The Flemish Harpsichord


The center of the harpsichord construction in Flanders made since the 16th century Antwerp and here since 1579 working there Ruckers family (later Couchet); In the 18th century, the family acquired Dulcken again comparable fame.

A hallmark of the Flemish harpsichord building was the variety: in addition to wing-shaped instruments in different lengths (and therefore at different pitches) and up to three registers created Virginale both central and with asymmetrically attached keyboard either left (called confusion for posterity "spinet" ) or right (called "Muselaar") from the center. Since hereby also the positions of Springer on the strings changed (the "Muselaar" about almost in the center of the string), these guys sounded very different.

Another special feature was the "Mother and Child" -Virginale, actually double instruments that could be played side by side in a common box. However, you could set the smaller "child", which was an octave higher than the "mother" voted, even on the larger instrument and then play on two manuals.


The instruments were often built outside of the lightweight basswood, which required relatively thick walls. While this made it possible to dispense with external boxes (as in Italy), but the instruments were generally quite difficult to withstand the greater string tension. The great mass of the instruments took something the rapidity of speech, but on the other hand made for a much better reverberation of the sound, which was seen as a model for sound development. With the exception of Italy so influenced the Flemish harpsichord also in other countries, because the Flemish harpsichord maker produced not only for the domestic market, its instruments have been exported to many places, particularly in France and England, but also in other countries; one of the oldest instruments of Hans Ruckers of 1581 was obtained, for example in Peru.

Flemish harpsichords were maintained for centuries, repaired, rebuilt and copied - In France, there were marked specialists for the adaptation of Flemish harpsichords to the respective requirements of the modern era. In England it seemed particularly adept at copying - one of the most famous in England built harpsichords (in "Ham House") is outwardly as a Ruckers harpsichord time in 1630, but has been deceptively similar "modeled" after 1700.


Cembalo von Andreas Ruckers, Antwerpen, 1643 ©National Music Museum,The University of South Dakota




The style of the Ruckers towards the end of the 16th century also scored , keyboards as extremely decorative furniture pieces to make - the Flemish harpsichords and virginals the Ruckers family and others were not only a sound experience , but also a delight to the eye. Little visible surface , hardly a recognizable design detail was left without visual design ( the harpsichord makers were not random at the same guild as a painter in Antwerp Guild of St. Luke ) . So bring the interiors of the Flemish- Dutch painter of the 17th century , led by Vermeer, not entirely coincidentally the impression that a Virginal then essential part in every household.

Excerpt © Greifenberger Institute of Musical Instrument tuition 2010


Atelier David Boinnard - Muselaar flamand d'après Ionnaes Rückers (1623)