I presently make Italian harpsichords, due to my admiration for their tonal qualities and design principles. These instruments are not always appreciated by others as much as I think they should be. Their bright sound projects well, they stay in tune more readily than other harpsichord designs, they are reasonably easy to move and set up, and they possess an understated yet elegant appearance.
My instruments are inspired by historical designs without being literal copies of every single detail. I sometimes use locally available wood (just as the old makers did), instead of the original materials.
Animal glues are used for the majority of the building process, and especially for the joining of soundboard staves, the fastening of bridges and nuts, and the gluing of the soundboard into the case. The use of animal glues allows glue joints to dry hard, while retaining the ability to be dismantled in future should the need arise.
Harpsichord inspired by Alessandro Trasuntino, 1531 (presently in the Royal College of Music, London). Single manual, 2x8', brass stringing, range GG/BB-c3. A=415-440 transposition (no loss of notes in either position). Soundboard of European spruce. Bridge, nut and wrestplank of walnut. Inner casework (as shown here) of Alaska yellow cedar. Turned maple legs.
A spruce soundboard (instead of
Harpsichord inspired by F.A., 1677. Single manual, 2x8', brass stringing, range C/E-c3. A=415-440 (no loss of notes in either position). Soundboard of European spruce. Bridge, nut and wrestplank of walnut. Turned maple legs.
There are two ways to construct an Italian harpsichord, both of which are found in the historical tradition:
Many historical instruments retuned the lowest notes to provide bass notes a third lower than the letter names usually given to those keys. On the Trasuntino, the lowest note BB plays GG, the C# plays AA and the D# plays BB (this is called the GG/BB short octave). On the F.A., the lowest note E plays C, the F# plays D and the G# plays E (this is called the C/E short octave). These substitutions allow common bass notes to be played without enlarging the instrument in the bass region. The notes can always be tuned to their usual pitches instead, if the player so desires, although retuning too often will eventually break the strings due to metal fatigue.
The keyboard range of these instruments can be extended, at additional cost, to provide extra notes in the treble and bass, eliminating the need for a short octave and enlarging the repertoire that can successfully be performed.
All harpsichords come with a keyboard that can be shifted one position to allow performance at a pitch of A=440 Hz (the modern standard) or A=415 Hz (so-called "Baroque pitch").
Harpsichord after Alessandro Trasuntino, 1531
False inner-outer: $11,000
True inner-outer: $12,000
Harpsichord after F.A., 1677
False inner-outer: $9,000
True inner-outer: $10,000
Ontario residents add 13% HST. Residents of other Canadian provinces add 5% GST.
Outer case for true inner-outer harpsichords: add $1,000.
Single-strung (1x8') harpsichords: subtract $1,000 from the prices above.
Keyboard ranges can be enlarged beyond the original, at additional cost.
False inner-outer instruments are painted in a single colour. Other decorative options are priced accordingly; please contact me for more details.
Padded covers are made by a third party to fit my instruments, and are provided at cost (presently about $700 but subject to change). They are strongly recommended for anyone that plans to move the instrument regularly.
Full details of the instrument to be built, the final price and payment terms are recorded in a contract that you (the buyer) and I must both sign.
As a sign of good faith, a non-refundable deposit of $500, fully credited against the total purchase price, must be made upon signature of the contract. This ensures that you are serious about making the purchase and prevents me from investing my time and materials into a project that you might not be fully committed to.
Payments consist of the deposit and three approximately equal installments of the remaining purchase price after the deposit is subtracted.
When work on the harpsichord commences, the first of three payment installments is due. The second installment is due at my discretion during the building process. When the harpsichord is finished and playable, you are invited to evaluate it. If you are satisfied, the final installment is paid and you take possession of the instrument. If you are not satisfied, all your previous payments with the exception of the initial deposit will be refunded, and the contract will be cancelled. The instrument remains my property, should this occur.