G R A N T O ’ B R I E N
EARLY KEYBOARD INSTRUMENTS
Harpsichords, Virginals, Spinets and Clavichords
Restorations and Consultations
1974a ‘The numbering system of Ruckers Instruments’, Bulletin of the Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments, 4 (1974) 75-89.
1974b ‘The 1764/83 Taskin harpsichord in the Russell Collection, Edinburgh’, The Organ Yearbook, 5 (1974) 91-107.
1976 ‘Attitudes to musical instrument conservation and restoration’, Bulletin of the Fellowship of Makers and Restorers of Historical Instruments, 3 (1976) 15-21.
1977a ‘The determination of the original compass and disposition of Ruckers harpsichords’, Colloquium. Ruckers klavecimbels en copieën, (1977) 38-47.
1977b ‘The stringing and pitches of Ruckers instruments’, Colloquium. Ruckers klavecimbels en copieën, (1977) 48-71.
1979 ‘Ioannes and Andreas Ruckers - a quatercentenary celebration’, Early Music, 7, Nº 4 (1979) 453-66.
1980a ‘Ruckers 2. The instruments’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie editor, 16 (1980) 305-10.
1980b ‘Couchet’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 4 (1980) 831-2.
1980c ‘Harpsichord’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 8 (London, l980) 216-46.
1980d ‘Il 400º anniversario della nascita di Ioannes e Andreas Ruckers’, Gli Strumenti Musicali, 4 (1980) 36-46.
1981a ‘Some principles of eighteenth-century harpsichord stringing and their application’, The Organ Yearbook, 12 (1981) 160-76.
1981b ‘Eight Ruckers pitches’, Early Music, 9, Nº 1 (1981) 80.
1982 ‘Attitudes to musical instrument conservation and restoration’, British Institute of Organ Studies Journal, 6 (1982) 78-87.
1983 ‘The authentic instruments from the workshops of Hans and Ioannes Ruckers’, Mededelingen van het Ruckers-Genootschap, 3 (1983) 37-44.
1984 ‘The authentic instruments from the workshops of Andreas Ruckers I and Andreas Ruckers II’, Mededelingen van het Ruckers-Genootschap, 4 (1984) 61-8.
1985 ‘Les Ruckers d’Anvers. La vogue de leurs clavecins en Europe des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle. Biographie - Modèles et modification de deux clavecins a double clavier’, La facture instrumentale Europeénne: Suprématies nationales et enrichissement mutuel, Florence Gétreau editor, (Paris, 1985).
1986 ‘The authentic instruments from the workshops of Ioannes Couchet and his sons’, Mededelingen van het Ruckers-Genootschap, 5 (1986) 45-9.
1987 ‘The conservation of historical keyboard instruments; to play or to preserve?’, Per una carta europea del restauro. Conservazione , restauro e riuso degli strumenti musicali antichi, (Olschki, Florence, 1987) 291-8.
1990a Ruckers. A harpsichord and virginal building tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990; digital reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 2008).
1990b ‘Storia della costruzione del clavicembalo’, Musica Antica, 2 (1990) 19-24.
1991 ‘Conservazione degli strumenti a tastiera’, La collezione di strumenti musicali del Museo Teatrale alla Scala, Guido Bizzi and Lorenzo Girodo, general editors, (Il laboratorio, Milan, 1991) 37-9.
1992 ‘The restoration of Ruckers instruments: a personal view’, The Harpsichord and its Repertoire. Proceedings of the International Harpsichord Symposium. Utrecht 1990, General editor Pieter Dirksen, (STIMU Foundation for Historical Performance Practice, Utrecht, 1992) 3-8.
1994a ‘The Double-Manual Harpsichord by Francis Coston, London, c.1725’, The Galpin Society Journal, 47 (March, 1994) 1-42.
1994b ‘The Stringing Materials and Gauges for Clavichords by I.C. Gerlach and H.A. and J.A. Hass’, De Clavicordio. Proceedings of the International Clavichord Symposium/Atti del congresso internazionale sul clavicordo. Magnano, 9-11 September 1993, edited by Bernard and Susan Brauchli and Alberto Galazzo, (Istituto per i Beni Musicali in Piemonte, Turin, 1994) 123-35.
1994c ‘Una filosofia di restauro’, Convegni Triennali Internazionali sulla Liuteria (1984 -1987 - 1990), edited by Gianni Drascek (Santabarbara Editore, Bellona, 1994), 147ff.
