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Forte-Pianos

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Wittmayer clavichord, SN 30, ca 1950's (used)

This unfretted 5-octave instrument was originally owned by the University of Toronto where it was used as a teaching instrument at the University's Edward Johnson (music)
Building, including by Professor Greta Kraus. Do I hear you say, "Who?" She was Canada's equivalent of Wanda Landowska, originally from Vienna but we consider her our very own harpsichord pioneer. When early music became historically informed she forsook the harpsichord and switched to teaching leider. Many of our famous Canadian opera singers were taught by her. The clavivhotd's present owner, a student of Professor Kraus, purchased it from the university in the mid-70's.

The instrument is very sturdily built and is in excellent mechanical condition. Compass FF to f''', double strung in steel with wound strings in the bass. The bass and midrange on this instrument are very impressive. The tone is very loud and full with a long sustain. The sound of the treble is nice seems but a bit timid in comparison; it is possible to increase the keydip by tapping the tangents in further, this would give a bit more volume. This is something an owner could do or we could do it, cost around $375 CAD / $250 USD / € 240. (Update: Den's been playing it and says he's getting used to it, so you may find that it's just fine the way it is.) We did have to replace one broken string -- not bad in 50 years -- but the others seem to be in good condition, making good tone and don't look like they'll need replacing anytime soon.

The case is teak or similar with lighter coloured stringing on the cover, and there are four matching screw-in legs (not shown). The case is in very good condition although there are some signs of normal wear and a faint mark on the lid where a bottle or something sat on it. (Note: I was able to fix this with a few coats of French polish, can barely seee where it was) What is truly spectacular about this instrument is that the case is dead flat and the keyboard cover fits without binding. Clavichords are famous for twisting. Besides the legs there is a music desk (shown above) and a wooden packing/shipping case, this will save the cost of crating if the instrument will be shipped to you.

The owner was a vocal student of Professor Kraus's, and he did not play the clavichord. Not only did he never play it but he told me he never tuned it -- didn't even own a tuning wrench. So on Christmas Day I tuned it for the first time in nearly thirty years and you know, it wasn't bad. It either had been tuned to 415 or (more likely) had dropped a half-step, but most of the unisons were still acceptable. Within three days the tuning had mostly settled in, I have only had to tweak a few notes.

One thing I should mention: this instrument has an odd crisscross arrangement of strings, the two strings of the pair are tuned from opposite ends of the instrument (see below). I would recommend to anyone who purchases it that they invest in *two* tuning wrenches, one for each end, I found that switching one wrench from one end to the other very confusing.

As you can see from the photos, this is a fairly large instrument. It measures 1.5m x 0.5m x 0.2m / 60" x 20" x 9" plus another 0.63m / 24" for the legs. It's pretty hefty for its size, approx. 40 KG / 90 lbs.

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