Regional Styles of Harpsichord Building
The harpsichord is one of the oldest stringed keyboard instruments. It was modeled after a keyed version of the psaltery – a small harp with steel strings and a soundboard – which surfaced in the 1300s.
When the harpsichord started gaining popularity in the 15th century, a few schools of building began to emerge: These were the Italian, Flemish, French, and German varieties (English harpsichords appeared later, and were similar to the Italian style):
Italian style of harpsichord building was among the earliest. One of the oldest surviving harpsichords in the world dates back to 1521, and is credited to an instrument maker from Bologna. But, because the early history of the harpsichord remains vague, it’s not known for certain whether Italian harpsichords were indeed the first; although one could argue that the simplicity of the Italian design is suggestive of very early roots … (Continue reading)
Flemish harpsichords took inspiration from the Italian school of design, but later evolved into a beast of its own. The most innovative traditions in harpsichord building began with the Ruckers family of Flanders, who were responsible for several important innovations that would influence and revolutionize the entire industry … (Continue reading)
French harpsichords were highly inspired by the Flemish design; the Ruckers’ design in particular. The most influential French builders were the Blanchets and Pascal Taskin, whose harpsichords are still viewed today as ideal templates by modern instrument makers. The majority of improvements made by the French dealt with the manuals and registers … (Continue reading)