Denzil Wraight - Italian Keyboard Instruments


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My research on the history of Italian string keyboard instruments and on selected makers has been presented within the format of three New Grove Dictionary publications.The 2nd edition of 2000 should be regarded as superseding the earlier editions. The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (2nd edition, 2014) was subjected to commercially-oriented editorial guidelines which brought about a reduction of content.

A monograph "The Identification and Authentication of Italian String Keyboard Instruments" examined criteria for establishing the identity of unsigned instruments (see 1992/3 below).

THESIS: "The stringing of Italian keyboard instruments c.1500 - c.1650" was my Ph.D dissertation which dealt with the problems of establishing the pitch and range of instruments. This thesis published a further 89 new attributions to specific makers. It included a catalogue of 748 signed and unsigned instruments with much data on the scaling of instruments, which is of practical value to instrument makers and scholars. It is available in looseleaf, softcover, hardcover, microfiche, or PDF versions; order no. 9735109 (previously UMI, now ProQuest) (click here to order a copy). An updated version of the bibliography can be downloaded from another page on this website: click here.

A recent publication "Principles and Practice in Stringing Italian Keyboard Instruments" (see 2000/4 below) examines the evidence of string gauge markings on instruments and infers a system of stringing used by Cristofori. The Nuremberg string gauge system is discussed in detail. Some practical details on wire sizes are available at this site.

A theme permeating my work has been the search to reveal how instrument makers understood the design process. Some results have been published, as "Überlegungen zu Mechanik und Mensurentwicklung im Cembalobau des 15. Jahrhunderts" (see 2001/3 below). A later, revised English version appeared originally as an online publication of the British Harpsichord Society, now available here (see 2004/1 below). This shows connections between the design procedure for instruments described by Arnaut de Zwolle in Burgundy and some early 16th-century Italian harpsichords and clavichords. Another Italian tradition of harpsichord design, mostly recognisable in Venetian instruments, is described in which the case length depends on the theoretical length of the F string, not on external measurements (see 2012 (below).

My publications on Italian instruments are listed below:

1983, 'Il cembalo italiano al tempo di Frescobaldi: Problemi relativi alla misurazione delle corde e alla tastiera', Girolamo Frescobaldi nel IV centenario della nascità, edd. Durante, S., and Fabris, D., (Florence, 1986), 375-385.

1984/1, review of Henkel, H., 'Beiträge zum historischen Cembalobau', (Leipzig, 1979) in FoMRHI Quarterly no. 34 (1984), 70-77.

1984/2, 'Arpicordo', 'Arpitarrone', 'Harpsichord §2(i), §4(iii)', The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, ed. Sadie, S., (London, 1984).

1984/3, 'Italian two-manual harpsichords', FoMRHI Quarterly no. 36 (1984), 19-22.

1984/4, letter: 'Italian harpsichords', Early Music 12 (Feb 1984), 151-152.

1985, 'Nouvelles études sur les clavecins italiens', Musique Ancienne 29 (1985), 67-81.

1986/1, 'Vincentius and the earliest harpsichords', Early Music 14 (Nov 1986), 534-538.

1986/2, 'Neue Untersuchungen an italienischen Cembali', Concerto no. 3, Feb 1986, 28-38.

1987, 'The conservation of keyboard instruments', Per una carta europea del restauro, edd. Barassi, E. F., and Laini, M., Quaderni della Rivista Italiana di musicologia 15 (Florence, 1987), 299-304.

1988, 'Strong iron wire and long scales in Italian harpsichords', FoMRHI Quarterly no. 50 (1988), 37-40.

1989/1, review: Goodway, M., and Odell, J. S., The metallurgy of 17th- and 18th-century music wire, (Stuyvesant, NY, 1987) in GSJ 42 (1989), 174-177.

1989/2, 'The 1605 Celestini harpsichord: another misleading instrument', The Organ Yearbook 19 (1989), 91-103.

1989/3, 'Harpsichord §2(i), §3(iv) §4(iii)', 'Early Keyboard Instruments', The New Grove Musical Instrument Series, ed. Sadie, S., (London, 1989).

1990/1, 'The early 16th-century Italian short octave', FoMRHI Quarterly no. 59 (1990), 17-23.

1990/2, 'De la conservation des instruments à clavier', Cahiers de la Société de musique ancienne de Nice 2 (1990), 63-68.

1991, 'A Zenti harpsichord rediscovered', Early Music 19 (1991), 99-101.

1992/1, 'The 1571 Fontana harpsichord in Budapest', GSJ 45 (1992), 109-111.

1992/2, 'Cristofori's instruments', Early Music 20 (Nov 1992), 701.

1992/3, 'The identification and authentication of Italian string keyboard instruments', The Historical Harpsichord 3, ed. Schott, H., (Stuyvesant, NY, 1992), 59-161.

1993/1, 'An attribution of an unsigned spinet', FoMRHI Quarterly no. 70 (1993), 45-46.

1993/2, 'Two harpsichords by Giovanni Celestini', GSJ 46 (1993), 120-136.

