24 · Clavichord

Full Description

American, 20th century
By Chickering & Sons, Boston, 1906, under the direction of Arnold Dolmetsch

Compass: five octaves, plus one note: FF to f’’’.
Length 172.3 cm; width 50.7 cm; depth of case 15.5 cm; octave span 15.9 cm
String scale: c’’ =  25.4 cm

The nameboard bears the painted inscription: “CHICKERING ∙ & ∙ SONS ∙BOSTON ∙ V ∙ S ∙ A ∙ MCMVI ∙ no 1 ”, and the rear left corner of the soundboard is inscribed in ink: “Made by Chickering & Sons / under the direction of / Arnold Dolmetsch / Boston USA / MCMVI / no. 1”.  The case and lid are made of maple, as is the trestle stand with its finely turned legs.  The whole decorative scheme gives the impression of an Arts-and-Crafts period reinterpretation of mid-18th-century northern European decoration: the exterior of the case is painted dark green, while the interior of the lid and keywell are painted a contrasting vermilion. the case is highlighted with gilt mouldings, and the interior of the lid bears a broad gilt band surrounding a gilt lettered motto: “MUSICA MAGNORUM, SOLAMEN EST DULCE LABORUM” (Music is the sweet reward of great labours).  It should be noted that this instrument is closely modeled on the Hoffmann clavichord (No. 3 in this exhibit), which had once been in Dolmetsch’s possession. [Restored to playing condition.]

The French-born-and-trained musician and instrument maker Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940) was a colorful figure who may be considered a godfather to the modern early music movement. He emigrated to England where he was befriended by personalities ranging from William Morris and Roger Fry to Bernard Shaw and Ezra Pound. These and many others were drawn to his performances of music from past repertories on the instruments for which it was written: lutes, viols, recorders, harpsichords, and clavichords. Inspired by his successes in Europe, the Boston piano manufacturer Chickering & Sons invited Dolmetsch to direct a department in their factory from 1905 to 1910 for the making of harpsichords, clavichords, and other “early” instruments. This clavichord is the very first product of that collaboration.

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. D Jacques Way
Accession No. 4954.1989

Musical Example:

Richard Rephann, director emeritus, performing Prelude I in C major, BWV 846 from Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Book 1, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, 16 October 2004