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HPSCHD-L  February 2008

HPSCHD-L February 2008

Subject:

Re: LAST of the SLABSIDES

From:

Carey Beebe <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Harpsichords and Related Topics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 24 Feb 2008 18:32:41 +1100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (81 lines)

Dear Jack et al

The sales figure I generally heard used for Wolfgang's original  
slantside was 10000 units. I suspect this was already more than  
amplified, so 15000 is way too generous, even though they only sold  
for USD150 to begin. (Calhoun?)

The instrument you've found from 1972 probably reflects the early  
influence of David Jacques Way because Wolfgang had already sold the  
company and was established in Devon by then. The next overdue  
improvement was a bentside!

The kits were a very accessible way to harpsichord ownership as Andrew  
remarked, but we must remember the world has changed in many ways  
since then. Harpsichords were quite counter-cultural in the 1960s, and  
I believe the huge kit market in the States, satisfied by several  
companies, was spawned largely by the desire for enthusiasts to have  
something to keep them occupied in their basement over the inclement  
long winter months. The kits were really a phenomenon of the 1960s and  
70s. I built my first with my father's help in 1979.

When a certain critical mass of serious musicians really came to terms  
with the harpsichord along with "Early Music", the focus changed from  
kits to finished instruments. This probably was happening by the  
mid-1980s. The days in the late 70s producing models like the  
Zuckermann Flemish Single IX and X in runs of 500 sets of parts are  
long gone.

Having said that, those of use closely involved with the instruments  
from THE PARIS WORKSHOP are still enthusiastic about the kit concept  
and believe that there are still people who love to get involved in  
the making of their own harpsichords. But the design and materials of  
our own instruments are a far cry from Wolfgang's original production.  
The work of all makers has improved since that time, of course.

Some of my colleagues suggest that the stepping stone into the  
harpsichord world provided by Wolfgang's kit in the 1960s, is being  
emulated today not by the kits, but by the prolific and inexpensive  
finished instrument production of certain makers. There is also the  
secondhand market including eBay. I personally think we are probably  
too close to the phenomenon to be entirely dispassionate--ask me again  
in twenty years.

As for the Fortepiano, that has an interesting social history in  
itself, with the key figure being Phil Belt first selling his design  
to Frank Hubbard who engineered it for production, then going to work  
in Stonington for David Way and coming up with the Zuckermann "Stein"  
kit. Two hundred of those were produced in a single batch in  
Philadelphia I think around 1979--the last output from that facility  
and probably twice as many as needed for the market because it took   
more than a decade to sell them all. Phil's ex-wife Maribel Meisel who  
co-authored the New Grove article was still working in Stonington when  
I was there from 1983. Hendrik might be able to tell us how many  
Fortepiano kits Frank produced.

At TPW, we have recently made a small run of Fortepiano parts, but we  
don't advertize them. They are really not kits. I've not written a  
manual for them, and we only supply them to professional makers on  
special order. Yes, they might seem expensive (about EUR9000 for  
export), but not unduly so for parts produced from better quality  
materials and in runs of less than a dozen compared to the hundreds of  
the past.

May the harpsichord long survive, and outlive us all.

Regards

CB

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