H a r p s i c h o r d s

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M A K E R S    C I R C A   1 9 6 0

Goble workshop 29K jpeg

The workshop of Goble & Sons 1962



The Sonnanstine collection

In 1962, Mr. Charles Sonnanstine traveled thoughout Europe visiting harpsichord makers and instrument collections. Mr. Sonnanstine undertook this research trip to explore the possibility of becoming a harpsichord maker himself. He made meticulous notes and took measurements as well as numerous photos of what he saw.

While Mr. Sonnanstine did not go on to pursue a career as an instrument maker, he kept his research materials and gave them to me in 1996. Among these materials is a folio of negatives, about 200 in number. They are carefully numbered and preserved, with notes as to where they were taken. Among these one can find interesting glimpses of the mid-century production harpsichord and some of the leaders of that industry.





Rainer Schütze

In the year 1962, Rainer Schütze was a maverick in the harpsichord industry. Alongside Hubbard & Dowd in Boston and fellow German Martin Skowroneck, he rejected the notion that harpsichords were better realized viewed through the lens of modern instrument technology. Instead, he looked to the surviving instruments of the great makers of previous centuries, for information, clues, and techniques to guide him in instrument design. He was one of the pioneers of the historical instrument movement to whom all makers today owe a debt of gratitude.







Rainer Schütze 17K jpeg

Rainer Schütze at his drawing board 1962


Schütze workshop 30K jpeg

View of Schütze’s workshop 1962

Schütze Italian 33K jpeg

Italian harpsichord by Rainer Schütze 1962



Kurt Wittmayer 34K jpeg


Kurt Wittmayer

In Wolfgang Zuckermann’s book The Modern Harpsichord published in 1969, Wittmayer indicated an interest in the historical harpsichord. Even at this early date, an awareness of the advantages of building based on historical principals had crept into the large harpsichord factories of Europe.

But in 1962, when these photos were taken, the German production model harpsichord was king and Wittmayer’s production was estimated at 400 instruments a year.







Wittmayer keyboard room 30K jpeg

Herr Wittmayer oversees women workers in the keyboard room



Wittmayer assembly room 29K jpeg

Assembly room mass production style


de Blaise 28K jpeg


William de Blaise

William de Blaise settled in England in the early 50s and began making harpsichords. He was heavily influenced by instruments of the German production school, and remained true to these convictions long after the historical instrument had taken hold. He associated himself with the firm of Welmar Pianos, who made cases for him, although he did much of the musical finishing work himself.

His instruments did not distinguish themselves from those of his German contemporaries with the possible exception of his “Cembalo Traverso”. This squat triangular instrument was popular because of its size, but the extreme foreshortening of the scale made for a particularly disappointing result.



de Blaise bridge drilling 28K jpeg

Drilling for the bridge pins



de Blaise apprentice 26K jpeg

An apprentice looks on

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