Harpsichords in China

Copyright © 2017 CBH
Chinese 1K gif

Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) 32K jpeg
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / PUBLIC DOMAIN
Matteo Ricci (1552–1610)

The harpsichord has a longer history in China than you might expect. Joyce Lindorff, based in Hong Kong for much of the 1990s but now at Temple University in Philadelphia, has been researching the introduction of Western music and instruments to China for some time. The first harpsichord was brought all the way from Europe as a gift by the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552–1610). The Westerners even began making keyboard instruments locally. Later, another priestly musician Teodorico Pedrini (1671–1746) spent the last half of his life in China: Some of his compositions remain in the National Library of China. Sadly, there’s no indication how long the keyboard instruments they brought, built and used lasted: Without some knowledgeable attention, they probably had to be discarded soon after the Westerners departed and the instruments deteriorated to unusable.

Zhao Dongsheng harpsichord, Beijing 2010 57K jpeg
SHEN FANXUI
Shen Fanxui (seated) with Zhao Dongsheng at the double-manual harpsichord
he recently built at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music
A recent (Chinese) internet posting erroneously suggested there were only a few harpsichords in the whole country today. Another extolled a bright blue double-manual harpsichord built at Beijing’s Central Conservatory by Chief Instrument Technician Zhao Dongsheng as the first harpsichord built in modern China. In fact, Canadian artisan Ted Turner spent several months in China in 1985 and built at least two harpsichords with the same Zhao Dongsheng and Huang Xiaomiao, Piano Technician at Xi’an Conservatory of Music. A report appeared at the time in the English-language China Daily.

Although this listing shows more than thirty early keyboard instruments spread around mainland China, it’s still a perennial problem for intending visitors to find suitable instruments for their performances or masterclasses. I’m often asked for advice by agents, soloists and touring period orchestras (Academy of Ancient Music, Les Arts Florissants, The English Concert, Freiburg Baroque, Tafelmusik…), not only about which instruments might be available for their events, but also—more importantly—their condition.

Regrettably, musicians are too often forced to use a digital keyboard. This of course is only a poor substitute for the wonderful instrument it is trying to emulate. There has been little cooperation between institutions in the same city, evidenced by the mildly exorbitant USD5000 fee quoted for a request to hire a harpsichord for concert at a competing institution. Some groups have been able to resort to the reassuring expense of flying a harpsichord of known quality and condition in, or travel with a competent tuner/technician.

Huang Xiaomiao & Carey Beebe, Xi’an 1994 10K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE 1994
With Mr Huang Xiaomiao,
Piano Technician at Xi’an Conservatory

Lacking a culture of regular maintenance, I’ve heard of at least one institutional harpsichord in China being unwittingly replaced with a lesser instrument rather than being simply but expertly serviced. It would seem that capital purchases are easier to fund in many parts of the world. Wouldn’t it be better to find the small but periodic amounts required to preserve the original investment and ensure that the instrument can still be used and enjoyed?


NEXT CHINA VISIT
National flag 1K gif On demand  

Joyce Lindorff was responsible for getting me excited about visiting China. I remember the page from Xi’an curling out of my desktop fax machine, “Our harpsichord requires extensive repairment, please bring building materials.”! Thus began my first trip in China in 1994. Since then, I’ve been able to see several of the instruments on the list below. Follow the links for some other interesting China stories like my visit to Beijing in 1996 with my fortepiano for Florilegium—the first time a fortepiano had been heard in the country—or the difficulties in unearthing a suitable harpsichord on a trip to Shanghai as part of the 2010 World Expo happenings.

I trust this page will at least give an indication of the growing early music interest in China. Please contact me to suggest any additions or corrections, or if you require any assistance to help make your China concert or tour a success. I’m currently recommending visiting musicians hire the 1982 Zuckermann Flemish Double which is kept by a Japanese musician in Beijing: This is the best choice as the instrument is basically working and can be moved around the country in its flightcase.



