James Huntingford Piano, Fortepiano and Harpsichord

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Upcoming Concerts

Here is a list of my concerts. Hope to see you soon!


31st October 2021, 3:00pm
'Out with the New and in with the Old', featuring fortepiano duo Geoffrey Lancaster and James Huntingford
Richard Gill Auditorium (RGA), ECU WAAPA, Mount Lawley WA
Masterpieces of W. A. Mozart for four hands on two scintillating fortepianos

22nd October 2021, 7:00pm
Perth Symphony Orchestra presents 'Mini Mozart'
Goldfields Arts Centre, Kalgoorlie WA
An interactive programme of great works of W. A. Mozart - including piano concerto movements and solo keyboard works - arranged for piano quintet

15th October 2021, 12:30pm and 8:00pm
Perth Symphony Orchestra presents 'Mini Mozart'
Red Earth Arts Precinct Theatre, Karratha WA
An interactive programme of great works of W. A. Mozart - including piano concerto movements and solo keyboard works - arranged for piano quintet

9th October 2021 @ 11am and 2pm
Australian Baroque presents 'Vivaldi in the Vines'
The Barrell Room at Faber Vineyard, 233 Haddrill Rd, Baskerville WA
Master works of Antonio Vivaldi performed in a sumptuous setting, paired with wines and charcuterie plates

7th October 2021 @ 7pm, and 10th October 2021 @ 3:00pm
Australian Baroque presents 'Bach and Beer'
Bright Tank Brewery, 100 Brown St, Perth WA
Great works of J.S. Bach accompanied by fine Craft Beers

28th August 2021, 7:00pm
Perth Symphony Orchestra presents 'Amadeus'
Crown Theatre, Burswood WA
Live orchestra performance accompanying Miloš Forman's iconic film

13th, 20th and 27th May 2021, 7:00pm
Australian Baroque presents 'Bach and Beer'
Bright Tank Brewery, 100 Brown St, Perth WA
Great works of J.S. Bach accompanied by fine Craft Beers

11th May 2021, 11:00am, 2:00pm, 4:00pm
Australian Baroque presents 'Cakes and Corelli'
Holmes a Court Gallery, 10 Douglas St, West Perth WA
A fine selection of gourmet cakes to accompany a Mothers Day baroque feast!

1st November 2020, 4:00pm
Australian Baroque presents 'Bach and Beer'
Bright Tank Brewery, 100 Brown St, Perth WA
Great works of J.S. Bach accompanied by fine Craft Beers

29th October 2020, 7:00pm
Australian Baroque presents 'Bach and Beer'
Bright Tank Brewery, 100 Brown St, Perth WA
Great works of J.S. Bach accompanied by fine Craft Beers

2nd February 2020, 4:00pm
Australian Baroque presents 'Bach and Beer'
The Windsor Hotel, 112 Mill Point Rd, South Perth WA
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Double and Triple Violin Concertos of J. S. Bach

24th January 2020, 7:30pm
Australian Baroque presents 'A Feast of Bach'
Richard Gill Auditorium (RGA), ECU WAAPA, Mount Lawley WA
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Double and Triple Violin Concertos of J. S. Bach

12th December 2019, 12:30pm
St Andrew's Baroque presents 'Earthly Delights'
Ross Memorial Uniting Church, West Perth WA
Baroque works celebrating the beauty of the natural world

15th November 2019, 1:00pm
St Andrew's Baroque presents 'Earthly Delights'
Wesley Uniting Church in the City, Perth WA
Baroque works celebrating the beauty of the natural world

10th November 2019, 5:00pm
Royal Schools Music Club presents 'Raiders of the Lost Art'
Eileen Joyce Studio, UWA, Crawley WA
Works for two fortepianos, featuring Prof. Geoffrey Lancaster and James Huntingford

16th October 2019, 6:30pm
Perth Symphony Orchestra presents 'Mozart By Candlelight'
St George's Cathedral, Perth WA
Piano Concerto K453 (W. A. Mozart), An Airmail Letter to Mozart (J. Dove)

James Huntingford

James is a performer on both modern and historical keyboard instruments, including piano, fortepiano and harpsichord. James has performed as soloist with Perth Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Australian Baroque, Canberra Youth Orchestra, The National Capital Orchestra and Musica da Camera Chamber Orchestra. He has performed in London, Hong Kong, Austria and across Australia. In 2006, James received his LMusA with distinction. He was the winner of the Austrian Embassy's Haydn Festival Competition (2009), as well as a two-time winner of the ACT's National Eisteddfod Open Piano Recital (2008 and 2009). In 2013 James was awarded the Australian Society of Music Educators' Lady Callaway Award for his diverse musical and artistic services to the Canberra community. In 2016 he moved to Perth, where he has since completed both an Honours year and a Master of Arts degree at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), specialising in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century historical keyboard research and performance. From 2016 to 2020 James was artistic director of the Perth-based Providence Gospel Choir, following his passion for Gospel music. Alongside his performing career, James teaches piano both privately and through the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.


