albums with The Bach Players, a double CD of Telemann’s music with Florilegium and, among others, improvisations with PC Music artist Danny L Harle originally recorded for BBC Radio 3.

Pawel is passionate about working with other art disciplines and intertwining of the art forms. He has presented a project of music for two harpsichords (under the name of Double Entendre) with a flamenco dancer, his performances were celebrating new art shows by The London Group (UK’s longest-running artists’ collective). His collaboration with Danny Harle was featured by BBC Radio as “Five of the BBC’s weirdest live sessions ever”, which is a concise summary of Pawel’s experimental spirit combined with traditional classical training.

He is a teacher at the Royal Academy of Music and a director of the Bach Club, a Social Enterprise presenting concerts on historical instruments and providing filming and recording for musicians. He has been elected an Associate of the RAM (ARAM) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Pawel puts emphasis on the storytelling power of the language of music; the sheer ability to communicate expressively with the audience is key to him.

To find out more and listen to Pawel’s recent online recital series “To Survive Melancholy” visit pawelsiwczak.com

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