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Paris Applauds -
Restores the Antique Harpsichord

Christian Science Monitor, April 1, 1967

by Carolyn F. Ruffin

The Old World has been building new harpsichords, and the New World has been building old harpsichords. However, a revival of interest is occurring in Europe in the harpsichord as it was at its historical peak. That is what was found by Frank Hubbard, An American craftsman and historian of the harpsichord. He has just returned from a three-month lecture visit to Paris where he helped restore interest in antique harpsichords, as well as the instruments themselves.

Mr. Hubbard leads a small staff in Waltham, Mass. in the construction of delicate instruments like those of the 18th century. He explained why the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris wanted an American to advise them on the construction of these harpsichords.

"When the revival of interest in the harpsichord began in Europe, the people who were building them were piano-makers. They felt the piano had replaced the harpsichord and that to build new harpsichords they should apply what they had learned from building pianos."

"When the same revival occurred in America, we had not the same tradition of building pianos. We turned to a rich background of historical documents on the harpsichord. And the result was a reconstruction of the antique harpsichord."

When Ralph Kirkpatrick concertized with an American harpsichord in Paris, says Mr. Hubbard, the audiences raved. The difference in construction made a distinct difference in tone. and interest rose in the American harpsichord.

The Comtesse de Chambure, the curator of the Conservatoire's museum, gathered experts from two large European piano companies, Pleyel and Piano Hamm, as well as harpsichordists, harpsichord makers, and amateur enthusiasts of the harpsichord, to hear Mr. Hubbard. The expert, whose "Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making" was published by Harvard University Press in 1965, gave a course in the history of the harpsichord. He also established a workshop which will be a permanent addition to the Conservatoire to restore instruments in its museum, and began work restoring the museum's two harpsichords.

Two of Mr. Hubbard's own kits for building a harpsichord were sent to Paris. One will be constructed as a project by the Conservatoire's students. The other will be build immediately for concert use.

Mr. Hubbard also oversaw the work of amateur harpsichord makers who came to the Conservatoire. He took a short trip to Antwerp and Amsterdam to advise on restoration there. The conservatory in Geneva invited him to lecture there for two days....

.... Mr. Hubbard sees significance in the response to his visit. "Americans think that France is rejecting everything American. But here, in art, the very field one might expect the most snobbery, they have invited an American advisor." ....

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