4-hands harpsichord music?

Re: expanding the repertoire, someone proposed me a concert 4-hands harpsichord (with some solo pieces as well). He said there is something by Rutini and Jommelli and there is some young sonata by Mozart.
I am skeptical, but I promised I’ll think about. Is there any 4-hands music for harpsichord, preferably by Naples or Florence?

An article in the Musical Times of December 1951, available @ https://www.jstor.org/stable/934079 , describes what was then the earliest known keyboard duet, found in B.Mus Add. 29996 aka the Tomkins Manuscript. It is a setting of “In Nomine” by Nicolas Carleton. It was published in a non-urtext ed. “Two Elizabethan keyboard duets” by Schott {Edition Schott No. 10110}, which includes also the “Fancy for Two to Play”, MB 32, by Thomas Tomkins, available also @ IMSPL. Tomkins apparently drew inspiration from Carleton, as evidenced by his subtitle “Another/of the like”.

Both of these plus another by John Amner are found in:
“Keyboard solos and duets / by Nicholas Carleton, John Amner and John Tomkins ; six pieces from volume XCVI of Musica Britannica edited by Alan Brown”, published in 2015 by Stainer & Bell.

I can highly recommend the duets by Tomkins & Carleton, which I have performed several times. I don’t know the one by Amner.


Hi Domenico,
How about Haydn Hob.XVIIa:1? -Il maestro e lo scolare, Divertimento per un Cembalo Solo a quattro mani. I seem to remember there is an attractive but short musette for 4 hands by F. Couperin (I think, for 2 instruments).

There is quite a long and varied list to browse on IMSLP, if you search under Instrumentation/harpsichord/4 hands, including various Concerti, but it doesn’t include Rutini or Jomelli.

If you do look at English works as well, there is a short piece by (I think) Giles Farnaby for 2 virginals in the FVB, not very exciting I’m afraid. As well as the pieces mentioned by Dale, the In Nomine transcribed by Robert Parsons (FWB 140, for 2 hands there) is worth playing. It was originally a double-choir work set for viols, and would work for 4 hands; might profit from being played on 2 instruments spaced apart.

I don’t know anything re Neapolitan of Florentine 4 hands, but do you mean 4 hands on one instrument or are you allowing two instruments? E.g. Soler six concertos for two organs, which you could maybe do on harpsichord? IMSLP has an annotation:

Extra Information The wide compass used by Soler in these Conciertos, exceeds - in the bass notably - the usual organ keyboard and makes them more suitable for 2 harpsichords or pianofortes.

I mean 4 hands on one instrument. This is why I am skeptical.
I am aware of the Soler concertos for two organs, I’ve played one of them in concert. And of course I am aware of the three JSB concertos for two harpsichords, I have played the BWV 1061 and 1062 (played those as well). But I need 4-hands music.
I’ve looked at Jommelli’s and at some Tomeoni eho I didn’t hear of before. Boring at best. There is a “gran sonata” by Clementi “pour le clavecin ou forte piano à 4 mains sur le même clavecin”. This seems much better.

Terrible program design, I’ll do only if I am allowed to play serious music solo or two harpsichords in a further concert.

Here is Mozart four hands. You may be able to adapt for harpsichord.

Recording by Aline Zylberach and Martin Gester.

There appears to be quite a large repertoire here:


I’ve not looked deeply, but probably most are for two instruments. Constraining to one instrument is very limiting. I think four hands one keyboard came in more in 19C when learning piano became a social and shared skill, not so much in 17-18C. Plus there’s a bit more room for two on piano keyboard!

OT perhaps, but I simply have to post this here. Guitar 4 hands.

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Beautiful! And this is the proof that room is not an issue when playing 4-hands. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the link to 4-hands composition on imslp, I didn’t think of looking there.
(However, I don’t like this way of imagining concert programs. Maybe it’s too OT to discuss here, maybe I’ll open another topic).

“More suitable” isn’t right - they were written for two very specific organs, and they go up to g’‘’ which isn’t suitable for most harpsichords or pianofortes, anyway (certainly not outside of Iberia).

Stuart et al,

I can offer two things on this topic:

  1. Here is the English introduction to Kastner’s edition of the Soler two-organ concertos:

Note: Kastner does not believe these were written exclusively for the two organs at the monastery, much less exclusively for two organs, as the title indicates.

  1. Regarding the effectiveness of these pieces on other instruments, I can only offer my performance of no. 1 with Anton Nel, on two big Italian harpsichords, one of which went up to g’‘’. IMHO it sounds great blush not blush:

I have performed these concertos on both organs and harpsichords, and find both equally delightful. The parts that go out of range can be transposed down, just like they did back in the day.

Does anyone know if the manuscript is now online somewhere?

Keith Womer

Hi, Keith.

The pieces were written for Don Gabriel de Borbón. He had a double chamber organ built and the specs match the compass and registrations in the manuscript perfectly. Kastner obviously didn’t know about this. There’s excellent information in the preface to this edition:


which you can read with a bit of effort via the magnifying glass icon.


I don’t know about the sources, but my experience is similar to yours in that I’ve found it delightful with two harpsichords (I’ve only played concerto number 6, though).

The (probable) autograph is listed in the Escorial library as the first six items in this search:

but they don’t appear to be digitized online anywhere that I can find (I hope I’m wrong)




When I call this up, the “availability” section says “Items Available for Loan”. That can’t be right, can it?

I tried to buy a copy but nothing went anywhere. One of those Iberian
mysteries? Maybe they’re using a generic library template?

@domenico.statuto Here you go!

Delightful and charming. [Not Italian, sorry!]

Thanks Andrew, chatming indeed.
However I had been better informed on how the program should be organized: “Naples-Florence”. It’s a series of concerts “Naples-SomeOtherTown”, I once played there (it was Naples-London, then), As Neapolitan composers did spread in the entire Europe, there is usually something to play. I played a Leonardo Vinci Flute sonata plublished by Walsh (Vinci was Neapolitan and Walsh from London), some Scarlatti Essercizi (again published in London), a Handel flluten sonata, a Pepusch sonata (don’t remember what the link Pepusch-Naples was). But ehat about Naples-Florence? And 4-hands, moreover!
Did I already say this say I hate this way of preparing programs? I am thinking to say no. I am not a professional, I don’t get payed, (1) the bare minimum requirement for me to play in concert is I should enjoy doing that.

(1) Which raises a question, I’ll open a new discussion in order to not being OT.

On Soler, an example of how the six concertos for two keyboards work great on harpsichords: