G R A N T O ’ B R I E N
EARLY KEYBOARD INSTRUMENTS
Harpsichords, Virginals, Spinets and Clavichords.
Historical Keyboard Instruments of all Periods and National Schools.
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Listen to this splendid instrument here
We strongly recommend that you use good quality earphones to listen to the instrument and get the full resonance of the sound!
The stunningly-beautiful Franco-Flemish antique harpsichord harpsichord pictured above is for sale.
This harpsichord was originally built in Antwerp in 1617 but, although the date of construction is known, the original maker of the instrument is not. It was originally a normal double-manual Flemish harpsichord with two keyboards at pitches a fourth apart, and with the usual disposition of 1x8', 1x4' and 4 registers - two for each keyboard. Although it has a genuine early Ioannes Ruckers 'HR' soundboard rosette, analysis of the structure and design of the instrument shows that, although it was made in Antwerp, it was not made by any of the members of the Ruckers family.
The instrument was mis a ravalement in Paris at some time between 1742/43 and 1750 when the bass compass was extended down to F1 and the treble compass was increased by one note up to d3 in the treble. The decoration almost all seems to date from this period when it was given its lavish gilt vernis-martin decoration with figure-paintings which can be attributed to François Boucher (1703 - 1770), and the ornaments surrounding these (and the ornaments without figure paintings on the spine) by Christophe II Huet (1700 - 1759). In 1750 it was altered by Francois Etienne Blanchet who made new jacks and perhaps made a new set of keyboards. It was then later given a further treble ravalement by extending the treble compass further up to f3 in 1786 by Jacques Barberini and Nicolas Hoffmann who also added a genouillère and added a peau de buffle register. The present keyboards also date from this 1786 alteration.
This seems to be the only French harpsichord in the world with a decorated spine. This seems to be consistent with it having been made and decorated as a centre-piece for a room in Versailles at the French Court of Louis XV.
It is now a classic French double-manual harpsichord with a full 5-octave compass and a disposition with 2 x 8', 1 x 4' plus a peau de buffle set of jacks. The whole of the stunningly-beautiful decoration has now been carefully restored and gives the instrument an extremely ornate, luxurious and brilliant appearance. The sound is pure, full, rich and evenly-balanced across the entire compass of the instrument. The sound creates an impression of immense power and opulence, matching that of the Court of Louis XV for whom it was probably commissioned. The sound has made a lasting impression on everyone who has heard or played the instrument. It is, without a doubt, one of the finest and most beautiful examples of 18th-century French harpsichord decoration and building in existence.
by Grant O'Brien.
Re-published as a digital reprint by Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Harpsichord-making woods for sale
A small amount of the important woods normally used by harpsichord makers is available for sale. This is all very well-seasoned and of the highest quality available.
The types of wood include accurately-quartered Italian spruce soundboard wood. This soundboard wood is sold only in flitches of about 6 to 15 planks. Each flitch is a succession of slices from the same tree, and these can be used (as most Flemish and French makers did) to make a soundboard that is perfectly uniform in colour and texture because it is all of exactly the same wood, all from the same tree - for the whole of the soundboard.
Also available is a small amount of knot-free Italian cypress from Tuscany (cipresso netto) and some genuine African ebony (Diospyros crassiflora).
All of this wood was bought as air-dried, and is now more than 40 years old.
For further details of quantities and prices please see the woods section of this site.
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Web design by Grant O'Brien, Edinburgh, 2021. Web pages last up-dated: Tuesday January 31, 2023
©Grant O'Brien, Edinburgh, 2021