Custom Instruments

German 18th Century Double-Manual Harpsichords


Small harpsichord after Hieronymus Hass (upper photo)

Large harpsichord after Hieronymus Hass (lower photo)

Small German Double HarpsichordThroughout the Baroque period, culture and sophistication were terms uniquely linked with France whose array of native musical talent was perhaps matched only by that available in Germany. Though we now perceive greater artistic value in German than French music, the reverse was true in the eighteenth century. The German states, by and large, were not so prosperous as to be able to afford great numbers of harpsichords. Clavichords, cheap and numerous, were the order of the day. Little wonder, then, that in Germany during this time harpsichord making was largely a fragmented affair.

Large German double-manual harpsichord on custom standThough we tend to refer to them as such, coherent schools of harpsichord making were not so much national schools, as city schools. In this view, Flemish clavesingels were expressions of the Antwerp school, French clavecins the products of Parisian builders and English harpsichords the products of London makers. There were outliers on the flanks of each school, but the money that would allow a school of harpsichord making to flourish could only be found in the cities. Hamburg alone, in the vast reaches of Germany, had sufficient financial activity to support a significant level of secular musical culture as well as its own school of harpsichord making. Those instruments by other German makers, which did not resemble those from Hamburg, were seldom similar to anything else and were often simple, rustic and hearty.

Of the two major families of makers in Hamburg, Zell and Hass, we have chosen to produce the instruments based on the designs and practices of the latter. The Hass harpsichords offered here have a full and forthright tone whose rich, organ-like sonorities can be put to stunningly effective use in a great variety of musical styles, especially for the music of Bach. The sense is unavoidable that, when played on these instruments, the music of Bach and his contemporaries has finally come home once more. For more information about our German double-manual, see Hendrik Broekman's article.

Veneered keywell of large German doubleOur German double-manual harpsichords are disposed as either 2 x 8', 1 x 4', buff; or 2 x 8', 1 x 4', 1 x 16', lute, buff. The keyboards retain the proportions of the originals which are almost exactly those of the modern piano. Nevertheless, the actions are responsive and lively enough to play French music convincingly.

Both instruments are offered in a simple decor - painted in two colors on a matching trestle stand. The keywell surrounds are veneered, inlaid and crossbanded to coordinate well with the ebony and bone key coverings. Most Hamburg harpsichords were sumptuously decorated with chinoiserie inside and out, floral designs on the soundboard and were placed on impressive stands. If desired, we will gladly arrange these details as well.

German double-manual harpsichords - Offering Sheet

Small German harpsichord - soundboard view

Listen to the large German double...

You can hear excerpts from a demonstration CD we have prepared for this instrument:

~ A Note About The Files ~
Not all mp3 files are equal!  The sound of a harpsichord is particularly difficult to compress satisfactorily. The bit rate we have chosen for these samples is the lowest that reproduces the original recording with negligible loss.  Download times will vary widely depending on your setup and the quality of your connection.   On a 28K Internet connection, the shorter sound sample may take from about 5 to over 10 minutes to download. If you have a fast connection (T1, cable modem, DSL) please try the long sample - you may expect download times substantially under a minute.

~ Problems Playing the File ~
If you cannot play the file through your web browser, PC users with the Microsoft browser can right click on the link, then choose the "Save target" option to download the file, then use an MP3 player (or a the Windows media player) to listen to it.

We now have available a demonstration CD of the large German double ($10.00 ppd. in U.S.). Please -inquire via our contact form.




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