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Fr.Harpsichords

R. D. Anderson

Dr. R. Dean Anderson (b. 1963), Western Australia. Amateur harpsichord enthusiast. Years ago graduated BMus. in New Zealand (music history, contrabass and harpsichord). Then a number of other degrees in different fields. Contact Dean by the following Email link:

French Harpsichord after Blanchet 1730

French Harpsichord after Blanchet 1730

Stats: French harpsichord built by Titus Crijnen in 1999 and based on the 1730 N. & F. Blanchet. Lid, soundboard and case painting by Cor Verboom. The interior painting is a copy of the original. The lid painting is a copy of an extant harpsichord lid painted by Pierre-Antoine Patel (A24 of the Annotated List). 2x8', 1x4', FF-f''', double transposing (390/415/440). A buff stop was added in order to facilitate the performance of French harpsichord literature from the 1760s. The instrument is quilled in bird quill (a mixture of seagull and vulture). It is strung according to the schedule published by Michel Corrette in chapter 21 of Le Maitre de Clavecin pour l'accompagnement, méthode théorique et pratique, 1753. It is tuned most of the time to Rameau's modified meantone temperament (published in 1726).

This model of harpsichord was built by the Blanchet firm probably from the late 1720s possibly through to the early 1740s. It is characterized by its unusual length and depth of case. Three instruments from these years are extant, those of 1730 and 1733 and one undated instrument, which currently belongs to Alan Rubin of London (A68). Interestingly the inventory of Francois Couperin's possessions made after his death in 1733 shows that he owned a "large harpsichord by Blanchet." We may posit that the adjective "large" suggests that Couperin in his later years owned an instrument of this model.

Discography: The instrument may be heard on the cd "Grace & Gesture (Bach and before)" performed by Ensemble Mirac (Marjolijn van Roon, recorder; Maaike Roelofs, Cello; Malcolm Proud, harpsichord/organ). CD 8715444000968.

Pohlman Square Piano ca. 1780-1784

Pohlman Square Piano ca. 1782-1784

Undated square piano by John Pohlman (the story that he was a German immigrant has no grounds), FF-f'''. The nameboard reads: "Johannes Pohlman Londini Fecit / Great Russel Street, Bloomsbury". Pohlman appears to have dated his instruments until at least 1782 (a privately owned instrument in Germany). After 1784 he no longer used a simple trestle stand. These facts provide the parameters for dating the instrument. The piano as obtained had more than a century of dust on the inside. The old strings were still present and most of them held after restoration by gebroeders Kobald in 2004. Most of the hammers still have their original leather. A few hammers have been replaced. Pohlman was the most important maker of English square pianos after Zumpe. These instruments became, after their invention in ca. 1766, immensely popular in London and Paris. Pohlman used a full five octave compass very early, at least from 1773 (an instrument in the V & A collection), although a 1771 instrument in RNCM has GG, AA - f'''.

Italian Harpsichord after Anon. ca. 1630

Italian Harpsichord after Anon. ca. 1630

This instrument, made by Broer de Witte in 1991 and decorated by Cor Verboom in 2007, is based on a harpsichord in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, Netherlands falsely ascribed to Celestini (W72). The original is an inner/outer harpsichord, probably originating from Sicily, with paintings on the case and lid based on an engraving published in 1622. De Witte has faithfully copied the original, including the scalings, but constructed this instrument as a false inner/outer and made it double-transposing. Although originally intended for a pitch of ca. a' = 375 hz. it is currently pitched to a' = 415 hz., transposing to 390 and 440 hz. (17th century Italian sources on keyboard tuning not infrequently recommend tuning the instrument to whatever pitch you happen to need at that moment). The instrument is strung completely in brass, following the Italian stringing schedule published by Denzil Wraight. It is constructed of cypress, has a spruce soundboard, 2 x 8' block registers, and a compass of GG, AA-f'''. In and before 1630 there was no harpsichord music that extended to f''', although a compass extending this far was quite common in the 16th and early 17th century. It is probable that such instruments were used at 4-foot pitch for the accompaniment of singers. The text on the lid may be translated as: 'Rich am I in gold and rich in sound, play me not if no good tune is found' (from an Italian spinetto dating to 1540).



Links to Dean's pipe organs:
www.oswa.org.au/WAOrgans/RockinghamFreeReformed.html
www.oswa.org.au/WAOrgans/RockinghamPrivateResidence.html