1995 ‘Two virginals by Gianfrancesco Antegnati. A comparison of the instruments of the Ateneo in Brescia and the Museo Teatrale alla Scala in Milan’, Gli Antegnati. Studi e documenti su una stirpe di organari bresciani del rinascimento, edited by Oscar Mischiati (Pàtron Editore, Bologna, 1995) 51-62. ISBN 88-555-2347-3.
1996 'The Clavichord by G.C. Rackwitz, Stockholm, 1796 -A Preliminary Study with a View to Possible Restoration', De Clavicordio. Proceedings of the International Clavichord Symposium/Atti del congresso internazionale sul clavicordo. Magnano, 21-23 September 1995, edited by Bernard and Susan Brauchli and Alberto Galazzo, (Istituto per i Beni Musicali in Piemonte, Turin, 1996)
1997a Tuning and Temperament, (co-author with Dr John Kitchen), (NetMuse, Scottish Universities High Speed Network, http://netmuse.gla.ac.uk/, 1997).
1997b ‘Bartolomeo Cristofori/Giovanni Ferrini as restorers and re-builders. A Neapolitan connection in two Italian harpsichords in Britain’, paper presented at the Galpin Society Conference, Edinburgh, July, 1997.
1998a 'Robert Smith’s ‘Equal Harmony’ and the harpsichord built for it by Jacob Kirckman’, paper presented at the conference Notes that wing their heav’nly ways, August 15, 1998.
1998b ‘Ruckers double-manual harpsichords and details of them relevant to the 1599 Ioannes Ruckers double-manual harpsichord, Händel-Haus Halle, MS-65’, Kielinstrumente aus der Werkstatt Ruckers zu Konzeption, Bausweise und Ravalement sowie Restaurierung und Konservierung. Bericht über die Internationale Konferenz vom 13. bis 15. Septmeber 1996 Im Händel-Haus Halle, (Händel-Haus, Halle, 1998) 48-62. ISSN 0232-3214. ISBN 3-910019-12-9.
1998c Co-author with Christiane Rieche and Stefan Ehricht of the Händel-Haus, Halle, ‘The original state and later alterations of the double-manual Ruckers harpsichord, Antwerp 1599, Kielinstrumente aus der Werkstatt Ruckers zu Konzeption, Bausweise und Ravalement sowie Restaurierung und Konservierung. Bericht über die Internationale Konferenz vom 13. bis 15. Septmeber 1996 Im Händel-Haus Halle, (Händel-Haus, Halle, 1998) 187-230. ISSN 0232-3214. ISBN 3-910019-12-9.
1999a ‘The use of simple geometry and the local unit of measurement in the design of Italian stringed keyboard instruments: an aid to attribution and to organological analysis’, The Galpin Society Journal, 52 (1999) 108-171. ISSN 0072.0127.
1999b Co-author with Augusto Bonza, ‘The “H. Ruckers” double virginal in Milan. Two important new discoveries’, The Galpin Society Journal, 52 (1999) 314-323. ISSN 0072.0127.
1999c Translation from the Italian of a paper by Andreas Gatti: ‘Moulding castings in musical instruments: the approach to the problem, the scientific investigations and the methodology used at the Collection of Musical Instruments of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan’, Galpin Society Journal, 52 (1999) 202-218. ISSN 0072.0127.
1999d ‘Italian stringed keyboard instruments and simple geometry: Some new developments at the Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments’, paper presented at the Galpin Society Conference, Edinburgh, July, 1999.
2000a ‘Towards establishing the original state of the three-manual harpsichord by Stefano Bolcioni, Florence, 1627, in the Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments, Edinburgh’, The Galpin Society Journal, 53 (2000) 168-200. ISSN 0072.0127.
2000b Translation from the Italian of a paper by Francesco Nocerino, ‘Evidence for Italian mother-and-child virginals: an important document signed by Onofrio Guarracino’, The Galpin Society Journal, 53 (2000) 317-321. ISSN 0072.0127.
2000c The Catalogue of the Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments at the University of Edinburgh, published at: http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/russell/catalogue/catalogue.html
2001a ‘Problemi tipici di un piccolo museo di strumenti musicali a tastiera’, Musica e Museo, (Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo, Università degli Studi di Bologna) (In print).
2001b ‘Marco Jadra. A Venetian harpsichord and virginal maker?’, Festschrift für Kurt Wittmayer, Silke Berdux general editor (Munich) (In print).
2001c ‘The unit of measurement used to ascertain where Iberian harpsichords are made’, paper given to the 1º Festival Internacional de Música de Tecla Española “Diego Fernandez” held in Almería, Spain in October, 2000. (Due to be printed in 2001.)