BEIJING
  • Marc Ducornet Franco-Flemish Double-manual harpsichord 2006, CHINA NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • Marc Ducornet & Emmanuel Danset Ruckers/Hemsch French Double-manual harpsichord 2014, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Goble Double-manual harpsichord, ANTIQUE PIANO EXHIBITION SALON
  • Hubbard & Broekman German Double 2003 after Hass, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Frank Hubbard French Double (#189) 1977 after Hemsch, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Donald Katz Franco-Flemish Double 1973, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Joop Klinkhamer Franco-Flemish Double-manual harpsichord 1982, rebuilt by Willard Martin 1998, MUSICOLOGY DEPARTMENT, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Morley Small Clavichord, ANTIQUE PIANO EXHIBITION SALON
  • Von Nagel Flemish Double harpsichord 2008 after Couchet, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Neupert Bach model harpsichord, CAPITAL NORMAL UNIVERSITY
  • Neupert Couperin model Double-manual harpsichord c1950 (redecorated white, landscaped lid), MUSICOLOGY DEPARTMENT, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Neupert Blanchet model Double-manual harpsichord, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Neupert Blanchet model Double-manual harpsichord, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Neupert Blanchet model Double-manual harpsichord 2012 (landscaped lid), MIDDLE SCHOOL AFFILIATED with CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Neupert Blanchet model Double-manual harpsichord, FORBIDDEN CITY CONCERT HALL
  • Neupert Antunes model Single-manual harpsichord 2013, JIAN LI PERCUSSION
  • Neupert Couperin model Double-manual harpsichord, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Nicola Paoli Italian harpsichord 1990 after Grimaldi, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP [whereabouts now uncertain]
  • Roberts & Brazier Neapolitan Harpsichord 2010, CHINA PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
  • Sassmann Single-manual harpsichord, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Sperrhake Model 161 Double-manual harpsichord, UNKNOWN OWNERSHIP
  • Michael Walker Double-manual harpsichord after Dulcken, CHINA CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Michael Walker Fortepiano after Walter, CHINA CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Zhao Dongsheng & Ted Turner Double-manual harpsichord 1985, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Zhao Dongsheng copy of the above Double-manual harpsichord, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Zhao Dongsheng Double-manual harpsichord 2010, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Zhao Dongsheng Spinet 2015, CENTRAL CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Zuckermann Flemish Double Harpsichord III, built by Herbert Huestis, Vancouver 1982, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Wolfgang Zuckermann [?] Italian Harpsichord kit early 1970s (landscaped lid), ANTIQUE PIANO EXHIBITION SALON
 
GUANGZHOU
  • Neupert Blanchet model Double-manual harpsichord 1995, XINGHAI CONCERT HALL
  • Spinet [?], UNKNOWN MUSUEM [possibly confused with SHENZHEN PIANO MUSEUM below?]
 
SHANGHAI
  • Bizzi Spinet c2007, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Bizzi Studio model harpsichord 2011, SHANGHAI CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Bizzi Continuo model harpsichord 2012, SHANGHAI CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Bizzi French Double harpsichord 2011 after Goermans/Taskin, MIDDLE SCHOOL affiliated with SHANGHAI CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Bizzi “Couchet” model harpsichord 2013, MIDDLE SCHOOL affiliated with SHANGHAI CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Hubbard Flemish Single-manual harpsichord by Sato 1987, SHANGHAI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • Kawai Spinet, SHANGHAI BAROQUE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
  • Neupert Bach model harpsichord 1961, SHANGHAI CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Neupert Bach model harpsichord, SHANGHAI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA / SHANGHAI SYMPHONY HALL
  • Neupert Blanchet model Double-manual harpsichord, SHANGHAI ORIENTAL ART CENTER
  • Neupert Blanchet model Double-manual harpsichord, SHANGHAI POLY GRAND THEATRE
  • Neupert Blanchet model Double-manual harpsichord, SHANGHAI CONCERT HALL
  • Neupert Hemsch model Double-manual harpsichord 2012, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Roberts & Brazier Neapolitan Harpsichord, Los Angeles 2010, SHANGHAI CONSERVATORY of MUSIC
  • Akira Sato Flemish Single harpsichord 2004, SHANGHAI BAROQUE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
  • Zuckermann Triple-fretted clavichord c1975, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
  • Zuckermann Triple-fretted clavichord c1975, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
 
SHENZHEN
  • Morley Pentagonal Virginal 1960, SHENZHEN PIANO MUSEUM
  • Morley Clavichord 1964, SHENZHEN PIANO MUSEUM
  • Morley Clavichord 1966, SHENZHEN PIANO MUSEUM
  • Morley Harpsichord, DA GUAN MUSIC
 
TAIYUAN
  • Neupert Antunes model Single-manual harpsichord 2014, JIAN LI PERCUSSION
 
TIANJIN
 
WUHAN
 
XI’AN
 
XIAMEN
  • Maendler-Schramm harpsichord c1931, GULANGYU PIANO MUSEUM
  • Hugh Craig Double-manual harpsichord 1985, GULANGYU PIANO MUSEUM
 
ZHENGZHOU
  Data last updated January 24 2017



Mystery harpsichord in China 55K jpeg
WEIBO USER XGH1982
  Marc Ducornet Franco-Flemish harpsichord 52K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
It took some time to identify this harpsichord by Akira Sato,
recently used for a concert in Shanghai Concert Hall
  Franco-Flemish Double, Marc Ducornet 2006
China National Symphony Orchestra

Bizzi French Double Harpsichord, Middle School affiliated with Shanghai Conservatory 41K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
  Neupert harpsichord, Guangzhou 41K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
Bizzi French Double 2011
Middle School affiliated with Shanghai Conservatory
  Neupert Blanchet model 1995
Xinghai Concert Hall, Guangzhou

Neupert Bach model 83K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
Neupert Bach model harpsichord as found at the Shanghai Conservatory

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