Before that time it was based exclusively on the use of the harpsichord either as a means of supporting the other instruments or as also contributing principal parts to the combination.
To sacrifice phrasing, and distinctness in real partwriting, to a crude imitation of the richness produced mechanically on the harpsichord by drawing 4-ft.
Chamber-music. - Bach's and his contemporaries' combinations with the harpsichord show the natural fondness, in his day, for instruments of a tone too gentle for prominent use in large rooms, or indeed for survival in modern times.
The greater richness of tone of the modern pianoforte is a better compensation for any bareness that may be imputed to pure two-part or three-part writing than a filling out which deprives the listener of the power to follow the essential lines of the music. The same holds good, though in a lesser degree, of the resources of the harpsichord in respect of octavestrings.
A frequent combination was flute, violin and harpsichord (very probably with a violoncello doubling the bass), and in more than one case the violin was partly tuned lower to soften its tone.
The same comments apply to the attempts sometimes made to fill out the bare places in 18thcentury clavier music. There is no doubt that such filling out was often done on a second harpsichord with stops of a very light tone; but, if it cannot be done on the modern pianoforte in a touch so light as to avoid confusion between it and the notes actually written as essential to the design, it certainly ought not to be done at all.
Bach himself is known to have executed it in a very polyphonic style, and this for the excellent reason that plain chords would have contrasted so strongly with the real instrumental parts that they could not fail to attract attention even in the softest tones of the harpsichord or the organ, while light polyphony in these tones would elude the ear and at the same time perfectly bridge over the gap in the harmony.
His father, Antonio Maria Martini, a violinist, taught him the elements of music and the violin; later he learned singing and harpsichord playing from Padre Pradieri, and counterpoint from Antonio Riccieri.