PORTUGUESE FRETTED CLAVICHORD

[For picture (54K), click here].

The clavichord was cultivated in Spain and Portugal for centuries, and was as characteristically Iberian as the harp or vihuela. Iberian clavichords are superficially similar to their Northern European counterparts, but subtle technical differences combine to produce a warmth and directness of speech which contrasts with the more introverted northern instrument.

I hope I have captured some of that sunny quality in this clavichord, which is based on an anonymous eighteenth-century instrument, probably of Portuguese origin, which I had the opportunity of observing whilst it was under restoration. Its apparent simplicity conceals a design of considerable sophistication. Like nearly all Iberian clavichords, it is diatonically fretted, a system which presents few limitations on what you can play, and in practice rarely hinders expressive performance.

This clavichord has proved itself as an attractive recital instrument, nonetheless it is conveniently portable, if necessary on the performer's back (yes, I have done it!).

Outline specification:

Compass C-f 3.

Pitch: a1= 440 Hz (standard modern pitch). Fretted in pairs from note c upwards, with E‘s and B‘s unfretted (this is the usual Iberian system: it is also possible for the instrument to be made with E‘s and A‘s unfretted).

Temperament: Thomas Young no. 2. This is a circulating temperament, enabling music to be played in any key. Other temperaments may be possible; please enquire.

Size: 1130 × 355 × 120 mm (3 ft 9 in × 14 in × 4¾ in).

Weight: about 14 kg (32 lb)

Strung in brass, the lowest basses having specially made open-wound strings.

Keyboard: Naturals of English boxwood with arcaded keyfronts; ebony accidentals. The keylevers themselves are made of lime with traditional roof-carving.

Case: Red pine with oil finish. Moulding round base and on top edge of case. (A painted finish is possible at additional cost.)

The instrument has a tool-box at the left-hand end of the keyboard, and is supplied with tuning key, stringing tool and wedge. The open lid serves as music-desk. A stand of Iberian character can be supplied at extra cost.

Guide price: £6000

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