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Nouvelle méthode pour apprendre à jouer de la harpe (1774) by Michel Corrette
In General Discussions
Original Harp Compo Moulds
In General Discussions
Erard double-action harp no. 1955
In General Discussions
Lewis Jones
Feb 19, 2019
Erard partial-double-action harps Dear Robert and all, I am placing this under this heading not because it pertains directly to a harp numbered 1955 but because it is consecutive upon Robert’s helpful mentioning (4 Feb 2019, above) of Erard’s partial-double-action harps (made between 1813 and 1827), with two strings in each octave group (D and A) served by double action and five by single action. Referring to the historical documents made available on the website of Clive Morley harps, I note that in what is described there as the 1st loan exhibition ('an unknown exhibition of stringed instruments') to which Joseph George Morley (1847-1921) loaned instruments for exhibition (http://0035926.netsolhost.com/Documents/1stLoanExhibition.pdf), the last item in the list of harps and related instruments, exhibit no. 123, is described as 'Erard’s child's sized PEDAL HARP, speciality, Single action on five notes, double action on D and A' (p. 28). As no measurements are given, it is not possible to tell which of Erard's three sizes this example was, although the description ‘child’s size’ might suggest the small model or the intermediate one. The published pdf facsimile of the catalogue, which comprises just the section pertaining to harps and kindred instruments, does not include the title page, nor is the full title of the exhibition given. I have been unable to identify this catalogue among those of late nineteenth-century British loan exhibitions. As the 2nd loan exhibition, an excerpt of whose catalogue is also available (http://0035926.netsolhost.com/Documents/2ndLoanExhibition.pdf) was in 1894, it is implied that the first exhibition was earlier. I wonder whether anyone recognises the first catalogue and can provide particulars of date, organisers, and place of exhibition. Having checked a few accessible catalogues, I can confirm that none of the following are the same: 1. Guide to the loan collection and list of Musical Instruments, Manuscripts, etc. [edited by A. J. Hipkins], International Inventions Exhibition of 1885 (London: W. Clowes & Sons, 1885). This exhibition was held in the Lower Rooms of the Royal Albert Hall. 2. Crystal Palace. International Loan Exhibition of Musical Instruments, July to October, 1900. Official catalogue, with introductory article by Rev. F. W. Galpin... (Sydenham: The Crystal Palace Company, 1900). 3. A Special Loan Exhibition of Musical Instruments, Manuscripts, Books, Portraits, and other mementoes of music and musicians, formed to commemorate the tercentenary of the granting ... of a charter ... to the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1604 ... June-July 1904 [A catalogue] ([London]: Worshipful Company of Musicians, [1904]). J. G. Morley loaned several instruments for the second and third of these exhibitions. If the date of the ‘1st loan exhibition’ could be ascertained, it might help to trace the partial-double-action harp loaned the Morley ledgers. One such harp, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, is illustrated in Laure Barthel, Au cœur de la harpe au XVIIIème siècle (n.p.: Garnier-François, 2005), p. 138. Not surprisingly for a small instrument, it has 41 rather than the usual 43 strings; the lowest, which has no fourchette, is GG, so the top note is the normal eb''''. As the open ‘A’ and ‘D’ strings were apparently to be tuned a semitone lower than their normal single-action counterparts (this is implied by their sounding lengths in relation to their neighbours), they have a second, gapped row of fourchettes above the main row, which latter corresponds to that of the normal single-action instrument. The first five fourchettes (giving AA, BB, C#, D#, and E, assuming E flat major tuning) are placed near the lower edge of the neck; then, as in the double-action harp, there is an upward step in the line of fourchettes, corresponding to the same E-F transition from overwound to plain gut strings as in the 43-string harp. Two features except this design from the principle of modular interchangeability of single- and double-action neck mechanisms found in Erard’s harps from about 1814 onwards: (1) the neck, though just wide enough to accommodate two rows of fourchettes, the nut pins, and tuning pins (the AA, D and A tuning pins are necessarily very close to the upper edge), is significantly narrower than that of the fully double-action harp; and (2) in order to achieve a reasonably consistent angle of side-draught from nut pin (arranged in two rows, separated by the linear equivalent of a semitone) to tuning pin, the pattern of spacing of the tuning pins (in a single row, apart from AA, D and A), though rational, is markedly uneven, in a way which would serve the continuous nut line of either the single or normal double action instrument poorly. PS. Regarding the tuning and intended use of the 'A' and 'D' strings, with their apparent downward extension by a semitone in relation to the single-action harp (as implied literally by the sounding string lengths), adherence to the common E flat major tuning for the single-action-like scale defined by the C, E, F, G, and B nut pins and the co-linear (i.e. spatially uppermost) fourchettes on the A and D strings would give this open-string tuning: Eb, F, G, Abb, Bb, C, Db.  While it would be advantageous to have both Db and D#, to gain Abb in preference to A# would seem to be anomalous, so it seems likely that the open A string would commonly have been tuned to the flat rather than the double flat. As this kind of instrument, explicitly intended for young players, was effectively an extended form of the single-action harp, lacking the full capacity of the double action, it would be helpful to have the insights of experienced players, familiar with the repertoire and techniques of the second decade of the nineteenth century, as to how the additional notes afforded by the A and D strings might have been used.
