english Harpsichords

England was on of the most important markets for Flemish keaboyrd instruments, and London an important place for continental instrumentmakers who had to flee from political or economic crises in their native countries. So many harpsichord makers in Londfon were of Flemish or French origin, joined by some local craftsmen like the Ha(y)ward and Hitchcock families, or John Player and Thomas Mahoon during the 17th and early 18th centuries. But maybe the most important period in English harpsichord making was linked to two German-speaking emigrants, Jacob Kirchmann (Kirckman) from Bischweiler/Bischwiller in nowadays Alsace and Burkhard Tschudi (Burkat Shudi) from Schwanden(canton Glarus/Switzerland).

Shudi started business 1728, Kirckman ten years later: Shudi produced in etwas mehr als sechs Jahrzehnten 1155 Cembali in over six decades, the last (already by John Broadwood) in 1793, Kirckman built his last preserved harpsichord in 1800 (maybe even 1809; about 2000 in total) – nine years after Mozart's death, eight years after the London premiere of Haydn's symphony  98, including an autograph harpsichord part.

Shudi's and Kirckman's harpsichords were direct competitors to the pianoforte and represent a last climax of sound quality, but also a sign of technical limitations in comparison. Even the general "switch" from harpsichord to piano is closely marked by the preserved Shudi business papers: In 1783 the company  „Shudi & Broadwood“ for the first time sold more new pianofortes than new harpsichords.

Tje English harpsichiord of that era were impressive instruments with a voluminous sound an some unique technical features like the machine stops with a pedal to enable instantaneous change of stops (for loud-soft contrasts) or the Venetian swell patented by Shudi in 1769 (to achieve crescendo/decrescendo); preceded by a few years by Kirckman's nag’s head swell (working in a similar way but less effective).

More than half the instruments had two manuals and four stops (3x8’, 4’, and a lute stop, a specific  damper mechanism) in an oak or mahogany case.Their musical potential was no longer oriented to French harpsichord music by Couperin and his pupils or German keyboard music by Bach but the works of Handel and his later followers living in the richest metropolis of music then - like Thomas Augustine Arne or Johann Christian Bach to Joseph Haydn. The keyboard music of the decades after 1750, usually identified as piano music because of the varied dynamics could also be played on these harpsichords, and in some cases might have been composed for these.

Englische Cembalo mit Jalousieschweller
Englische Cembalo mit JalousieschwellerEnglische Cembalo

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