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How does the Hubbard shop go about designing a "new" harpsichord? Is this not a contradiction in terms?

by Hendrik Broekman

Hendrik BroekmanOne of the new directions we took, before the Hass, was a redesign of the large (Flemish) Moermans single -1584 - that Frank Hubbard owned (now owned by Diane Hubbard). The instrument has a varied past and I doubt there are more than three or four pieces that are original to each other in the whole thing. Certainly the soundboard is not original to the instrument. The question of how it reached its current state it is quite open. On the other hand, that made it very easy to take the case, without altering it and put in a very orthodox French-scale instrument that had a nice early 18th century range. There is a little room left over for the modern 20th century transposer.

By increasing the range of the antique from 55 to 58 notes and shortening its scale, we were copying those 18th century builders who enlarged existing instruments to keep abreast of the literature of the period. By subjecting the 16th century antique to a petit ravalement as it was termed in the 18th century and adding the transposing option Hubbard could now offer a small concert harpsichord with a range suitable to the entire baroque literature.

The whole business of synthesizing new but orthodox instruments from the accumulated knowledge of people like Frank Hubbard is certainly not peculiar to our shop. The fact that it is being done is healthy. It gets us away from slavish imitations of instruments, each of which has its own flaws, and allows us to attempt to follow the lines along which the old makers were working.

Hopefully, here in the twentieth century we can ferret out those various lines of thought, try to come up with their principles of how instruments were made and test them out in new instruments. I feel as long as we don't stray too far from the instruments we do have, and don't make instruments that are clearly speculative in nature for which there are no antique analogies, then we are probably working very closely within the old tradition and are quite likely to be producing instruments that do what I think a reproduction ought to do: reproduce the sound made by one of those instruments when it came out of its maker's shop, not reproduce the sound of an instrument that is 200 or 250 years old.

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