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Toronto, Ontario, Canada

SOLD! to the lady from Julliard School of Music, New York City.
Italian single harpsichord from kit(?), builder unknown (Ontario?) ca 1970?

 

Compass BB to d''' (52 notes). Disposition 2 x 8' and buff. Strung in brass. Satin black painted finish, light wood naturals (maple?) with blackwood or ebony sharps; wooden jacks; quilled in Celcon. Stands on three turned legs. C/w lid and flap, propstick, music desk.

A good continuo instrument, also suitable for most of the solo literature of the 17th and early 18th centuries -- Bach, Frescobaldi, Scarlatti, etc.

Price: asking $7,000 CAD or equivalent (the Universal Currency Converter can tell you what that would be in your currency) plus shipping from Toronto, ON and any applicable taxes & duties. Made in North America, to the best of our knowledge, so qualifies as duty-free in the US, Canada and Mexico under NAFTA. Interested? Contact us!

Cut to the sound samples!

This is quite a good modern reproduction of a typical Italian harpsichord of the 16th and 17th centuries. Like the original instruments it was modelled after, it is an ideal continuo instrument and in the Baroque era, Italian harpsichords were the used in ensembles across Europe and in England. The distinctive bright sound of the brass wire carries clearly through an ensemble. It is also ideal for most of the solo repertoire up to the mid/late 17th C. Suitable for Bach, Buxtehude, Sweelinck, Handel, Frescobaldi, Scarlatti, Purcell, Francois Couperin, and -- well, just about everybody except the really late French guys.

It is a compact 5' 3" long, 32 1/4" wide and 7 5/8" high and it weighs only 72 lbs. It has a lid, unusual for Italians, because the builder (or someone) mounted the hinges on brass straps. The hinges have loose pins, too, so the lid goes off and on easily -- you don't usually want a lid in an ensemble, but having one makes moving much less of a scary operation. This would be a great little instrument for gigging.

Both register levers and buff lever come through the nameboard -- convenient!

The origin of this instrument is a mystery. The overall design is historical, the materials are for the most part correct, and the details, such as the charming scrolls that the jackrail is mounted on and perfectly-scaled mouldings, are historically accurate, and speak of a knowledgeable professional designer. The workmanship is generally excellent and the paintwork is especially nice.

Sound samples:

There are a couple of tell-tale signs that the person who finished the instrument was not an instrument builder. For instance the jackrail supports are screwed on rather than glued on (it appears that the case had been painted before they were attached -- oops!) and the soundboard rose is a metal filigree pot-pourri jar cover. Not ugly, but not what a pro builder would do.

Based on that sort of evidence, we have concluded that this instrument was built from a good quality kit by a careful and experienced woodworker. Although we have not been able to identify the maker of the kit, we think it may have been one of the English ones, perhaps the Renaissance Workshop. It's definitely not any North American kit that we know of.

One the plus side, the pin layout is neat and the case joints are holding well, including the very critical hitchpin rail.

If this harpsichord's origin is mysterious, the last 30 years of its life are very well known. The current owner found it languishing in a storage room off the choirloft of his church in the late 1980's. It was dirty and unplayable -- lots of broken strings -- and even the legs had gone missing. He expressed an interest and the church staff were delighted to get rid of that 'piece of junk' and get their storage space back. He bore it home and started cleaning it up. And found that the instrument seemed quite respectable. The design was good, the workmanship was careful, the paint was very nicely done, and he decided it was worth putting some time and money into. Which he proceeded to do.

He had it strung and brought into playing condition by Marc Paré of Waterloo, ON. David Jensen, currently in Bloomington, IN, but then in Toronto, made the replacement legs from oak turnings, they attach by means of thumbscrews. Later Maurice Baker of Toronto kept it in tune and regulation until his death in 1994. In 1995 the owner had us replace the plastic jacks with wooden ones, very fine ones of beech with holly tongues made by noted harpsichord builder Jake Kaeser of New London, CT. We quilled it in Celcon and restrung the bass for a bit more tone. In the past year it has been played regularly and rented out on occasion for students to practice on and used in demonstrations.

This is perhaps not quite a professional instrument -- not enough tone for large concert-hall performance -- but it is a historical copy so has the 'real' harpsichord action and sound. It would be a good instrument for a serious student, for someone who would mainly be playing at home or in smaller venues, for a teaching studio, or as a school practice instrument.

Currently this instrument is voiced for a large room in a home or studio. It could be revoiced for more volume if wanted for public playing in a larger space. (about $500 if we were to do it, but probably not necessary).

 

The owner has sold his home and no longer has room for his keyboard instruments.





SOLD! to the lady from Julliard School of Music, New York City. Price: $7,000 CAD or equivalent (the Universal Currency Converter can tell you what that would be in your currency) plus shipping from Toronto, ON and any applicable taxes & duties. Made in North America, to the best of our knowledge, so qualifies as duty-free in the US, Canada and Mexico under NAFTA. Interested? Contact us! [back to used instruments page]
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