Clavichord by J. H. Silbermann, 1775

The clavichord was THE keyboard instrument during the 18th century offering the most subtle and nuanced potentials of musical interpretation, but also challenging the player's abilities at the highest possible level. Keyboard teaching at that time was exemplified at the clavichord's specific  dynamic and ornamental potential given by the direct contact of finger and strings passing through key lever and the striking tangent. The reduced volume of the instrument created a special intimacy of music making consciously ignoring any spectacular public appearance but inviting to a kind of personal dialogue of composer and musician. An invitation to listen meant becoming witness of a very special event. 

Production of clavichords had a last peak in the German speaking countries of the 18th century, not only with specialist workshops like the Hubert family in Ansbach but with every major keyboard maker like Haas, Silbermann, Späth, Stein and many other. The clavichord was the standard instrument for domestic rehearsing and teaching and the composing tool for every composer resulting in a considerable demand for instruments.

The technical simplicity of the instrument which, however, requires careful planning and a high standard of precision results in equally challenging demands for the instrument maker. Therefore a clavichord from one of the most important workshop traditions of the 18th gave a suitable model to experience the basics of keyboard instrument making of the 18th century. The clavichord shown here was built by Sophia Madelung during her apprenticeship as an organ builder after an original in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg. We have made several clavichords of this model in our institute.


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