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Copy of a ‘French’ model Ruckers harpsichord
Made in Edinburgh by Grant O’Brien in 1985
Details of the original instrument
This copy is based on the so-called ‘French’ model of Ruckers harpsichord. The original instrument was made by Ioannes Ruckers in 1616 and belongs to M. Nirouet in Paris. This type of instrument was originally a transposing harpsichord with a lower-manual compass of G1 to c3 and an upper-manual compass of F to f3. The two manuals were uncoupled and each played 1x8' and 1x4'.
The original of the stand seen under this copy is located in the Berlin Musikinstrumentenmuseum and is found under the Andreas I Ruckers double-manual harpsichord made in Antwerp in 1620 (Berlin Musikinstrumentenmuseum Catalogue Number 2230).
Some details of the copy
The copy of the Nirouet Ruckers harpsichord has aligned keyboards with a compass of G1 to d3. In order to give the ‘extra’ top note d3 which is necessary for a large part of the harpsichord literature, the case was widened by the width of one natural. The disposition is 2x8', 1x4' as follows:
8' - dogleg
The near two registers of jacks including the dogleg are operated from the upper manual. Because of the dogleg, the rear three registers are available on the lower manual. The rear two registers (at the top in the above diagram), played from the lower manual, pluck their strings at the same point as on the original instrument. The upper-manual 8' and the dogleg 8' jacks pluck the non-original added (long) string. The two 8' jacks on the lower manual pluck close together and therefore their sounds combine well together (they are said to choir well). When the dogleg 8' and the 4' are disengaged, the lower-manual 8' and the upper-manual 8' can be played independently, but contrast well as they are separated by the dogleg 8' jacks so that their relative plucking points are considerably different .
The keyboards are balanced in the eighteenth-century fashion to give a lighter touch than that usual in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and to take into account the fact that the lower-manual keys now lift three rows of jacks instead of the original two rows. The jacks are made in the way traditional for Ruckers and have ‘mouse-ear’ dampers and not the so-called ‘flag’ dampers common in most other traditions of harpsichord building. The stringing is in red brass, yellow brass and iron and the transition notes from one material to another have been calculated using the normal Ruckers transition scalings.