2001d ‘The case, stringing and fretting design of the 1543 Venetian clavichord by Dominicus Pisaurensis’, De Clavicordio, Proceedings of the V International Clavichord Symposium/Atti del V congresso internazionale sul clavicordo. Magnano, 5-5 September 2001, edited by Bernard Brauchli, Alberto Galazzo and Ivan Moody, (Musica antica a Magnano, Magnano, 2002), 91-107.
2002a ‘Il percorso di un’idea: dal progetto allo strumento/The development of an idea: from the design to the instrument’, Bartolomeo Cristofori. La spinetta del 1690/The 1690 oval spinet, edited by Gabriele Rossi-Rognoni, (Sillabe for the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, 2002) 62-81.
2002b 'The conservation of the 1690 ‘spinetta ovale’ by Bartolomeo Cristofori - an approach based on an archaeological analogy', paper given at the Accademia in Florence on the conservation and preservation of the 1690 oval virginal by Bartolomeo Cristofori.
2003a 'Analysis of the origins of a large Franco-Flemish double-manual harpsichord. Would a Ruckers by any other name sound as sweet?', Early keyboard journal, 22, 2004, p. 49-80. This paper was first presented to the combined meeting of the Galpin Society and the American Musical Instrument Society in Edinburgh, August 8, 2003.
2003b 'Four Variations on an old Neapolitan theme', paper given to the 3º Festival Internacional de Música de Tecla Española “Diego Fernandez” held in Mojácar, Spain in October, 2003.
2005a Co-author with Francesco Nocerino, ‘The ‘Tiorbino: an unrecognised instrument type built by harpsichord makers, with possible evidence for a surviving instrument’, Galpin Society Journal, LVII (2005) pp. 184 – 208 with colour plates pp 232-5.
2005b 'An Analysis of the Origins of a Large Franco-Flemish Double-manual Harpsichord. Would a Ruckers by any Other Name Sound as sweet?', Early Keyboard Journal, XX (2005) 49-80.
2006a 'The 1791 Lindholm clavichord in Stockholm', De Clavicordio, Proceedings of the VII International Clavichord Symposium/Atti del VII congresso internazionale sul clavicordo. Magnano, 7-10 September 2005, edited by Bernard Brauchli, Alberto Galazzo and Judith Wardman, (Musica antica a Magnano, Magnano, 2006) 29-44.
2006b 'The Statistical Analysis of the Lateral String Spacing in Some Neapolitan and Flemish Seventeenth-Century Harpsichords', paper presented to the combined meeting of AMIS, The Galpin Society and CIMCIM in Vermillion, SD, June, 2006.
2006c 'Schede dei pianoforti moderni / Schedules of the modern pianos', Alla ricerca dei suoni perduti - In the search for lost sounds. Arte e musica negli strumenti della collezione di Fernanda Giulini - Art and music in the instrument collection of Fernanda Giulini (Villa Medici Giulini, Briosco, 2006) pp 282-367.
2007 'XI The Virginal', A Magnificent Roman Baroque Cabinet by Giacomo Herman, (Sotheby's Catalogue for the Sale of Important Continental Furniture, Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, London, 2007) pp 38-43.
2008 'Relazione organologica. Un fortepiano di Johann Schanz, Vienna, ca. 1816. Collezione Fernanda Giulini, Brioso, Italia./Organological Report. Viennese fortepiano Johann Schanz, Vienna, c. 1816. Collection of Fernanda Giulini, Briosco, Italy, Schanz. Lo strumento dei Principi/Schanz the instrument of Princes. Arte e musical nella Milano dell'Ottocento al tempo di Cristina Archinto Trivulzio/Art and music in the nineteenth Milan at the time of Cristina Archinto Trivulzio, (Villa Medici Giulini, Briosco, 2008) pp 88-141.
2009 'The single-manual Italian harpsichord in the Royal College of Music, London, Cat. No. 175: an organological analysis', Galpin Society Journal, LXII (2009) pp. 55 – 99 with colour plates pp 194-5.
2010a 'Criteria for the determination of original stringing in historical keyboard instruments: The cautionary tale of a 1785 Longman and Broderip harpsichord', The Historical Harpsichord, A Monograph Series in Honor of Frank Hubbard, Vol. 5: Aspects of Harpsichord Making in The British Isles, John Koster editor (Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant, N.Y., 2010) pp. 154-226.