Drop me a line

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Contact Me

E-Mail: james@jameshuntingford.com



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The Fortepiano

The word ‘fortepiano’ denotes the earlier mutations of the piano, from its invention by Bartolomeo Cristofori around 1700 through the era of Viennese Classicism and into the early decades of the 19th century. By the late 19th century, pianos had come to inherit many of the features characteristic of today’s pianos; the word ‘fortepiano’ does not apply to the instruments of that time, or afterward.
Fortepianos vary greatly in their construction and design, for which there are a few reasons. Firstly, instruments of earlier times were not comprehensively standardised; hand-made instruments not only varied from region to region, but also within the workshop of a single builder, who was usually experimenting with new methods and designs. Secondly, the fortepiano was constantly evolving to meet the needs of its composers, performers and audiences. Despite this variety, there are still a number of common features that distinguish fortepianos from the ubiquitous piano of the present day.

These features include:
-A much lighter case.
Whilst the floorboards of today’s concert halls must withstand modern grands upwards of 480kg, a late-18th century fortepiano might grace a connoisseur’s drawing room at around 75kg.
-Fewer keys.
A compass of just 61 keys, or five octaves, makes possible virtually all 18th century keyboard repertoire. This range was extended to 5 ½ octaves (68 keys) by Clementi and Broadwood at the end of the 18th century, and 6 ½ octaves (78 keys) by the time of Beethoven’s last sonatas. A standard modern piano has a luxurious 88 keys.
-The existence of hand-stops or knee-levers…
Stops and levers provided all sorts of different tonal variations, such as harpfenzug (imitating the harp), a bassoon stop (by placing a paper roll on the strings), moderator (by inserting a cloth between the hammer and string, creating a muffled/dark/less focussed tone), and drums and bells (for playing Turkish-inspired music, the rage in late-18th century Vienna).
…or a considerable number of pedals.
Pedals gradually came into use during the second half of the 18th century, but were not a mainstay until the beginning of the 19th. Some fortepianos of Beethoven’s time had seven pedals! This included a true una corda pedal (the modern grand’s una corda pedal actually only facilitates two-string playing; many fortepianos have both a facility for one- and two-stringed playing). The number of pedals gradually decreased over the course of the 19th century due to the growing middle class’ wish for a more affordable (if simpler in some respects) instrument.
-Brass strings and iron strings.
Modern pianos have steel strings, the lower strings of which are wound with copper to increase girth (lowering the pitch) without a marked increase in mass (and therefore extra tension on the frame – copper is much lighter than steel). Copper winding was a 19th century development.
-Leather-covered hammers, or bare-wood hammers.
Modern pianos have felt hammers, which were not patented until 1826, nor universal until the 1850s. Felt was industrially much easier to work with, as it could be produced with a more consistent texture than leather, a living material. Some 18th century keyboard instruments, such as the tangent piano, and the Clavecin Royale (CPE Bach’s preferred instrument) had hammers of bare wood, resulting in a harpsichord-like timbre. The tangent piano experienced a great popularity around 1760, and was treated by composers as if it were an ‘expressive harpsichord’ (a harpsichord with great dynamic range). However the staple instrument of the late-18th century Viennese and English piano builders had hammers with leather covering. The combination of iron string and leather hammers of the fortepiano produces a remarkably sweeter and rounder tone than felt hammers on steel strings, whose sound is much more bright, crystalline and occasionally strident.
-A greater tonal variety in touch.
Hammers on fortepianos were leathered in such a way as to mean that as a string was struck harder and the volume got louder, the tone would also brighten up to a point. If the instrument were hit much harder than that, it would begin to ‘shout’. Similarly, keys softly caressed would not only result in a soft volume, but also a mellow, breathy tone that would at some point turn from speech into murmur or whisper. A virtuoso was expected to know these limits of the ‘speaking’ voice of the instrument intimately, and to know in what rhetorical contexts to exceed these limits and for what expressive purpose. In every respect the variety was greatly desired as it was reflective of the human voice, with its tonal ‘centre’, speaking range, and other ranges of various degrees. With these extra expressive possibilities came a whole extra responsibility of control to harness them, both by the builder’s precision work, and the performer’s diligence and critical listening. On a visit to Johann Andreas Stein’s workshop in 1778, Mozart praised Stein’s instruments for their ‘evenness’ and ‘smoothness’. This has been wrongly cited as evidence that Mozart desired a standardised tone in touch and compass. However, what is actually being praised is the evenness and smoothness of the transition from mellow to bright in the volume dimension, not the wholesale absence of transition possibilities. A racing car driver desires a smooth transition of gears, not the removal of gearing possibilities!
-A greater tonal variety across the compass.
A commendable characteristic of harpsichords of the time (and especially earlier ones) was their diversity of tone across their compass (from low to high). This was especially useful for playing polyphonic music (fugues etc.), as each voice in the texture would sound uniquely and individually by virtue of the register of the keyboard in which it was played (once again, much like the human voice). The same it was with many fortepianos. The homogenised sound of the modern piano is much more conducive to larger ‘blended sounds’. Furthermore, builders of fortepianos throughout the 18th century did not feel a great desire to extend the compass past five octaves, as the existing tonal variety (reflective of the human voice) already made high notes sound very high and low notes very low. For a simple analogy, a high C-sharp by Pavarotti sounds like a Herculean effort, yet a soprano would be expected to sing at least an octave higher than that to receive a comparable applause – the 18th century builders were all too aware of how tone greatly enhances and conditions the perception of pitch. If the tone is standardised, the compass needs to increase.
-Straight stringing.
Fortepiano strings were parallel to each other and to the case; the modern piano is cross-strung, with two choirs of strings crossing in an ‘X’ shape. Cross-stringing helps to focus sound on the centre of the soundboard, and create large ‘walls’ or ‘masses’ of sound, which is very appealing for music of the late 19th century, aiding the long unfolding melodies of romantic music. However, the short speech-like phrases of 18th century music demand very subtle and frequent micro-articulations (exactly as does speech). Playing Mozartean melodies with all of the required nuances is possible on a modern piano, but not preferable (and certainly not comfortable). It is akin to trying to fire single rounds out of a machine gun. The modern piano’s soundboard calls for either micro-short articulations (before the soundboard has a chance to respond) or smooth long lines (utilising the fullness of the soundboard, but trampling on the nuances). The piano desires little in between these two extremes. This is why many who play the classical repertoire on the modern instrument play unusually staccato and clinically (resulting in a somewhat pretty but shallow and facade-like atmosphere), whilst the nuanced approach is near-impossible, and the long-lined approach or use of pedal is often deemed stylistically unacceptable or too overt for modern conservative tastes (when it may in fact be a welcome change, and the piano itself will be the first to vote in favour of it!).
-A much smaller key dip.
A modern piano’s keys depress approximately 9mm, a Viennese fortepiano of the late 18th century dipped around 2.5mm, making glissandi much more comfortable; one-handed double glissandi, such as those in Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata or Haydn’s Fantasia in C, would not require the shredding of one’s fingers for a satisfactory result.
-A lighter action, resulting in a lighter touch.
Smaller, lighter hammers required less distance to travel to hit a string, making keys more responsive; a well-constructed fortepiano excelled at brisk passagework.
-Narrower keys.
The keys of a late-18th century fortepianos are approximately 1mm narrower than their modern counterparts, making the octave considerably shorter for the newcomer to the instrument!).
-Dampers for every note.
Viennese fortepianos did not have the glow of overtones that one hears on a modern piano from the un-damped strings at the top of the instrument. Instead, performers would sometimes play certain passages with all dampers raised, resulting in a virtual wall of overtones. The sound would not become too muffled or muddy, due to the fast decay of the notes (an example of two limitations combining to form a very convenient advantage!).
-A wooden frame.
As the compass of the fortepiano increased, so too did string tension, and the resultant need for more sturdy bracing of the soundboard. Firstly, instruments began to require a small, subtle block of iron between the pin block and soundboard, then a set of iron braces under the strings, then a frame over the soundboard with iron bars, and finally the massive heavy-duty cast iron frames of modern pianos. This prevents a modern high-tension instrument from folding in on itself like a mousetrap.

