An experimental investigation of musical character portrayed by piano versus harpsichord performances of a J. S. Bach excerpt

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Abstract
The study examines the difference in musical expression (worded in terms of emotional character), if any, between harpsichord and piano performances of Variation 7 from J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. Commercial recordings were used, 22 harpsichord versions and 12 piano versions, covering a period from 1933 to 2000. 98 undergraduate music students rated the recordings by selecting up to 3 adjectives to describe the musico-emotional character projected by the performance. Piano versions tended to be rated as more lyrical. This result aligns with another study that found that listeners judged piano version to be more “beautiful” (Gotlieb and Konecni 1985). The harpsichord versions were judged to express a greater variety and more aroused musical characters than those on the piano. Further research is needed to determine other factors beside instrument timbre that may contribute to perceived musical character.
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Author(s)
Schubert, Emery
Fabian, Dorottya
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MacKinlay, Elizabeth
Collins, Denis
Owens, Samantha
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Publication Year
2005
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Book Chapter
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