XXXII. The Empress Harpsichord.details

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XXXII. The Empress Harpsichord.

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A harpsichord of the largest size is this, the culmination of an instrument that had remained in use for nearly three hundred years, but, at the time this one was made, was about to be replaced by the pianoforte. This fine harpsichord bears the joint name of Shudi and Broadwood, London. The instrument is numbered 691, and the books of the original firm show that it was made for the Empress Maria Theresa, and shipped on the 20th of August, 1773. Shudi had established his business as a harpsichord-maker about 1732. Through Handel’s friendship he became patronized by Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III, and was permitted to use the sign of “The Plume of Feathers” for his house. He was honored with a commission from Maria Theresa’s old enemy, Frederick the Great, to make two harpsichords for the “Neues Palais” at Potsdam, where they are still [1891] to be seen.

It may be said of Shudi and Jacob Kirkman, once fellow apprentices, and afterwards competitors, that they left the harpsichords a more powerful instrument, and more varied in effect, by means of stops and registers, than it had ever been before. Shudi was the inventor of the Venetian swell (patented 1769), which he intended for the harpsichords. When the patent expired this contrivance was generally adopted in England, and becoming transferred to the organ, has remained, ever since, an important means of effect in that instrument. The figure in the plate shows the Venetian swell open, as it would be when the right pedal is put down. There are four registers and six stops in this instrument. Taking them in their order from left to right, we find on the left-hand side, the “lute,” the hacks or plectra of which twang the first unison string, near the wrest-plank bridge, andgive a more reedy sound than is obtained from the usual striking-places; the “octave,” which, as its name imdicates, acts upon strings tuned an octave higher,

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