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