Harpsichord sounds from 1500s' Italy now playing in US
Updated: 2015-07-08 07:56
By Associated Press In Sioux Falls, South Dakota(China Daily USA)
A harpsichord that entertained the elites of Italy in the mid-1500s has been restored by a South Dakota museum and will soon bring its sound to 21st-century ears.
The National Music Museum in Vermilion, which acquired the instrument in 2009, worked with Chilean-born musician Catalina Vicens, who specializes in historical keyboards and percussion instruments, to produce the harpsichord's first full-length recording.
The crowd-funded project resulted in a 20-track disc of compositions that Vicens says would have been performed in Naples when the instrument was in its youth.
"It's kind of magical because it is an extraordinarily old instrument, and the restoration that was needed was not extreme, so we can see the instrument's stage is very close to the stage it was 500 years ago," says Vicens, who lives in Switzerland and spearheaded the effort.
Harpsichords were popular for centuries until they were overtaken by the piano, which they resemble. Museum officials believe the Neapolitan harpsichord that Vicens played was built in 1530.
The museum purchased it from its previous owner in Argentina six years ago for an undisclosed amount. An in-house conservator minimally restored it, including cleaning it and installing a new set of jacks - the pieces that pluck the strings - to make it what the museum believes is the oldest known playable harpsichord.
Vicens raised more than $13,000 to cover the cost of the recording project, including travel to and from South Dakota, professional engineering, as well as the booklet design and printing of the CD, which will be released in January on the label Carpe Diem Records distributed by Naxos.
All tracks will also be available on iTunes that same month. People who contributed to the crowd-funding campaign will have early access to the music.
"It's a long process, lots of revisions," says the 31-year-old Vicens. "It's not music that everyone listens to every day, so it's important to put the work in front of everyone. We want it to go into a wider market so the booklet is going to be in English, in German and in French."
Museum director Cleveland Johnson says the recording is the equivalent of a "sound document" that will allow the facility to share a piece of its vast collections with the public, which often wants to know what the instruments on display sound like.
"The instrument is something that you could only look at until now, but very soon we'll have 60 or 70 minutes of glorious Italian music from the period that the instrument was created," Johnson says.
"So, this CD will basically be a time machine that takes you to 16th-century Naples, and that's something that not even Hollywood can do."
Keyboardist Catalina Vicens (right) explains the harpsichord to visitors at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota.AP
(China Daily USA 07/08/2015 page7)
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