+44 (0)1304 36 25 10  Carl Rennoldson Early Keyboard Instruments: Harpsichord - Clavichord - Clavisimbalum
Original French harpsichords of the 17th century are rare. Lefebvre's instrument is one of only about five single manual French harpsichords known to have survived from this period. Other double manual instruments are known but even this list is relatively short. However those that have survived evidently belong to an early indigenous school of harpsichord building. They were markedly different in many aspects of their design and construction to the instruments of Blanchet and Hemch that became established in a national style at the beginning of the 18th century. These early French harpsichords show constructional details similar to those of both the Italian and Flemish schools of instrument building. They are noted for their light and responsive keyboards with naturals covered usually with ebony and the sharps of either bone or ivory. On this instrument a trefoil motif is carved directly into the ends of the key levers.At each end of the keyboard the blocks have a scrolled top surface reminiscent of Italian work and the removable name- board drops from the level of the sides in a decorative scroll to just above the wrest plank. The soundboards of these early instruments were almost always decorated with flowers and butterflies etc. and the soundhole fitted
This instrument is based on a French harpsichord made by Anton Lefebvre who worked in Paris c.1680.
with a pierced parchment rose. Specification:    Compass: GG - d"' Disposition: 2 x 8, Strung throughout in brass. Pitch: a'= 415Hz. Dimensions: 1915mm x 800mm x 190mm (850mm high with stand). The version featured here with decorated soundboard, turned stand and painted case with gold bands is £9 850. The instrument is supplied complete with separate folding music desk and tuning lever.
The French Harpsichord
Instruments of the Ruckers family were built over a period of approximately 100yrs. From Hans Ruckers, the founder, to his sons Andreas and Ioannas and their nephew Ioannas Couchet. Throughout this time they maintained a consistency of design and quality that was to have a profound and far reaching influence on many of the makers of northern Europe. In France they were especially prized and makers would often copy the Ruckers harpsichords including name and decorative rose in an effort to satisfy demand for the Flemish product. Such was the high regard placed on the originals that as musical tastes and requirements changed these instruments were rebuilt in a process known as, "ravalement";. All the essential components were reused in the new instrument including the most valuable part, the soundboard. The main reason for the rebuilding was to increase the compass of the keyboard. The instrument shown here is based on a harpsichord that underwent this process in the early 18th century, the Ioannas Couchet 1645 single manual harpsichord in the Russell Collection in Edinburgh. It has been given a "petit ravalement" making the compass C - c"' and is available with various dispositions. It is decorated with plain colours on the inside and a contrasting colour outside with bands of gold leaf as might have been found on this type of instrument after ravalement in mid 18th century France.  Images to follow. Specification: Compass: C - c''', GG d’’’ Transposing 392Hz, 415Hz, 440Hz. Dispositions: 1 x 8, 1 x 4 or 2 x 8, 1 x 4 or 2 x 8. Strung with brass and Iron Pitch: a' = 415Hz Dimensions: 1990mm x 650mm x 220mm
The Flemish Harpsichord
The Italian Harpsichord Early 16th C.
This harpsichord is based on the anonymous Neapolitan instrument in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston which is thought to date from about 1550. It is one of the few Italian harpsichords that can be positively identified as having had an original disposition of 1x8 1x4, which was not uncommon in the early period of Italian harpsichord building.An unusual feature is the soundboard which is made of maple (European sycamore) rather than the more usual cypress. It also has a feature possibly derived from the 15th century where the baseboard is raised about 7mm. above the level of the sides of the instrument so that it is free to resonate. Research by John Koster and others has revealed that this harpsichord is possibly related to others that have a similar baseboard arrangement and also originate from the Naples area. For the instrument that I offer the original design has been closely followed including the maple soundboard with minimal barring and raised baseboard.The internal components are made from pine and lime with numerous supporting knees making an inner frame that is both light and strong. It produces a beautifully rich bass with an almost bell like treble and four foot register. The sides are also made of sycamore with finely detailed moulding profiles, the rose is pearwood with layers of parchment. Keyboard and action are of beechwood in the Italian manner with traditional box slides. Jacks are also beechwood fitted with Delrin plectra. Boxwood is used for the natural keys and arcades and the sharps are pearwood topped with ebony. The instrument can be supplied painted or in natural maple with an oiled finish. An outer case is also available with matching turned stand or the instrument can be constructed, false inner-outer. A detailed description of the original instrument is given in, "Keyboard Musical Instrument in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston", by John Koster. Specification: Compass: C/E-c’’’ short octave (as original) or C – c’’’ Disposition: 1 x 8, 1 x 4. Strung throughout in brass Pitch: a' = 415Hz. Dimensions: 1940 x 685mm.
©2019 Carl Rennoldson BSc.