French Harpsichords

I have chosen 3 types of French harpsichord, one from the 17 th and two from the 18 th century. These are:

Anonymous, 1667

Donzelague, 1711/16

Goermans/Taskin, 1763/84

These have been selected as representative of the development of the harpsichord in France over more than a century. From the colour and focus of the earliest instrument to the refinement and power of the late Taskin, the love of the French for their harpsichords continued until the inevitable succession to the piano finally occurred.

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ANONYMOUS, 1667

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This double-manual instrument was most probably made in Paris , and is one of the earliest surviving French harpsichords. It shows many Italianate features in its construction, as well as in its brass-scaled stringing throughout. These features combine to give an instrument with character and colour, and with considerable projection – ideal for the works of Chambonnieres, de la Guerre, Louis Couperin and their contemporaries. It is also very successful in small ensembles and continuo.

Also available as a single-manual instrument.

Range GG-AA – d3,
or short and broken octave GG/BB – c3 as original.
Transposing A392-415 or 415-440.

Disposition Double lower 8', 4', optional buff
    upper 8'
    shove coupler
     
  Single 2 x 8', optional buff, optional 4'

Keyboards Ebony naturals with carved trefoil fronts, solid bone accidentals

Decoration Solid walnut, or painted and gilded

Dimensions

Double 86” x 32” (218 x 82cm)

Single 81” x 32” (206 x 82cm)

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Donzelague, 1711/16

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Pierre Donzelague was one of the earliest makers to incorporate a full 5 octave compass, FF – f3, in his instruments. Working in Lyons in the first quarter of the 18 th century, all 3 of his extant instruments, dated 1709, 1711 and 1716, are similar in outline and construction, and all three have this large compass, later to become standard.

A strong Flemish influence is to be seen in his work, both in construction and in decoration, reflecting the esteem in which older Flemish instruments, especially from the workshop of Ruckers in Antwerp , were held at the time. The larger case size of Donzelague's instruments tend to give their sound more refinement, but still they retain some of the colour and presence found in his Flemish prototypes. I would describe their sound as ‘Flemish with a French accent'.

The decoration of Donzelague's work shows echoes of the earlier Flemish style, with for example the use of printed papers, and faux marbling to the case sides. Although the original case decoration of the 1716 harpsichord has been overpainted later, the splendid original stand survives, on which I have based the stand illustrated here. In the ‘Gallery' section, you will see alternative decorative possibilities, including marbled cases, and other stands.

A single-manual version is also available.

Range FF – f3, transposing A392-415 or 415 -440.
Optionally triple transposer.

Disposition Double lower 8', 4', buff
    upper 8'
    shove coupler
     
  Single 2 x 8', buff, optional 4'

Keyboards Ebony naturals with boxwood arcades, bone-topped ebony accidentals

Decoration Marbled case exterior as standard, with Flemish papers to the keywell and lid, and supported by a simple trestle stand in walnut. Options include more elaborate stands, soundboard decoration, lid paintings.

Dimensions

Double 92” x 37” (234 x 94cm)

Single 87"  x 37"  (221 x 94cm)

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Goermans / Taskin, 1764/83

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The Goermans/Taskin harpsichord, to be found in the Russell Collection in Edinburgh , is a splendid example of the fully mature French harpsichord, as developed by Taskin and others in the latter half of the 18 th century. With its generous sound, combining a singing treble, resonant tenor and sonorous bass, and a light and responsive action, it is not surprising that this type of late French instrument enjoys continuing popularity.

Impressive in appearance as well as sound, there are many stylish possibilities of decoration. My standard scheme is illustrated here, with other more elaborate schemes on the ‘Gallery' page.

A single-manual version is also available

Range FF – f3, transposing A415 – 440

Disposition Double lower 8', 4', buff
    upper 8'
    shove coupler
     
  Single 2 x 8', buff, optional 4'

Keyboards Ebony naturals with boxwood arcades, bone-topped ebony accidentals

Decoration Painted in one or two colours, with gold bands to the outside of the case, supported by a simple turned trestle stand, painted and gilded en suite. Many other schemes of decoration are available, as are table stands in Louis XV or XVI styles, soundboard decoration, lid paintings.

Dimensions

Double 93” x 36” (236 x 92cm)

Single 88” x 36” (223 x 92cm)

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