Gerhard Doderer and John Henry Van der Meer Cordofones de tecla portugueses do século XVIII: Clavicórdios, Cravos, Pianofortes e Espinetas.. (Portugal: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian 2005) 498pp. 31.50 Euros.
Available from Casa dos Músicos, Porto. www.casadosmusicos.pt
This exceptionally well produced and researched volume of almost 500 pages covers Portuguese stringed keyboard instruments of the 18th and early 19th centuries, (no instruments predating the 18th century have been preserved) and is a most worthy successor to Professor Doderer’s monograph on Portuguese clavichords of the 18th century published well over 30 years ago and now long out of print. Importantly for those who do not speak Portuguese, the book is bilingual, each chapter being translated into English. It covers all stringed keyboard instruments (the totals of instruments surveyed are: 17 Clavichords, 1 Square Piano, 12 Harpsichords 5 Fortepianos and 2 Bentside Spinets).
The book contains an overview of stringed keyboard instruments in Portugal from the Renaissance to the Romantic Eras, discussing the probable immediate Italian influence on harpsichord building, instruments with a strongly pronounced national style and instruments with a national style but showing some English influences. Biographical details of the makers offer an illuminating comment on this profession, and a discussion of the keyboard compass (C to d3 is the most frequently found compass in Portugal, C to e3 is not infrequent, but an extension to f3 is rare and found only in clavichords) makes for interesting reading. A separate chapter is devoted to each genre of instrument, and some 12 harpsichords and 5 fortepianos (including harpsichords converted into fortepianos, but one fortepiano converted into a harpsichord as late as 1919 by Arnold Dolmetsch is considered to be of Spanish rather than Portuguese provenance for reasons discussed in the text) have been studied and the fullest information is collated here for each instrument including provenance, subsequent history, restoration and current location; a few remain in private ownership. Of great interest to makers will be the highly detailed listings of all measurements including key dimensions and vibrating lengths of strings. A chapter on the mouldings covers all instruments, with diagrams, followed by a comprehensive glossary of terms in both languages. A series of 109 beautifully produced plates, most of which are in full colour, on 64 pages, of every instrument catalogued (several are covered by more than one plate) is in the centre of the book between the Portuguese text and the English; a useful bibliography (although unfortunately many of the articles cited will prove difficult to locate) completes the volume.
This book will become an invaluable reference work to all interested in the still relatively unknown world of the Portuguese keyboard instruments and their music and at this price is excellent value. It can be ordered online directly from Casa de Musica.
© John Collins
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