Summer 1717 Dresden newspaper headlines read
“The Great Marchand Chickens Out!”
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH IS NOW VISITING THE COURT OF DRESDEN at the same time as the famous French organist Louis Marchand. The great Bach had not been in Dresden long before court luminaries began disputing which of the two–Marchand or Bach–was the better improviser. As music competitions are popular here in town, a local minister easily and quickly arranged the concert. The word has escaped that the evening prior to the contest, Marchand sneaked into the chapel and eavesdropped as Bach practiced for the showdown. The next morning the French keyboard player, having complained of an illness which required him to return home in the middle of the night, was nowhere to be found!
Some music scholars believe that the piece Bach was playing was from the Brandenburg Concerto, No. 5 in which Bach had borrowed some of Marchand’s music ideas and incorporated them into his piece!
Karl Richter, playing Brandenburg Concerto, No. 5 harpsichord solo
Absolutely amazing! No wonder Marchand turned tail!
As you watch the video clip, compare Richter’s harpsichord to the one shown here. What key element do you see that different from your keyboard at home?