Harpsichord after Neapolitan models of the XVI century


Often the original diversity of Italian harpsichord building traditions has been obscured by the fact that, like Ruckers instruments, they were adapted to changing times and fashions. Nowadays we only see the last update, so to say. Therefore it is understandable that there is still a general misconception that Italian harpsichords were made for a very long time in one constant way. With a standard and overall constant use of materials, pitches, registers etc.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Take for instance the early Venetian instrument, with typically one 8' and a 4', with a relative long scale suited for iron and at the typical high pitch that was prevalent in the north. In a way, very much indeed like original Flemish instruments of the XVIth and XVIIth centuries. (please check the page on recordings on this website for such an instrument)

A very different tradition was prevalent in the south, of which this harpsichord is an excellent example. A true inner-outer (being the instrument itself that is protected by a separate outer case), this harpsichord in the early Neapolitan tradition is made of maple, has only one register and plays at the normal rather low pitch that was usual in the south. A wide tail and different moldings for instance are very typical. As is the shape of the nut, resulting in plucking points that are more towards the middle of the string, in particular in the treble. The result is a very generous, warm tone that is surprisingly loud. The beautiful carved ends of the keyblocks are also typical for the southern tradition. They represent the horn of plenty as a symbol of abundance.

We mustn't however think that this type of harpsichord was only liked and used in the south of Italy. Indeed inventories all over the Italian peninsula testify to the popularity of this model.

Many Italian harpsichords were originally decorated with cloth, either on the outside (like embossed leather or velvet) or, like in this case, on the inside of the lid with silk.  This Shangtung silk has been handpainted by master artisans Jaap Snijder and Marcelo Gimenes www.snijder-co.nl

Matthias Griewisch www.griewisch.com has made an extensive detailed report on the process of making this fabulous harpsichord that can be viewed on his youtube channel. Here you can also find a small but rather fine foretaste of the round and warm sound.