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Famous Harpsichord Music

Updated on June 6, 2012
The French, Italians, English and Germans had their own individual schools of music; as a result, they each had their own architectural designs for the harpsichord.
The French, Italians, English and Germans had their own individual schools of music; as a result, they each had their own architectural designs for the harpsichord. | Source

Well Known Music for The Harpsichord

I’ll include a youtube link for you to reference, unless there were no recording of the composition available.

Great composers for the harpsichord - there are so many misconceptions and stereotypes about different fields of studies, its so wonder the truth gets a word in edgewise on anything sometimes - anything - literature, philosophy, arts, science - you name it! Well, the harpsichord is such a case, because, unless you’re somewhat knowledgeable about history and music, you may not know when you’re listening to true harpsichord music vs. harpsichord music played on the piano?...

For starters, lets get one thing perfectly clear, Bach only wrote music for the harpsichord and clavichord.., not the piano.... Although Bach was friends with the inventor of the piano, he did not care much for the instrument when it was first introduced to him; furthermore, the piano was still underway when Bach died in 1750, so even if he felt that the instrument had potential, it was not until around 1760 that the piano was finally perfected (Even if the piano back then did not sound like the pianos of today....) However, today, Bach’s music gets performed almost exclusively at the piano..... So much so, that unless you’re knowledgeable about music, you oftentimes won’t know what instrument the composition you’re listening to should be played on (see comment in the first paragraph of this article..)

Throughout the Baroque Period, the harpsichord carried the same weight with composers and the public as did the piano throughout the Romantic Period....

Domenico Scarlatti 1685 - 1767
Was one of the greatest composers of the Baroque Period, as well as one of the giants of keyboard (harpsichord and clavichord) music. He was the son of Alessandro Scarlatti, another brilliant musician of the Baroque Period. Scarlatti wrote over 500 compositions for solo harpsichord, making him quite prolific. He developed the sonata allegro form (although his concept of musical structure was quite elementary...), ultimately paving the way for giants such as Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Liszt. Furthermore, Horowitz enjoyed the music of Scarlatti very much and oftentimes played some of his harpsichord sonatas in his recitals.

Here are some notable compositions by Scarlatti:
Sonata in D minor K. 9., Sonata in E major K. 20., Sonata in B minor K. 27

Francois Couperin 1668 - 1733
Typically, Baroque Music is divided between the French and Italians. Although German composers were starting to make their way into the world during the Baroque period, this period was mostly dominated by French and Italian musicians, who were also by far the majority of composers at that time (although the greatest composers of that period were arguably Germans: Bach, Handel and Telemann). Couperin was a representative of the French Baroque and is one of the giants of this period. Couperin came from a very talented French musical family of great performers and composers, but he was the most gifted, as well as the most famous of all his kin....

Couperin wrote a lot of music for the harpsichord and here is one of his many compositions:
Cinquieme Prelude

Johann Sebastian Bach 1685 - 1750
One poignant note: Today, Bach is considered the greatest composer of the Baroque Period, as well as one of the 3-4 greatest composers that has ever lived; nevertheless, when Bach was around, he was of little consequence as a composer and was mostly known as a great harpsichordist and organist...

Bach wrote lots of music for the harpsichord, but the preludes are his most famous - here is the most famous of the set performed by Ton Koopman - gorgeous recording:
Prelude No. 1 in C from “Well Tempered Clavier”

There is much harpsichord music to be discovered... If you’re interested in this now obscure instrument, then search ‘youtube’ for performances and recordings as there are plenty out there.... 


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    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you so much for stopping by alocsin.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the pieces I chose for my article.

      Take good care of yourself


    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I very much like harpsichord music but have only heard a couple of your seletions. Thanks much for the links. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you AudreyHowitt.

      Yes, I can see how you'd be interested in the Romantic Period, judging from your hubs and writing style. I too love the Romantic composers myself, they are my personal favorites.

      Thanks for stopping by and take care of yourself


    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 6 years ago from California

      I love Bach and Scarlatti--but tend to sing works from the romantic and post-romantic periods--nice hub!

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks Derdriu.

      Wow, I just learn more and more about you. You're a very interesting individual. I had no idea you had so much musical background. I should have guessed it, because you're so knowledgeable about classical music...

      Take care of yourself


    • profile image

      Derdriu 6 years ago

      John, What an informative, intelligent, interesting summary of famous harpsichord composers and compositions! It's great to read this since my brother's graduate thesis was on Scarlatti father and son! Additionally, I like your bringing in Couperin and Bach (from whom Mozart said there was much to learn).

      Thank you for caring and sharing, voted up + all,


    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you Matthew for stopping by...

      Yes, you're so right. I was listening to the Koopman's awesome. I felt guilty, because even I had forgotten how gorgeous and underappreciated this instrument is nowadays.

      Take care and God Bless


    • Matthew Ryczko profile image

      Matthew Ryczko 6 years ago from Ohio

      Great hub, John. I fell in love with the harpsicord as a Tori Amos fan in the 90s. It is a shame that it isn't more popular- it has such a beautiful and unique sound.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks shea duane, truly appreciated....

      Yes, I almost shed a tear when I heard Koopman's version of the Bach C major prelude. (which you can hear in my hub) You're correct, it's a beautiful instrument.

      Take care and God Bless


    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      Great hub. When I was in Williamsburg with my family, my son and I found a carpenter shop with a beautiful harpsichord. He started playing it and it was so lovely to hear. All the other tourists were impressed, too. It is a wonderful instrument... like the pre-technology voices of angels. as I said, great hub.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hello phdast7, thank you for your kind words, and for visiting and commenting on my article...I truly appreciated....

      Hello KatrineDalMonte, thank you for your words and for visiting, I truly appreciated. I try to write as simple as possible so most people can understand...classical music is difficult as it is, so I try to bring it down "to where the rubber meets the road" as they say...

      Hello stessily, I know you're familiar with classical music...thanks for visiting and commenting...I truly appreciated....

      Take care you three and God Bless


    • profile image

      stessily 6 years ago

      John, Thank you for this nostalgic journey through harpsichord music/musicians. I grew up on harpsichord music, and all of these musicians and compositions are very familiar to me.

      Well done! Lotsa votes.

      Kind regards, Stessily

    • profile image

      KatrineDalMonte 6 years ago

      Hi John, I always enjoy your simple and clear writing style. A nice hub, thanks. :-)

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good Hub. You have such a wealth of knowledge about music and musical compositions, Very interesting and very impressive. Nice work.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks Theocharis V, really appreciated. You're the first one to comment. I'm glad you have a taste for harpsichord music. Nowadays, most people prefer the piano (present company included)....

      Take care of yourself


    • Theocharis V profile image

      Theocharis V 6 years ago from Piraeus, Greece

      Great Hub! Voting this UP


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