Q&A with Clavichord player Federico Truffi

In a new series of informal performances, Clavichord player Federico Truffi will be performing live Medieval music against a backdrop of Medieval and Gothic art.

The Courtauld Gallery ’s collection of Italian 14th and early 15th century works, featuring tempera on panel paintings and golden backgrounds, provides the perfect setting for Truffi’s  madrigals.  In pairing the music with the collection, Truffi seeks to explore the  forgotten qualities of a neglected space – the human soul.

Federico Truffi told us more about the project.

Why The Courtauld’s Medieval and Renaissance room?
This room displays a wonderful selection of paintings and other artwork which inspired me for this project. I thought it would be the ideal place in which to share the fruits of the research that has kept me busy for the last couple of years.


What kind of research have you been conducting?
I’ve been researching manuscripts containing the madrigals I now play, which were written by a Carmelite monk in Northern Italy around the end of the 14th century.

It’s important to consider a few issues when performing medieval music; the different way the music was written, the existence of different versions of the same composition and 14th century traditions of performance. These all need to be carefully researched so that the performance can contribute to our knowledge of that time and it’s artistic output.


What attracted you to working with The Courtauld Gallery?
There are many similarities between the restoration of a painting and the research and performance of a piece of music written many centuries ago. We cannot be afraid of traveling to unexplored countries, discovering diversity and flying back home with more questions than answers!

When I discover a gallery like The Courtauld working in this direction I feel relieved and happy to give my little contribution.


What does the pairing of the musical and visual achieve?
Medieval art, more so than being decorative, possesses symbolic values which reach the innermost spaces of our being. Something similar can happen with music when it is elevated from the position of silence-filler or relaxing background, to something more profound. The two complement each other.


Federico Truffi holding his clavichord


What is unique about the project?
What is unique, even before mentioning the rare music performed on a rare instrument, is the way in which visitors will experience my music within the space.

A concert in The Courtauld’s Medieval and Renaissance room offers a priceless experience– an intimate journey through time and space.


How does the project explore ‘the concept of the soul’?
The most direct and evident link between these recitals and the human soul is represented by the music itself – in their vocal version, the madrigals that I will perform deal with topics such as luck and destiny, purity and beauty, deception and appearance.

On a deeper level, introspection descends from facing the artistic output of our ancestors in its refinement and partial obscurity, as well as from the intimate voice of the clavichord and the closer interaction between public and performer.


What can you tell us about the clavichord’s sound?
The intimate sound of the clavichord  possesses a fragility that evokes the human voice. It takes us on an adventurous journey, its mysticism extracting us from the present and the materiality our everyday lives.
And what will you be playing exactly?
I will play some madrigals from late Trecento and early Quattrocento manuscripts which will remind you of Fra Angelico and the other artists belonging to religious orders whose paintings are exhibited in Room 1. This music is rarely performed in modern times, so this recital should provide a singular experience. I hope to see you there.


Clavicord and manuscript

Clavicord and manuscript



Mondays: 15 April, 6 and 20 May, 3 and 17 June, 1 July

Saturdays: 6 April, 4 May, 1 June

We’d love to know what you think.

Leave a comment below or tweet using  @CourtauldGall