Toronto, Ontario, Canada
to the lady in Tucson, AZ
Sperrhake spinet -- ca 1960 (used)
Sperrhake (Passau) spinet -- ca 1960. The current owner, a high school music teacher in Toronto, inherited this instrument but he's a double bass player by training and would like to sell it. Compass is C to f''', 54 notes. Reverse keyboard in ebony or blackwood with white plastic sharps. Dimensions? Weight?
This instrument is is basically good condition, although it has not been used for some time and would need a bit of long-overdue maintenance to get it playable. It is quilled in leather and strung in steel and phosphor bronze (original wire). The leather has the usual leather problems (see our article on How to check out a cheap used harpsichord) . The jacks are 40-year-old Sperrhake jacks, we find a lot of people are now having trouble with their Sperrhake jacks cracking as the plastic ages, especially when they replace plectra or tongues. These seem OK for now but would probably need replacing in the next few years (approx cost each $5.00-$6.50 USD/ 7:50-$10 CAD). We would recommend new strings, too, as the wire has gone dull-sounding with age. We suggest mild steel and red brass rather than the original piano wire and phosphor bronze, the sound is nicer and they keep their tone longer, you can expect them to sound good for up to 20-30 years.
By the way, if you are considering restringing and new jacks, you could do
the whole "nine yards" and replace the soundboard, too. A new soundboard
and bridge would correct the two major design problems of this little harpsichord,
which are the uneven scaling and the stiff soundboard. We re-did a little blonde
Sperrhake spinet several years back (see photo below) for a great bass recorder
player who wanted to add it to his consort for when they accompany morris dancers
outdoors. In its original state a Sperrhake spinet doesn't make enough noise
to be heard in the next room (not necessarily a bad thing), let alone outdoors,
but with a new and very live Sitka spruce soundboard and new wooden jacks fitted
with Celcon plectra she was so loud we started calling her Lötte, after
Lötte Lenya, Kurt Weil's wife and the original singer of Mack the
Knife (Mackie Messer). Our client happily reported that his fellow
recorder players complained that the spinet was too loud (!) and requested that
it be played with the lid down, and this was outside, with morris dancers. We
were very pleased.
Another option, if you would prefer quiet (although even with a new soundboard and jacks, the instrument can be voiced down to fill a room without removing the paint from the walls), is conversion to a lautenwerk. The soundboard would have to be replaced, as the present one is too stiff to provide any volume for such a low energy, and new bridges would have to be installed installed and the strings replaced with nylon guitar strings or similar. The existing leather plectra would be ideal, so long as they are in good condition. The resulting instrument plays like a harpsichord but sounds like a lute. Wonderful!
Like all the Sperrhake instruments, this one is built like a tank. All the
joints are holding and the case finish is in fair condition -- veneer (seems
to be a light walnut, but may be teak), etc. is all good, needs some polishing,
is all. With the necessary maintenance and/or conversion done this instrument
should be good for another 20 or 30 years with only routine maintenance.
Price: $750 CAD / $500 USD plus shipping from Toronto and applicable taxes & duties. Sorry, this one does not qualify under NAFTA. If interested, or for more information, e-mail Claviers Baroques or give us a call. [back to used instruments page]
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