2010b 'The local unit of measurement used in the study and restoration of a Franco-Flemish harpsichord', paper given at the conference 35. Tage Alter Musick in Herne, Cembalo, Clavecin, Harpsichord – Regionale Traditionen des Cembalobaus on Friday, 12 November, 2010.
2012 'The local unit of measurement used in the study and restoration of a Franco-Flemish harpsichord', 35. Tage Alter Musik in Herne, Cembalo, Clavecin, Harpsichord – Regionale Traditionen des Cembalobaus, (Herne, 2012). 'The local unit of measurement used in the study and restoration of a Franco-Flemish harpsichord', 35. Tage Alter Musik in Herne, Cembalo, Clavecin, Harpsichord – Regionale Traditionen des Cembalobaus, (Herne, 2012).
2016 'Notes & Queries: French Harpsichord Register-Regulation Plates', Galpin Society Journal, 69 (2012) pp.
RIPIN, Edwin M.; SCHOTT, Howard; BARNES, John; O’BRIEN, Grant; DOWD, William; WRAIGHT, Denzil; FERGUSON, Howard; CALDWELL, John
1980 Early Keyboard Instruments, (Macmillan, London, 1980, 2/1984, 3/1989).
O’BRIEN, Grant and TAGLIAVINI, Luigi Ferdinando
1991 ‘Clavicembalo e spinetta[sic]’, La collezione di strumenti musicali del Museo Teatrale alla Scala, Guido Bizzi and Lorenzo Girodo, general editors, (Il laboratorio, Milan, 1991) 62-70.
O’BRIEN, Grant and BONZA, Augusto
1999 ‘The “H. Ruckers” double virginal in Milan. Two important new discoveries’, The Galpin Society Journal, 52 (1999) 314-323.
Click here or on the image above for further information.
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 is known, the original maker is unknown. It was originally a double-manual harpsichord with two keyboard at pitches a fourth apart, and it had the usual disposition of 1x8', 1x4' with 4 registers - two for each keyboard. Although it has a genuine early Ioannes Ruckers soundboard rosette, analysis of the structure and design of the instrument shows that it was not made by any of the members of the Ruckers family. The soundboard rosette, as so often happened in instruments subjected to a ravalement, came from a genuine instrument by Ioannes Ruckers, and was fraudulently placed in the soundboard of this instrument, probably to increase its value in a later period.
Before it was subjected to a major ravalement in 1750, it was given an intermediate petit ravalement at an unknown date. This involved aligning the keyboards, adding a top d3, and probably adding an extra string to give it a 2x8', 1x8' disposition. It was then mis a ravalement in Paris in 1750 by François Étienne Blanchet who extended the compass downwards to F1. But it was then later subjected to a further ravalement in 1786 by Jacques Barberini and Nicolas Hoffmann who extended the treble compass to f3, and probably added a genouillère and an additional row of peau de buffle jacks.
It is therefore now a classic French double-manual harpsichord with a full 5-octave compass of F1 to f3, and a disposition with 2 x 8', 1 x 4' and a peau de buffle set of jacks, making up altogether a full four registers. It has a stunningly-beautiful decoration with an outer case decorated in gold vernis martin with case and lid figure-paintings attributed to the circle of François Boucher (1703 - 1770). These figure paintings are surrounded by creative, ingenious ornaments full of inventive imagination. These stunningly beautiful ornaments can be positively attributed to Christophe II Huet (1700 - 1759).
The stand is carved and gilt in a French Rococo style. It is must, however, belong to the 1786 ravalement state since it has never been widened to accommodate the additions to the case to take the compass up to f3. Despite its late date it is in an outdated Louis XV style so that it matches the style of its case decoration and ornaments. On the other hand, it does subtly include elements typical of the later Louis XVI style so would not have been completely out of date in 1786.
Instruments by any of the non-Ruckers Antwerp clavecimbel makers from this period are extremely rare. It is very unusual for such non-Ruckers instrument to survive and even rarer for them to have been given such a lavish decoration.
Among the many important aspects of this harpsichord are the following:
The sound is pure, full, rich and evenly-balanced across the whole compass of the instrument. It creates an impression of immense power and opulence. 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.
The above facts make this one of the most important Franco-Flemish harpsichords
and certainly one of the most striking harpsichords to come out of any Parisian
eighteenth-century workshop in
the entire history of harpsichord-making in Europe.
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 for the whole of the soundboard.
Also available is knot-free Italian cypress from Tuscany (cipresso netto) and 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.
: Please follow the 'Contact details' link in the column on the left.
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