Artistic Temperaments Festival 2024

Most of the piano music we love best, we’ve never heard as its composer heard it.

Turner Sims, in association with the University of Southampton Music Department, presents a three-day keyboard festival. Now in its second year, Artistic Temperaments celebrates music performances on beautiful antique instruments.

We showcase the Department’s remarkable collection of keyboard instruments, from the 1770s to the present day. Hear favourite pieces as you’ve never heard them before.

Alongside brilliant performances from professionals and students, the Festival also makes room for YOU to play. Sign up for a private session to try your favourite Mendelssohn Song without Words on a nineteenth-century piano, or that lovely Bach Prelude on a harpsichord.

Friday 9 February

1pm Clementi’s Waltzes

7.30pm Pocket Sinfonia: Mozart, Haydn, CPE Bach

Saturday 10 February

11am Listening, Measuring and Modelling: A Journey into Piano Acoustics with Dr. Giacomo Squicciarini

12.15pm Student Masterclasses: 1796, 1826 with David Owen Norris

2pm Tuning Temperaments with Cesar Hernandez

3.15pm Songs: 1796 – 1826

7.30pm Liturina Fortepiano Trio Concert: Sterndale Bennett, Schumann, Mendelssohn

Sunday 11 February

11am Sawn in Half: An exploration of the divided damper-rail with Professor David Owen Norris

3pm Vienna in 1782: Haydn, Clementi and d’Auenbrugger

Try the PianosFriday 9 to Sunday 11 February

Would you like the opportunity to play keyboard instruments tuned in historic temperaments? During the Artistic Temperaments Festival, the University of Southampton Music Department is offering the chance to play the Schantz pianoforte (modern replica of Viennese 1802) and the Taskin 2-manual harpsichord (modern replica of Paris 1769), with Music Students on hand to support visitors.

*Pianoforte for observation only: William Frecker Grand (London 1812)

15-minute, timed slots available across Friday 9 to Sunday 11 February 2024

Tickets £5 for a 15-minute session / Book here

What’s the Festival about?
When is a G-sharp not a G-sharp? When it’s an A-flat!

Sharps and flats have to share the black keys on the piano keyboard, but they are actually different notes. Over the years, that dilemma has led to many different ways of tuning pianos. The compromise we use now, called equal temperament, was not established until after the time of Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. Before that, pianists preferred bolder compromises.

The Artistic Temperaments Festival gives us the opportunity to hear what we’ve been missing. Our great collection of keyboard instruments – including one of our fine modern grands – will be tuned historically. Our Steinway will remain in the modern tuning so we can compare.

The important thing about historical tunings is that the different keys – D major, A minor, and so on – all sound different from one another. There was actually a reason for the weird chromatic semitones in Haydn’s last sonata; a reason for Beethoven choosing C minor for one sonata and C-sharp minor for another; even a reason for Schubert’s beloved G-flat Impromptu first being published in the key of G. It’s a question of harmonic flavour, like using the right herbs and spices.

This is the next big thing to hit the way the world hears the canon of musical masterpieces, and Southampton is well ahead of the curve, with its international concert hall and its famously successful Music Department.

In 1984, I was the first to record Schubert’s Winterreise on a piano of his time, with the baritone David Wilson-Johnson; and my first piano recording using early temperaments came out twenty-five years ago. Now we can use the Keyboard Collection I’ve created at Southampton over two decades to bring all these ideas out into the open. Artistic Temperaments will be a concentrated focus on an important topic, and it will be truly unique to Southampton.

Professor David Owen Norris

Instruments featured in Artistic Temperaments
Broadwood Grand Pianoforte – 1796
Schantz Grand Pianoforte – 1802
Frecker Grand Pianoforte – 1812
Broadwood Grand Pianoforte – 1826
Hopkinson Yacht Piano – 1880
Goble harpsichord – modern
Misina-Taskin two-manual Harpsichord – modern
Fazioli Grand Piano – modern
Steinway Grand Piano – modern

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