The suggestion has been made that there are persons in the business of
ripping off players by selling them poor quality harpsichords at inflated
prices. This is undoubtedly true.
It is also true that many players are not sufficiently well-educated in
what makes a good instrument to be able to detect this fraud until it is
too late. But how are such players to acquire this knowledge in order to
find an instrument that makes them sound better than they otherwise would?
I pointed out here some time ago that the descriptions of harpsichords
offered for sale on websites and in brochures are hardly comprehensive. I
was told by builders here that more detail was unnecessary. Such an
agument reminds me of Jim's tale of the knife seller: "Trust me; I'm an
The situation is the same when one goes to buy a car. And we know what
kind of a game that can be. My point is that it shouldn't be. If the good
guys would make a point of giving MORE information rather than less, and
backing it up with reasons why certain aspects of the specification are
important, the bad guys might have a harder time financing their Mercs (not
that you can get much of one for $35k these days!).
If there is any difference between French, Flemish and Italian historical
schools of hpschd building, does not the buyer have the right to expect
that an instrument sold as an "Italian" model conforms in all the ways that
these instruments are known to have differed from the Flemish and French
instruments? Yet how often is this the case? I am not only referring to
the buff that is part of the instrument which began this discussion, but
things like key dimensions, length, weight and balance points; jack shape
and weight; etc are significant, particularly to the player. To be told
only that there are 53 keys and 8+8+4 is on the level of learning that a
car has four gears, three doors and a 2.4-litre engine.
If I go shopping for a replica Model T Ford (or a DB-6!), I expect to be
told in what way it differs from the original. I may not mind that the
replica runs on unleaded gasoline (or petrol) only and has radial tires (or
tyres), but it's a material difference.
Please don't think that I am getting at anyone here. I am quite certain
that if I approached any of the builders on the list and told them I had
just won the lottery, they would make every effort to answer every question
I might have about an instrument I might wish to commission; but would they
volunteer the answers otherwise, and who is going to tell me which
questions to ask?
However, I don't think that any of the builders' websites which I have
visited has too much information about the instruments offered for
sale. (Some are much better than others, but I am not going to make
Yes, I know it is possible to be "blinded by science", and that builders do
not want to come on to potential customers like an insurance salesperson,
but Signor Bizzi's website does look pretty good, and it's going to lure a
lot of unsuspecting flies into the web.