Open lid

Some time ago there was a discussion on how to hold the whole harpsichord lid open. I cannot find that (relatively short) discussion, however, I do not recall any reference to the advantages of holding the lid open over the whole length of the instrument (though in retrospect I should have been able to figure that out myself).

As a consequence of the posting related to the Beuermann posts, where the sound in the “Tastenreise” was remarkable (even if manipulated by the technicians at NDR), it occurred to me that, having had my Hubbard only with the “far end” of the lid raised up along with the front portion folded back, I should try to have the whole lid raised for the full length of the instrument (see below).

I was amazed at the difference in sound when seated as a player, and not only in the volume: The absence of the raised front part deprives the player of a substantial reflection of the total sound, being particularly notable in the base part. I am not sure whether the “sound improvement” is similar if one is farther away (across the large room) as I cannot test that configuration by myself. But I would think that the improvement would hold also to the right vicinity of the instrument farther away.

Any comments, anyone?

I think it is a purely personal matter. I always play with the full lid extended because I like the louder sound, as a player.

Interestingly, harpsichord-era paintings and engravings mostly show the lid raised, but the flap (front part) is variously shown as either folded or unfolded. And this dual use is also sometimes shown in the decoration.

Of course. It can be open or closed ad libitum. There was no one definite way. Why would there have been? And people take the lid off altogether for playing in orchestras.

Lovely illustrations, Claudio (I like esp. the continuous landscape in the first). What is the source of your second picture (with the mother & son playing)? It illustrates a music stand in the “modern” position, where the stand + book can block out some of the sound (it isn’t if you play without a stand, with the book lying down flat). In the illustration, they also seem to have erected a very high (sound-reflecting?) folding screen behind the harpsichord.
If you play with the lid opened to its full length it can get in the way of VS page-turns a bit.

Perhaps of interest.

Looks very interesting, Ed. Unfortunately, when I try to play the videos I get images but no sound (probably my browser settings). Makes me feel like Beethoven must’ve at the later stages-

That was common practice was it not? For example this Hemsch ravalement, and dozens more:

Indeed, Andrew and Michael, continuous decoration was common practice, but not exclusive. Let me try to find counter-examples. Rospigliosi, Rome c.1725:

Or Joseph Salodiensis, c.1570:

Baffo, Venice 1574:

Also in France: Taskin with small keys, 1786:

And of course the famous Taskin 1780:

I can list several more examples of both ways: while in Italy the decoration is mostly split (meant for flap folded), in France I find both types of decoration frequent.

Nobody claimed it was exclusive.


Also: Thanks to every one.

One question is, given the different perspective points, how was it intended to view the separate front and back lids as paintings? This painting shows the front lid rather cavalierly pushed aside for playing, but the attached string would apparently hold the front lid up in an easel position when the back lid was down. This could allow viewing the front lid painting in appropriate orientation, and perhaps might allow use of the front flap to support music. <>

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Another good picture. Jan Steen has put his name and date on the nameboard (but is not to be found in Boalch). I’m sure you’re right that the opened end flap + retaining string was used as a music stand for larger scores; there is an interesting comparable painting (note the ornate harpsichord stand & register ribbons) by Steen where this is made explicit, at .

In the picture you mention, the girl is using a second, smaller music stand peculiarly situated at the very left corner over the bass strings (possibly for the sake of the tableau). If the main lid had been closed, and with the end flap held aloft by the string, she would have had the inside flap motto “acta virum probant”, judge a man by his actions, in her line of vision (in case she knew Latin). But it seems she will be seduced willy-nilly: there is a four-poster bed in the background, and an unhappy cupid coming along the corridor with a theorbo. You would wonder what music she is playing.