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Thomas Hamilton, Glasgow (1810-1820)
In General Discussions
Lewis Jones
Feb 19, 2019
Regarding Mike’s conjecture about the way in which this exceptional neck was made, I think we can – trusting to the accuracy of the photograph – deduce that the underlying woodwork, whether the decorative form was carved, applied or, conceivably, a combination of the two, differed somewhat from that of ‘an otherwise standard harp.’ If a straight line is drawn through the two inmost-curved points on the forward edge of the pillar, the nearest point on the opposite edge (that facing the soundboard) appears to be closer (acknowledging that we see that harp at a slight angle, not en face) than the 57 or so mm that we should expect on the normal turned pillar. Thus the wood, locally at those narrowest points, must be somewhat thinner than that of the normal lathe-turned and fluted neck. It seems most unlikely that whoever decorated the pillar started with a standard pillar of circular section, as the turner would have returned them to the Erard workshop. If the neck is carved, it seems likely that blocks would have been glued to a normal four-piece neck while it was still square in section, thus avoiding undue waste of wood and effort. Robert remarks upon ‘the technical prowess with which Erard used curves in the harp pillar, while still allowing for a vertical space through which the rods must pass’: just enough wood was left at the thinnest points for the neck to fulfil its structural function. It seems unlikely that this is an example of applied composition (compo) decoration of the kind normally used by Erard, whose main advantage was that identical forms, typically in relatively small sections, could be mass-produced cheaply. The composition moulds needed in this case would have been large and numerous, and their cost would hardly have been justified for a single instrument.
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Erard double-action harp no. 1955
In General Discussions
Lewis Jones
Feb 04, 2019
Dear Robert, That would indeed be an exciting transitional example..., but this is not one such. Among the salient features of this 'unofficial' (i.e. undocumented in the ledger) Erard no. 1955 are: · That the neck has approximately the same width and curve as that of Erard’s double-action instruments of circa 1815; · That the brass plates are wide enough to have accommodated two rows of fourchettes, the sliding bridge pins (most of which are missing, the instrument apparently having been plundered by a repairer) being placed approximately where the upper (semitone) fourchettes would be in a double; in consequence there is an unusually long afterlength of string between tuning pin and bridge pin; · That the pedal-box is deep: the walls are 3 inches high (British Imperial inch = 25.4 mm), as in the double-action harps. These features appear to bespeak of an attempt, once the double-action harp was well established, to standardise, where possible, the manufacture of the main wooden and metal components of the instrument. In most structural respects this example is built in the manner of the double-action harps of circa 1815. If, as the number 1955 suggests, the instrument was made at the end of 1814 or the beginning of 1815, it would seem to be a prototype of the later, relatively robustly built Erard single-action harp. There is no provision for even an incomplete upper row of fourchettes. Conceivably the Erards also saw an advantage of strength in transferring to the single the broader neck which was essential to the double; it might have allowed the use of somewhat thicker strings, if desired. Best wishes, Lewis.
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