Francesco Cera’s Well tempered clavier

The Italian harpsichordist Francesco Cera has issued a new recording of WTC. I have not listened to it yet, as it has been published today.
On Youtube Music, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music, probably on other platforms as well (I can’t find on Spotify). By Dynamic recording firm.

The harpsichord used is a Hemsch 1739 copy (I believe the date on the original reads 1759? Can anybody confirm?) made by the Italian maker Daniele Maria Giani, tuned with a temperament devised by Cera himself.

A short promotional video:

Oh no. None of the full body of centuries of theory and experience good enough for him? Dear me.

:smile: The temperament debate will never reach the end.

I am not able to, I wonder if it’s possible to understand, by only hearing, what a temperament is used in a recording.

Le 15/09/2023 14:44, Andrew Bernard via The Jackrail écrit :

Oh no. None of the full body of centuries of theory and experience good enough for him?

I see nothing wrong with that. But does he give any further details
about it? It does sound rather spicy at about 1’10.

He mentions an Altnickol version, but there are 2 written by Altnickol, the 1744 (Bach P 430) corrected by JSB himself, and the later 1755 copy (Bach P 402). I don’t know how far they have identical texts.

Listening to the excerpts they sound fairly close to equal (maybe somewhere on the scale between Vallotti and Neidhardt-Sorge), except for the D# minor fugue ‘live’ which has horribly wide B-D# and F#-A# thirds.
Maybe that is just what his instrument was tuned with that day and the recording is different (?) … but if so a strange choice of piece to demonstrate.

Domenico. No human known to me (but it is conceivable that there is such a person) can tell a temperament used in a recording. Or even from a real-life harpsichord by just listening to music. You need to hear isolated fifths and thirds for that, and if recorded they should have hardly any reverberation, so that one can understand deviations, if not counting beats.
Of course, software can do that.

Needless to say for non-temperati. We do not choose a temperament so that the audience can guess at it, but because we hope to reproduce the set of consonant/dissonant intervals the composer expected. This in most cases also yields the more overall-consonant sound, but this is debatable and was already debated in the Baroque era.

Claudio wrote:

Domenico. No human known to me (but it is conceivable that there is
such a person) can tell a temperament used in a recording.

Hmm. I find, even with my compromised hearing, that it’s not too
difficult to discern whether the recording is using some form of
mean-tone or a circulating temperament. It is hard to discern which
form of mean-tone or which circulating temperament is being used.

Peter: that is precisely what I meant.
Edit: especially in this context: you need a circulating temperament for WTC, and this trend originates in trying to find out which circulating temperament Cera employed.

This page lists the extant instruments by Hemsch:

It’s something he just made up, isn’t it? Unless he states the recipe we will never know.

It’s appalling. Unlistenable. This is why I object to musicians inventing their own temperaments - they are usually abysmal failures, as here. I am surprised such a musician let a promo clip like this go out.

Yes, so appalling it must be deliberate. Cera is a very good musician and professional, He sure is aware of how it sounds.

I am sure this has been debated before but I missed it: are small temperament adjustments allowable? I know: wtc is all about using a single temperament for the series, but still, adjustments where needed wouldn’t impair their musical value. And I know other temperaments are gentler in all tonalities, but still…

Of course they are! Tweaking is not against any rules. But gross distortion of a key such we we hear here is just musical nonsense. Does he not have ears to hear?

I don’t think that is stated or implied anywhere in the volumes, and in those days I don’t think people did recitals of the full books in public, or even in private. That’s a modern phenomenon.

I believe WTC is about using a well tempering as opposed to older meantone and so on, and not ET, and not necessarily one temperament recipe fixed in concrete. It’s conceptual, not prescriptive.

You mean that Bach himself would tune one pair prelude-fugue in one temperament and another pair in another temperament? This I don’t think is the consensus. Barnes, Kellner, Lehman surely habe a different opinion, no?

What authority do we have for knowing this is true?


No authority I know of. However it is something one can read here and there. And it is - I believe - at the root of researches such as those by Brad Lehman who goes deep in demonstrating how his Bach temperament can play the entire wtc.
I can be wrong, but Brad is here on Jackrail and will correct me.

I am not that interested in temperaments; no hearing of the wtc will ever be done complete in one single session; temperaments are not recognizable by music listening only. So I don’t see any harm in using slightly different temperaments in order to better adjust to the tonalities, provided that it’s a circulating temperament, not ET, and it keeps some spicy character in the far tonalities.

I was going to mention in my post that although the Lehman temperament is clever and sophisticated and suitable for all keys, that does not imply WTC is intended for only one fixed recipe. Sure you can play all the pieces with good tuning, but there are other tunings and adjustments that people (inc. Bach) may make. There’s no legislated monopoly that the Lehman temperament holds.

The arabesque on the front page may specify a temperament, but there is nothing in the curves that says this is the only one being proposed. As to whether the drawing specifies a temperament or not, that is way OT for this topic.

One can read many untrue things. As they say on Wikipedia: “reference required”.