EARLY ENGLISH INSTRUMENTS

ENGLISH VIRGINALS

The twenty-two surviving English virginals cover a period of about a century, from two early Anonymous instruments probably built 1570-1580 to the latest example, built by Thomas Bolton in 1684. With the exception of Thomas White who has left five instruments, no maker has more than two extant survivors.
Since 1989 Darryl Martin has been involved in a major research project which has included measuring and taking full details of all the surviving instruments, in addition to looking at related fields such as the social conditions, music, workshop practices and so on. This work was carried out as a PhD, and will be compiled for future publication as a book, in addition to various articles and papers which he has already published on the subject.
The English virginals all appear to be built as individual instruments, rather than as models. Compasses vary from C c to G/B f, and even larger, for example FG d, as found in the 1668 instrument by Stephen Keene. Pitch also appears to vary, many of the instruments appearing to be designed for a pitch about one to two semitones above modern pitch, and others at lower pitches around modern pitch or below.
Given the extensive research, and the great variety of instruments, it is proposed to offer any of the surviving examples as a model, depending on the wishes of the customer.
The instruments are built exclusively on traditional lines, and decorated in the style of the original. The casework is almost always oak, usually with red cedar mouldings. The gilt embossed papers, a distinctive feature of the original instruments, are copied and reproduced in the traditional manner using embossed papers, pressed in a pewter mould, as are the arcades. The soundboards are decorated as the originals, using historical pigments, as are the lid and fallboard. The hinges and lockplates are of iron. The key tops follow the originals, usually of boxwood with hardwood accidentals, though occasionally with snakewood naturals and solid bone accidentals. The stand follows the design of an original stand under an instrument by Thomas White, or else can be adapted following other styles found in seventeenth century English furniture.

 
HARPSICHORDS
LODOWICUS THEEWES, 1579 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
One manual; C c, chromatic; 2 x 8' 1 x 4'; case and lid of oak; lime or pine keylevers with boxwood naturals and inlaid accidentals; gilt pressed paper arcades; keywell, soundwell and jackrail decorated with poplar mouldings and gilt pressed paper papers; decorated soundboard with gilt rose.
Dimensions: 2128 x 898 x 230.
This harpsichord is the oldest surviving English-made keyboard instrument, and is far more advanced than the instruments made at the same time in other countries. Theewes was a Fleming, but had lived in Britain for over a decade prior to the building of this harpsichord, and the instrument no doubt represents a typical, albeit large, English instrument of the period. The original was converted to a claviorgan, possibly before being delivered to its owner. Although now in poor condition, and missing many of its parts, it is possible to reconstruct it with considerable accuracy. The sound of the instrument is reminiscent of the English virginals, partly due to the nuts resting on free soundboard wood. In the original the lower guides slide, and this, like all other details are faithfully copied.
IOHANNES HASARD, 1622 (Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent)
One manual; GA c compass; 1 x 10 2/3' 2 x 5 1/3'; case and lid of oak; lime or pine keylevers with boxwood naturals and inlaid accidentals; gilt pressed paper arcades; soundboard with gilt rose.
Dimensions:
The Hasard harpsichord is the oldest surviving keyboard instrument by an English born maker, and now survives in a very dilapidated condition at Knole. Only the case, stand and some internal members exist. It is possible to determine that the instrument originally had 53 notes, and various compasses have been proposed. On the basis of Darryl Martin's research on other instruments, and his study of seventeenth century English pitch standards it is concluded that the compass was most likely GA c with the instrument playing at a pitch a perfect fourth below normal quire pitch - in other words at a level of around 355Hz. This is about four semitones below modern pitch. As the keyboard and soundboard are missing the reproduction is somewhat speculative, but is based on a thorough knowledge of instruments of the period. There is no evidence that the instrument originally had soundboard decoration, other than a rose design which has been scribed onto the baseboard. There are no papers on the keywell and soundwell - unlike other instruments of the period. Instead, the makers name takes up much of the keywell area, carried out in black and orpiment paint, and there is a Latin motto around the soundwell, painted in the same manner. This can be copied, or else papers substituted, or the instrument can be left plain. The stand under the original has turned legs with an arched upper framework with carved designs. This stand is copied on the reproduction.
attr. to JOHN PLAYER, c1680 ("Talbot Manuscript", GB-Och Mus. Ms. 1187)
One manual; G/B c or d, short or broken octave; 2 x 8'; case and lid of oak or walnut; lime keylevers with ebony naturals and solid bone accidentals; black pressed paper arcades; keywell and soundwell veneered in red cedar.
Dimensions: 1878 x 761 x 219.
The Talbot Manuscript, now in the library of Christ Church, Oxford, includes measurements and details of many instruments, including a small single manual English harpsichord that I attribute to John Player. The harpsichord probably originally had a compass of G/B c, short octave, but was altered to d early in its history. Several Player spinets show the same alterations. It can also be made with a broken octave in the bass. Its small size makes it ideal as a general instrument and it is strung in brass, giving both Italian and Northern tonal characteristics, suitable for a wide range of music. The gauge numbers survive in the manuscript, and are closely followed on the reconstruction. This is a simple instrument, but probably represents the standard type of harpsichord built in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. It is possible to enlarge the instrument to give a full G d chromatic compass.
CAROLUS HAWARD, 1683 (Hovingham Hall, Yorkshire)
One manual; FG d; 2 x 8'; case and lid of walnut, S-shaped bentside; lime keylevers with ebony naturals and solid bone accidentals; gilt pressed paper arcades; keywell and soundwell veneered in cedar; four gilt roses in soundboard.
Dimensions: 2254 x 852 x 252.
The harpsichord by Charles Haward is the only surviving example from the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Haward was well known as a maker in his day, Samuel Pepys ordered a spinet from him in 1668, he was referred to by a contemporary as "That Arch-Heretic Charles Haward", and later Queen Anne owned a virginal by him. This remarkable instrument originally had three registers, two of which were lute stops with only one register in the "normal" position, strung in iron and playing at a pitch a little above modern (at about A448 Hz), and was later converted to a normal two register instrument with both stops in the standard position at a lower pitch with brass stringing. Either registration can be offered. The original harpsichord has fine marquetry decoration (from the instrument's altered state) which can also be copied
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