Adam Pearl Leads Master Class: Interpreting J.S. Bach on the Piano

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 1:45pm

Aberfoyle Baroque launched its Master Class series on November 14 with a Class on “Interpreting J.S. Bach on the Piano: Learning from the Harpsichord”. 


 Led by Adam Pearl, widely known for his thoughtful and highly informed interpretation of Bach on both the harpsichord and piano, the Class attracted 14 advanced-level pianists and piano instructors.  Three amateur pianists -- Peter Moll, Anders Brodnax, and Kevin Wang – were the Student Performers for the Class.

The Master Class aimed to provide pianists with the opportunity to consider how Bach would have written his compositions to take account the harpsichord’s musical features.  These early keyboards are markedly different from the modern day piano in that they have a very light touch, no dynamic range, are plucking instruments, and have no sustain pedal.  Because of these differences, pianists continue to wrestle with questions about how they might interpret Bach on the piano.  Should they use the sustain pedal?  To what extent should they bring out dynamics?  What techniques should they employ to bring out the different voices?  What is the most appropriate phrasing to use?

Guided by the Instructor, the Student Performers contributed importantly to learning in the Class.  Each began their Class session with an exceptionally well-prepared performance of a Bach work on the piano.  Each then moved to the harpsichord – an instrument two of the three Performers had never played previously – and performed the same Bach work.  The Instructor then spent time working with each Performer on the harpsichord, illustrating how features specific to the instrument would guide decisions about the works performance – phrasing, voicing, ornamentation, etc.  Following this instructional period, each Performer then moved back to the piano where they worked to integrate some of their harpsichord-based instruction into their Bach pieces

Both Performers and Auditors reported finding the approach taken in the Class to be informative, highly practical and illuminating.  Much discussion ensued over the complimentary luncheon which followed the Class.

Aberfoyle Baroque extends its thanks to each of the Student Performers for investing significant time and energies into preparing for the Class, for their beautiful piano performances, and for the great adaptability and dedication they showed in performing on, and learning from, the harpsichord, an instrument hitherto essentially unknown to them.   Thanks are also due to Adam Pearl for the clarity and immediately practical nature of his instruction.



November 14, 2015

CLASS SCHEDULE: (Please note that timing is approximate)

10:00 am              Welcome & Introductions
10:05 am              Opening Performance on Harpsichord, Adam Pearl-J.S. Bach  Partita: Fantasia & Allemande                              

10:10 am              Talk by Adam Pearl with practical illustrations on harpsichord & piano
10:30 am              Student Performer: Peter Moll  - J.S. Bach English Suite No. 2 in A minor - Sarabande
10:50 am              Tea/Coffee with Q&A period
11:10 am              Student Performer: Anders Brodnax- J.S. Bach Fugue in C Major, Well Tempered Clavier I, BWV 846
11:30 pm              Student Performer: Kevin Wang - J.S. Bach French Suite No. 3 in B minor - Allemande, Courante, Gigue
11.50 pm              Q&A period
12:00 pm              Closing Performance on Harpsichord & Piano, Adam Pearl -J.S. Bach Prelude & Fugue in f# minor, WTC II, BWV 883
12:15 pm              Complementary Buffet Lunch

-Peter Moll. Studies with Oxana Skidan. 
-Anders Brodnax.  Studies with Betty Miller. 
-Kevin Wang.  Studies with Nancy Breth. 


Award winning early keyboard specialist & director Adam Pearl is in demand as a performer of both solo & ensemble music.  He has performed throughout the United States & in Europe, South America & Asia.  He has been principal harpsichordist for Philadelphia’s baroque orchestra Tempesta di Mare since 2005, & also performs with ensembles such as Chatham Baroque, the Folger Consort, the Catacoustic consort, the American Bach Soloists, the Bach Sinfonia, & various modern symphony orchestras.  He has recorded on the Chandos, Dorian & Plectra labels. Adam has directed numerous productions with American Opera Theater & Peabody Chamber Opera.  He is a member of the Early Music faculty at Peabody Conservatory & has taught at various early music workshops, including Amherst Early Music Festival, Madison Early Music Festival & Rocky Ridge Music Festival.  He holds a BM in piano performance & an MM & DMA in harpsichord performance from Peabody Conservatory.  He is a laureate of the 2001 Jurow & 2004 Bruges international harpsichord competitions.