26 · Harpsichord

Full Description

American, 20th century
By William Hyman, New York, 1969

Compass: five octaves, plus one note: FF to f’’’.

Length 238.4 cm; width 90.2 cm; depth of case 30.4 cm; octave span 15.8 cm
Three choirs of strings (2 x 8’ and 1 x 4 ‘); shove coupler and buff stop
String scale: c ‘‘ = 35.3 cm

The nameboard bears the painted inscription: ”WILLIAM HYMAN * NEW YORK”. The case and lid of poplar are painted pale olive green and ornamented with gilt bands. The keywell and inside perimeter of the case are also gilded. The soundboard is painted with flowers and has a cast metal rose surrounded by the painted inscription “William ∙ Hyman ∙ 1969”.  The case is supported by a gilded stand in Louis XVI style. The registers of jacks are controlled by handstops. [Survives in playing condition]

In the late 1940s, two young Harvard graduate students, Frank Hubbard and William Dowd, abandoned their academic studies in order to learn to make harpsichords. They were convinced that the future of the instrument lay in its past and resolved to build instruments that were closely modeled on surviving historical instruments, in contrast to Pleyel, Challis, and the German makers who often adopted the use of new materials and practices borrowed from modern piano making.  William Hyman, (1933-1974) was prominent among the younger makers influenced by the “Boston school” of harpsichord making established by Hubbard and Dowd. Using the Blanchet harpsichord on display here (Exhibit no. 11) as his model, Hyman built several instruments during his all-too-short career that found favor with musicians of stature, including the donor of this instrument, the noted pianist and harpsichordist Paul Jacobs.

Bequest of Mr. Paul Jacobs
Accession No. 4895.1984

Musical Example:

Linda Skernick performing Gigue from French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, 28 February 2010