In the late-18th century, two very prominent ‘schools’ of fortepiano building existed in Europe, the Viennese school and the English school. To list further the particular characteristics of fortepianos at this point would require us to distinguish between these two instrument types.
Viennese instruments had extremely efficient dampers (block-shaped or wedge-shaped), which discontinued the sound the instant the key was released. English instruments had purposely inefficient dampers which were shaped like an open book placed pages-down (hence the name ‘book dampers’), resulting in a ‘glowing’ sound after the release of a note. A remnant of this glow can still be heard at the top of modern pianos, where there are no dampers. Thus while Viennese instruments had a more ‘speaking’ quality appropriate for Mozart and Haydn, the English instruments a more ‘singing’ quality (foreshadowing of Romantic long-lined phrases), which Haydn makes use of in his last sonatas (the English sonatas).
Viennese instruments had a much more focussed and clear tone, and clearer distinction of voices. Large chords in the high treble are rarely ever found in the music of Mozart and his contemporaries, as a single note had a much more efficacious quality on Viennese instruments; English instruments preferred thicker and grander textures.
English instruments were bigger in almost every respect – they were louder, heavier, and had a longer decay of sound.


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Tuning and Temperaments

Welcome to Tuning and Temperaments! Here you will find all the information you need on the basics of tuning, an explanation of the various tuning systems, a comprehensive FAQ page, and more.Pins

FAQs about Tuning and Temperaments
Equal Temperament
Just Intonation


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