Malcolm Russell, Norwich

The King of Heart's music room was packed for this lunchtime recital, but offered the special pleasure of comparing performances on three different historical keyboard instruments.

By CHRISTOPHER SMITH

The King of Heart's music room was packed for this lunchtime recital by Malcolm Russell, but offered the special pleasure of comparing performances on three different historical keyboard instruments.

The clavichord cannot produce a lot of sound but in all the arts, effects are made chiefly by contrasts.

As we listened in hushed concentration to Russell's account of Bach's Sixth French Suite, the bass notes soon began to take on some depth of tone while deft fingers brought out phrasing with only minimal changes of volume.


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Though only small, the portative organ revealed a degree of robust vigour as well, of course, as sustaining power in four typically vigorous variations on Under a Green Lime Tree by the Dutch composer Jan Sweelinck.

The harpsichord's greater range of expressive qualities were then exploited in another and far more extended set of variations by Buxtehude.

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There was attack as well as sustained tone, changes in registration allowed more changes in colour, and gradations in dynamics helped bring out the patterning in the music.

Russell was undemonstrative but always very tidy, and perfectly at ease in coping with the demands of his three different instruments in this programme.

It marked the opening of the King of Hearts' 10-day autumn festival of music and storytelling.

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