Archive for January, 2010

meek mietkes

January 27, 2010

Harpsichord copies after various 18th-c. German originals hit the market some time around the late 1980s. Some German harpsichords, the originals as well as their copies, belong to the instruments dearest to me (there is certainly nothing amiss with this type of instrument). Others have, in my experience, their share of problems. Let’s have a look.

I am especially thinking of one-manual German harpsichords after Michael Mietke, which are usually based on a not-quite-original-any-more original preserved in Berlin. Its short scaling – taken at a pitch of around 415Hz – suggests an instrument entirely strung in brass, and this is how most copies are made. The more sonorous ones have a certain (lute players, excuse me) lute-like quality. In the more intimate specimens, we often hear a rather quiet, silvery tone, which is easily buried in ensemble playing. (more…)


how poetic is a gleaming soundboard?

January 24, 2010

I once helped to restore a two-manual Kirkman harpsichord from 1775. The exciting part of the work involved taking off the old and damaged bottom and extricating a total of 5 kg of assorted iron parts from the instrument’s interior. These included, for instance, a T-beam that an earlier restorer had attached between spine and cheek, parallel to the belly rail, in a misguided attempt to stabilize the sagging structure of the instrument.

Less exiting and rather messy was the removal of a thick layer of not original shellac from the soundboard. How do you scoop puddles of temporarily dissolved, but rapidly drying varnish out of a harpsichord? (more…)