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.
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.
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 à la
française was embellished by a parchment rose which had survived
18th century the original harpsi-chord stand has been replaced by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.
to Daniel Ruf, translated by Nicole Wrixon)