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Keyboard Wizardry

WHAT looks like a laboratory for the practice of musical alchemy — or, less metaphorically, the workshop and showroom of harpsichord builder Carey Beebe in Peakhurst — was the venue for one of the most distinguished early keyboard recitals in my experience on Sunday.

The performer was Colin Tilney, the British harpsichordist (resident in Canada), whose fame has become international, who gave a Sydney recital after being the special guest artist at the 23rd Melbourne International Festival of Organ and Harpsichord.

He played a two-manual French-style instrument, made by Carey Beebe. The alchemy was illustrated by its materials of construction, which included “Mozambique grenadilla naturals with pear wood arcades and bone-slipped grenadilla accidentals, and tapered pear wood jacks with delrin plectra working in Morocco leathered registers for a Swiss pine soundboard”. The workshop contained a box of possibly gruesome contents labelled Louis XVI legs.

Colin Tilney’s playing of French music (Louis and Francois Couperin, Duphly, Geoffroy, de la Guerre) and two Bachs (J. S. and C. P. E) shared an unexaggerated use of rubato, a perfect technique, a judicious exploitation of embellishment and a rejection of showiness. If I had to select a single piece from the 30 movements in the generous program as an exemplar of ideal harpsichord playing, it would have been the encore, Francois Couperin’s Nightingale In Love.

This was a golden recital: alchemy triumphant.

Review by Fred Blanks
Sydney Morning Herald May 10 1993

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