Au Berceau Royal

Avis de recherche : les Instruments de la Collection du Berceau Royal

This Philippe Denis Harpsichord (1674) is the first harpsichord from the Berceau Royal Collection I was abble to find again !

Where are the others ?

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Anne Robert

This harpsichord came from the work-shop of the Denis family during the reign of Louis 14th. Each one of this long line of famous harpsichord makers, at the same time as signing their name with red chalk underneath the soundboard would draw a pentagram, a geometric figure encompassing the golden section within its form.

Of the four harpsichords that remain today, this is the only one in working order. The restoration of this instrument the responsibility of which Daniel Ruf undertook enabled it to be chosen for this recording of the dozens of Telemann Fantasies, by Anne Robert in 1999, in the Saint-Colomban Abbaye.

The case with its walnut sides was originally painted in black whereas the underneath of the lid and the console were painted in brick red, the only colours the stringed instrument makers were allowed to use by their guild. The keyboard consisted of a short octave with the addition of a split sharp on the D sharp. The soundboard decorated Ó la franšaise was embellished by a parchment rose which had survived the years.

In the 18th century the original harpsi-chord stand has been replaced by one of the more fashionable Louis 15th type of stand. Possibly during the same period, a small "ravalement" was carried out: the addition of two strings both in the base and the treble clefs allowed the elimination of the short octave and also the change in tuning from 395 to 415 Hz. As well as this, it was recoated and lacquered in the then very fashionable Chinese style.

In the 19th century the instrument was abandoned for quite a some lime. It appeared to have been used as a stand for candles, as an ironing board, an ashtray and a flower pot holder. The stains and the marks are there to prove it.

In the 20th century, we now find our harpsichord in the Salomon collection being no longer in working order, it was entrusted to the Masson Brothers in 1922 for a restoration which appeared not to have been successful. From my observation, they did not seem to have detected under the veneer that the thickness of the wrest plank was split right through.

Taken to the auction house of Drouot in 1934, seemingly a decorated piece of furniture, the Denis harpsichord was acquired by the owner of an iron works in Lorraine. It then enhanced the collections of the castle of Montaigu, these days managed by the Lorraine Museum of Nancy.

(according to Daniel Ruf, translated by Nicole Wrixon )

Fantaisie number 7(vivement)(mp3)

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