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Csembalók / Harpsichords

Pascal Taskin continued to build harpsichords and refine the designs of the later Blanchets. He was a superb and innovatory workman and his instruments were, if possible, even more carefully made than his predecessors'. In the late 1760s a system of genouilleres (knee-levers) to control the stops and a register of 8' jacks fitted with soft buff leather (Peau de buffle) plectra instead of quills were added to the standard French disposition of three registers controlled by hand. Although there were other claimants, Taskin, who was credited with introducing these innovations in 1768, was chiefly responsible for standardizing and popularizing them. He also continued the Blanchet practice of rebuilding and enlarging Ruckers harpsichords, but as the supply of genuine Ruckers harpsichords suitable for rebuilding dwindled while the demand grew, he was not above making a 'Ruckers' using very few, if any, antique parts. Nevertheless, they were excellent instruments.
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French family of harpsichord and piano makers, active from the end of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th. A Nicolas Blanchet, master instrument maker, worked in Paris in the first half of the 17th century, but his relationship to the later family is unknown. The founder of the family firm was Nicolas Blanchet (b Reims, c1660; d Paris, 1731); it is not known where or to whom he was apprenticed, but he was in Paris at the rue des Fosses St Germain when he married in 1686. He was admitted to the guild as a master in 1689 and prospered during the next few years judging by his surviving instruments and guild position. In 1717 he moved to rue St Germain l'Auxerrois. His second son, François-Etienne Blanchet (i) (b Paris, c1700; d Paris, 1761), became a full partner with his father in 1722, and an inventory of the assets of the partnership taken in 1726 shows their wealth to have nearly tripled in four years. In 1727 François-Etienne (i) married Elisabeth Gobin, who as part of her dowry had a share with her brothers and sisters in a large house in the rue de la Verrerie. Blanchet father and son moved there and set up shop 'vis-a-vis la petite porte de S. Merry', where the workshop of the Blanchets and later Taskin was to remain to the end of the century. Two children were born of the marriage: Elisabeth-Antoinette (b ?Paris, 1729; d ?Paris, 1815), who married Armand-Louis Couperin in 1752, and François-Etienne (ii) (b Paris, c1730; d Paris, 1766), who became his father's partner and successor. The Blanchet relationship with the court began in the 1740s with the building of a harpsichord for Mesdames a Fontevrault and with increased repair work sent by Christophe Chiquelier, keeper of the king's instruments; during the 1750s the firm became 'facteur des clavessins du Roi'. Although harpsichord making and rebuilding dominated the workshop's activities until the 1790s, the firm was one of the first in Paris to make pianos, one of which was owned by the prominent Parisian harpsichordist Claude-Bénigne Balbastre in 1763. On the death of François-Etienne Blanchet (ii) in 1766, the workshop was taken over by his chief workman, Pascal Taskin.
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The importance of Ruckers instruments lies in their remarkable sound, which is the result of their extremely sophisticated design. The lengths, gauges and materials of the strings were chosen with great care. Both soundboard and bridges were made of good materials and were carefully and accurately tapered to give the right thickness and stiffness in each part of the range. Also, the area of radiating soundboard was contrived to give an even balance between the bass, tenor and treble parts of the compass. The resulting sound is rich and resonant without any part of the register dominating another. The original decoration of Ruckers instruments was rather elaborate. Block-printed paper patterns (with motifs taken from Renaissance pattern books) were placed inside the key-well (above the keys) and above the soundboard around the inside of the case. These patterned papers were also sometimes used inside the lid in conjunction with a repeating wood-grained paper on which Latin mottoes were printed; or sometimes the insides of the lids were beautifully painted by contemporary artists such as Rubens, Jan Breughel and Van Balen. The outsides of the instruments were painted with an imitation of marble or sometimes of huge jewels held in place by an iron strapwork. The soundboards were embellished with tempera paintings of flowers, birds, scampi, insects, snails, fruit and the like. The date was also painted somewhere on the soundboard or wrest plank. Decorative gilded roses placed in the soundboards incorporate the initials and trade mark of the builder, and are surrounded by a wreath or spray of flowers painted on the soundboard. All the roses of the Ruckers family represent an angel playing a harp, with the initials of the builder on either side of the angel. The exact posture of the angel and the layout and modelling of the rose varies from one member of the family to the other and serves as one of the methods of determining the authorship of the instrument. The roses of (1) Hans Ruckers and the early type of rose used by (2) Joannes Ruckers are virtually identical, both having the initials hr; but the right wing of the angel of the former's rose is clearly visible, whereas it is missed in the rose of the latter. After joining the Guild of St Luke (1611) (2) Joannes Ruckers gradually stopped using the hr rose and began to use an array of IR roses, different designs and sizes being used for virginals, single-manual and double-manual harpsichords. The roses of (3) Andreas Ruckers (i) and (4) Andreas Ruckers (ii) are very similar to each other, but differ in numerous subtle details. A number of instruments, signed simply andreas rvckers me fecit and made after the year 1636, bear the Andreas (ii) type of rose and may therefore have been made by the younger Andreas. Ruckers instruments were justly famous in their own day, and their sound became an ideal during the 17th and 18th centuries in almost all of northern Europe. They were often altered and extended to suit later keyboard literature, sometimes by simple, even makeshift alterations and sometimes by an elaborate rebuilding process involving the replacement of all the action parts and the extension and redecoration of the case. This process was commonly applied to double-manual harpsichords, the new keyboards being aligned to allow simultaneous use of contrasting registers. In France the process was known as ravalement. By leaving the original soundboard almost unaltered, the beauty of the sound could be preserved. In late 17th- and in 18th-century Europe, Ruckers instruments were more highly valued than those of any other makers. Counterfeits were made with the decoration and appearance of genuine rebuilt instruments, and existing instruments of suitable kinds were modified, given a fake label and rose, and sold at an inflated price. Examples survive in the Musée de la Musique, Paris (inscribed Hans Ruckers and dated 1590; in fact by Goujon, 18th century), and at Ham House, Surrey (part of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection, London; this instrument is inscribed Joannes Ruckers and dated 1634; in fact it is of English origin, c1725). Ruckers instruments are important not only for their own beauty but also because of their historical position as models for the later schools of harpsichord building. By the middle of the 18th century the constructional methods of the indigenous schools of England, France, Germany, Flanders and the Scandinavian countries were securely based on the principles perfected by the Ruckers family. Soundboard design, action and stringing all reflect Ruckers practice, and the timbre is clearly reminiscent of Ruckers, even though characteristic also of the musical taste of the period and region. There are now a number of well-restored Ruckers instruments, some in almost original condition, which can be heard in public concerts and on recordings. These instruments are extremely valuable as examples showing how they may once have sounded. However, restoration is not synonymous with preservation, as it nearly always involves loss as well as gain. The realization is thus growing that certain instruments should be left unrestored, in order that their extant original features may remain intact.
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This harpsichord has been built in 1981, by Martin Bezemer Eindhoven the Netherlands. It was the 4th instrument he built. This one-keyboard-instrument contains two 8 foot stops with a lute to the first stop. Martin Bezemer started building musical instruments in the 60 s of the last century as he was short of money. The very first instrument he built was a harpsichird (spinet) constructed of scrap materials". It functioned all right but did did not sound great. As a result he did have a second go and that worked out better. Unfortunately, both of his first creations did not survive but he did develop a bug for building musical instruments. He built instruments for himself and his family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues and has, in the meantime, built a collection of approximately 30 instruments. These include, spinets, harpsichords with one and two manuals, a chestorgan, a clavicytherium (upright harpsichord) and a street organ.
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