A visit to a harpsichord builder's workshop.

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
Geo Dude
Posts: 71
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:10 pm

A visit to a harpsichord builder's workshop.

Post by Geo Dude » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:07 am

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only harpsichord aficionado on this board, so I wanted to post a link to a recent write-up of a visit to Gerald Self's shop. I only ask that the resident harpsichord experts (you know who you are!) keep in mind that this was intended to be written at an introductory level for a wide audience.

And seeing as I would feel guilty if I started a thread that did nothing but plug my blog, I happily welcome harpsichord nuts here to list some of their favorite recordings and/or harpsichordists. I'll come up with a list later after a search of my collection.

Posts: 971
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2009 4:09 pm
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: A visit to a harpsichord builder's workshop.

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:35 am

you may or may not find this useful, as I don't have a lot of solo harpsichord in my collection, outside of some odd Bach and Handel discs. However you might be interested to hear the "completion" of the final fugue in Bach's Art of Fugue by Davitt Moroney, who both wrote the completion and plays it on the Harmonia Mundi release below:


People can complain about Moroney's approach to the music, but his realization of the quadruple fugue is quite convincing and far less aggravating than the usual abrupt stop followed by a totally unrelated chorale transcription.

Posts: 472
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 12:11 pm
Location: Columbia/Westchester Counties NY

Re: A visit to a harpsichord builder's workshop.

Post by Beckmesser » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:03 pm

This post induced pangs of guilt.

I have loved harpsichord music since I was a teenager discovering the world of classical music. It has always been my dream to have a harpsichord of my own. Several years ago I purchased a kit from Hubbard Harpsichord near Boston. I should have realized at the time that family obligations would prevent me from devoting any significant time to the project.

When I retired over five years ago one of my primary projects was going to be the completion of the harpsichord kit. But I am a world-class procrastinator and, sad to report, no progress has been made.

Since I have only rudimentary woodworking tools and limited woodworking skills I ordered a kit that came with the wood cabinet completely assembled. The first step for me was painting and decorating the cabinet. After that would come installing the strings, trimming the plectra, assembling the jacks, etc.

I think I lost my nerve with the painting when I discovered how hard it is to achieve a really fine finish with a paintbrush and enamel paints. I have decided to purchase a spray gun this summer and am determined to get this project off the ground.

If I don't succeed, perhaps my wife can one day use the harpsichord case for my casket.

Site Administrator
Posts: 17975
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York

Re: A visit to a harpsichord builder's workshop.

Post by Lance » Wed Mar 28, 2012 2:12 am

It was, quite honestly, the musicality and musicianship of WANDA LANDOWSKA that caused me to love the harpsichord. Always loving the present day piano first and foremost, becoming a piano technician for the State University of New York impelled me to learn to cut plectra, replace bronze and steel strings, regularly regulate and tune the harpsichords, employ odd tunings and lower pitches for the purists to the instruments, of which I had three - all Dowds from Boston - including two single-manual Italian types and a two-manual French type. I learned to appreciate the instrument more than ever even outside of what Landowska could do on her 16-foot custom-made Pleyels, which I had the pleasure of playing in Lakeville, Connecticut at the Landowska Center, which was under the care and guidance of Landowska's assistant, the late Denise Restout.

My favourite harpsichordists:

Luciano Sgrizzi - some fabulous work on the old Nonesuch label
Igor Kipnis - I have prepared his Rutkowski & Robinette harpsichord for concerts. He was a superb musician and artist.
Wanda Landowska - regardless if many people think her passé today (I don't)
Rafael Puyana - a Landowska pupil
Ralph Kirkpatrick

I was far less attached to Rosalyn Tureck but enjoyed Sylvia Marlowe's work. You rarely hear of the latter these days.
Lance G. Hill

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]


John F
Posts: 20355
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: A visit to a harpsichord builder's workshop.

Post by John F » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:54 am

I can't say I loved Landowska's Pleyel harpsichord, which seems to have been built for volume more than tone quality. Landowska herself I'm still very much drawn to, even when playing the piano. Baroque music aside, many 20th century pieces for harpsichord were composed for Landowska and her instrument, so an "authentic" performance of Falla or Poulenc would call for a Pleyel. But I don't believe historically informed performance has gone that far.

As for other harpsichords, I've always liked the mellow, rich sound of Thomas Goff's instruments in the recordings by Thurston Dart and George Malcolm, whose playing I also liked very much - far more than the ascetic (aka dull) recordings of Ralph Kirkpatrick, who played a Neupert I believe though I don't know for sure. Malcolm also played a Goble and I like the sound of that too.

Of course all this looks back quite a few years, even generations. Harpsichord recitals are pretty rare in New York these days, at least it seems that way to me, and I haven't been duplicating the repertoire on records much, so it would be for others to talk about today's harpsichords, their makers and their players.
John Francis

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 27 guests