Italian Harpsichord


This instrument, made by Broer de Witte in 1991 and decorated by Cor Verboom in 2007, is based on a harpsichord in the Gemeente-museum in The Hague, Netherlands falsely ascribed to Celestini (W72). The original is an inner/outer harpsichord, probably originating from Sicily ca. 1630, with paintings on the case and lid  which are based on an engraving published in 1622. De Witte has faithfully copied the original, including the scalings, but constructed this instrument as a false inner/outer and made it double-transposing. Although originally intended for a pitch of ca. a’ = 375 hz. it is currently pitched to a’ = 415 hz., transposing to 390 and 440 hz. (17th century Italian sources on keyboard tuning not infrequently recommend tuning the instrument to whatever pitch you happen to need at that moment). The instrument is strung completely in brass, following the Italian stringing schedule published by Denzil Wraight. It is constructed of cypress, has a spruce soundboard, 2 x 8′ block registers, and a compass of GG, AA-f3. In and before 1630 there was no harpsichord music that extended to f3, although a compass extending this far was quite common in the 16th and early 17th century. It is probable that such instruments were used at 4-foot pitch for the accompaniment of singers. The text on the lid may be translated as: ‘Rich am I in gold and rich in sound, play me not if no good tune is found’ (from an Italian spinetto dating to 1540).