Toronto, Ontario, Canada

SOLD! to the lady in California

Small Wittmayer harpsichord ca 1970 (used) SN 4879

The previous owner, an artist who lives in the Escarpment area of Ontario, bought this instrument new in 1972 but found she did not use it much and decided to sell it so it would be played.

The new owner is a high school student who is studying piano and harpsichord. She also teaches piano to beginning students, that is how she earned the money to buy her own harpsichord. She and some friends have formed a small baroque ensemble under the guidance of their teacher, whose French double they use for performances and recitals. However, she wanted to have her own harpsichord so that she and her friends can practice more, and a small one is ideal as she can keep it in her room.

This is a *very* small harpsichord, as harpsichords go, only 32" wide x 4'3" long x 33" high (81cm x 130 cm x 84 cm) and would fit neatly into even a small room. Condo? Cottage? Sunporch? Office? A glassed-in balcony? Its volume is suited to a room rather than a concert hall and you could play it even late at night without your neighbors complaining. Hah, try that with a 12-foot Steinway!


Disposition is 8' and 4' with buff, compass is C to d''', 51 notes -- enough for most of Bach and all of the Fitzwilliam virginal book -- 800 pages of really neat music ranging from charming little 16-bar "toys" (Henry VIII is supposed to have written a bunch of these) to fiendish "battle pieces", suites that were the 17th century equivalent of the epic movie. Reverse keyboard in ebony or blackwood with white plastic-topped maple (or boxwood?) sharps. The case is veneered in a pretty red-brown straight-grained wood, probably teak but possibly a light walnut. It has three screw-in legs and a music desk and comes with a Naugahide (or similar) dust cover.
This harpsichord is in very good condition and needs only a tuning and some regulation to get it "as new" playable. Although it is a revival instrument it has been substantially upgraded. Some years ago the owner wisely had the instrument converted from leather to plastic plectra, and had it done professionally. Both the jacks and the registers have been replaced. The new jacks are the very good Zuckermann I-beam plastic jacks which accept modern Delrin or Celcon plectra. The I-beam section means that these jacks have no tendency to flex or curve (a common fault with plastic jacks) and we find they behave very like wooden jacks. The original Wittmayer jacks had a jillion tiny screws for adjusting various aspects (we think this was an expression of European post-war angst) but these Zuckermann jacks reflect David Way's conviction that there is only one right position. These jacks are in white Delrin which means they are the earliest version, later ones were brown Delrin. The original brass registers have also been replaced, the new ones are traditional wood (looks like mahogany) , and these ones are very nicely made indeed.

Like all the Wittmayer instruments, this one is built like a tank. All the joints are holding, there are no soundboard cracks and the case finish is in very good condition. It is a revival instrument, however, and the keys are heavily bushed and felted so the action feels more like a piano than like an historical harpsichord (this may be a problem or a plus for you), and only part of the soundboard actually sounds (see the photo at right, only the dark area on the treble side is soundboard) so it is quiet, even for a harpsichord. Again, this could be a bonus for you. The strings that are on this instrument are in good shape, but if you are thinking of buying it you will need to consider new strings at some point. Due to the extremely short scaling in the bass the bottom 7 strings on this instrument are overwound -- replacements would have to be custom made (but not needed anytime soon). The treble strings, on the other hand, are very long for their sounding length and have to be steel wire rather than the soft iron wire that is normal for harpsichords. Although we cannot recommend it for performing or for a serious student, it would make a wonderful inexpensive home or personal instrument. We sold one of these little Wittmayers a few years ago to a gentleman in BC who made it into a midi-controlled player harpsichord. Really! He sent us reports and photos, if you are interested in such a thing let us know, we can put you in contact with the mad scientist, I mean, mastermind.

Price: asking $3,000 CAD / $2,125 USD / € 1 900 / $21,500 MXN plus shipping from Toronto and applicable taxes & duties. The very similar Neupert "Telemann" at lists new at € 9 000. Sorry, this one does not qualify under NAFTA. This one is sold, bt if you are interested in this sort of instrument, let us know and we can keep an eye open for you. E-mail Claviers Baroques or give us a call. [back to used instruments page]


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