Custom Instruments

French 18th Century
Double-Manual Harpsichords

Harpsichord after Pascal Taskin (1769)
(Available as a kit)

Harpsichord after Henry Hemsch (1756)
(Available as a custom instrument only)

Taskin French Double-manual with cabriole stand

No more idiomatic music was written for the harpsichord than by French composers of the 18th century. The harpsichords for which this marvelous body of music was composed were superb, and the products of the Parisian workshops were prized throughout Europe. There is nothing in the literature of the harpsichord which cannot be successfully performed on these instruments with their singing treble, fluty tenor and rich bass sonorities.

Our French double-manual harpsichords have a range of five octaves, FF-f''' (61 notes, transposing; or FF-e''', 60 notes on the Hemsch). Each is disposed with three ranks of jacks and three choirs of strings, 2 x 8', 1 x 4', with a shove coupler. On the Taskin model, a buff stop is standard and a fourth rank of jacks voiced in peau de buffle is an option.

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Hemsch French Double-manual with Queen Anne stand

The keyboards for these instruments are replicas of 18th century originals. Lower-manual key levers are guided by pins running in an unbushed wooden rack at the rear of the keyboard and balanced for evenness of touch by hand carving, methods which result in the light action favored by 18th century composers. No cloth bushings are used in the keys. The octave span is 6-1/4" and the key heads are 1- 3/8" long, conforming exactly to the original French practice. The key fronts are finished with pear wood arcades, the ebony keyheads are rounded and scored with decorative lines, and the stained hardwood, bone-topped sharps are tapered in height and width.

Each instrument is offered painted in a traditional French style, with contrasting interior and exterior colors reconciled by gold leaf bands on case and lid and gilded mouldings. Each is supplied with a simple trestle stand. Both a Louis XVI apron stand with turned and fluted legs and a French provincial cabriole stand are available at additional cost. If desired, the soundboard and wrestplank may be decorated in the 18th century French style.

Also available is our French 17th Century Double-Manual Harpsichord after Michel Richard (1688).

The late 17th century was a time of flux in French harpsichord making. The earlier native school of building was going out of fashion and the wealthy were beginning to cast covetous glances at Ruckers harpsichords that had been enlarged with the increased range of contemporary composers such as d'Anglebert, leBegue and Marchand in mind. One could hardly blame a prominent maker such as Michel Richard for making an instrument on the Ruckers design and then passing it off as a Ruckers. This is exactly what he did in 1688. The instrument we offer on this model (the original does not currently play) has a bright treble and powerful bass at A-415Hz. At A-392Hz, one whole tone below modern pitch, the sound becomes darker and more nearly like the larger models of the second quarter of the 18th century that designs as this help spawn.

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Hubbard Harpsichords

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updated: 11/13/03