1994, Wraight, D., and Stembridge, C., 'Italian Split-Keyed Instruments with Fewer than Nineteen Divisions to the Octave', Performance Practice Review 7, no. 2 (1994), 150-181. download

1997/1, 'The stringing of Italian keyboard instruments c.1500 - c.1650', Ph.D. dissertation, (Queen's University of Belfast, 1997), link to order a copy: UMI order no. 9735109

1997/2, 'The tuning of two 16th-century Italian clavichords', Clavichord International 1, no. 2 (Nov 1997), 49-53. (Errata note in May 2000).

2000/1, 'Making Italian Roses', FoMRHI Quarterly no. 98 (2000), 48-50.

2000/2 'The design of an early Italian harpsichord at the RCM', FoMRHI Quarterly no. 100 (2000), 20-25. download

2000/3, 'Arnaut's clavisimbalum mechanisms' FoMRHI Quarterly no. 100 (2000), 26-33. download

2000/4, 'Principles and Practice in Stringing Italian Keyboard Instruments', Early Keyboard Journal 18 (2000), 175-238.

2001/1, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition (London, 2001); new articles: Baffo, Boni, Bruneto, Dominicus Pisaurensis, Ferrini, Lorenzo da Pavia, Poggi, Rossi, Vincentius; revised articles: Arpichordum, Arpicordo, Arpitarrone, Chekker, Clavicytherium, Dulce melos, Geigenwerk, Harpsichord (Renaissance Italy) 2, (i), Harpsichord (c1590 to c1700, Italy) 3, (iv), Harpsichord (18th century, Italy) 4, (iii), Hieronymus Bononiensis, Muselar, Overspung String, Spinett, String (Keyboard instruments) 2, Trasuntino, Virginal 1, Zenti.

2001/2, 'The pitch relationships of Venetian string keyboard instruments', Fiori Musicologi, Studi in onore di Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini nella ricorrenza del suo LXX compleanno, edd. Seydoux, F., Castellani, G., and Leuthold, A. (Bologna, Editore Pàtron, 2001), 573-604.

2001/3, 'Überlegungen zu Mechanik und Mensurentwicklung im Cembalobau des 15. Jahrhunderts', Das Österreichische Cembalo, ed. Huber, A. (Tutzing 2001),

2001/4, 'Einflüsse des italienischen Cembalobaus auf Österreich', Das Österreichische Cembalo, ed. Huber, A. (Tutzing 2001), 439-454.

2002/1, 'Some Evidence for the Use of Brass and Iron Stringing in Italian Keyboard Instruments, Early Keyboard Journal 20 (2002), 91-106.

2002/2, letter to the editor, (pitch in Italian harpsichords, comments on Nicholas Mitchell's article) GSJ 55 (2002), 403-404.

2003 ' The cimbalo cromatico and other Italian string keyboard instruments with divided accidentals', Schweizer Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft, Neue Folge 22 (2003), 105-136 click here to order.

2004/1 'Pythagoras and the Scale Design of Early Harpsichords in France, Germany, and Italy', E-letter No. 3, November 2004, British Harpsichord Society download

2004/2, lecture: "Auf der Suche nach dem verlorenen Klang von Cristoforis Hammerflügeln". A lecture given at the International Symposium "Bartolomeo Cristofori und Giovanni Benedetto Platti: Das frühe Fortepiano und seine Musik in der Toscana und in Franken", Musikwissenschaftliches Institut der Bayerischen Julius-Maximilian-Universität, Würzburg, October 2004.

2005/1 'Eine Annäherung an Bartolomeo Cristoforis Erfindung des Hammerflügels', Concerto no. 201, (April/Mai 2005), 25-29.

2005/2 'Wie war Cristoforis klangliche Vorstellung vom "neuen" Instrument', Jahrbuch SIMPK (2004), 124-136.

2006/1 'Recent approaches in understanding Cristofori's fortepiano', Early Music, 34, no. 4 (2006), 635-644. Copy available on application.

2006/2  'Das Hammerklavier von Bartolomeo Cristofori: Das Vorbild für Gottfried Silbermanns Hammerklavier? Gottfried Silbermann Gesellschaft's Proceedings,  Freiberger Studien zur Orgel 9 (2006), 53-69.

2008/1 'A construction principle in Venetian harpsichords': the paper I gave at the Edinburgh Early Keyboard Instrument Symposium, 25 October 2008. (superseded by 2011 and 2012 below)

2008/2 'Note Sulle Modanature Quali Mezze Per L'Identificazione Di Strumenti Musicali', Collezione Tagliavini, Catalogo Degli Strumenti Musicali, a cura di John Henry van der Meer e Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini con contributi di Wanda Bergamini, Maria Cristina Casali, Friedemann Hellwig, Denzil Wraight, Volume II, Bononia University Press 2008, 673-677.

2011  'A contribution to the analysis of local units of measurement in Italian keyboards', Cembalo, Clavecin, Harpsichord. Regionale Traditionen des Cembalobaus. Symposium im Rahmen der 35. Tage Alter Musik in Herne 2010, Redaktion Christian Ahrens und Gregor Klinke (München, Katzbichler, 2011), 72- 94.  download.

2012 'The organ builder as harpsichord maker in Venice: a construction principle revealed', Informazione Organistica, Nuova Serie 27 (Dec 2010), 179-199. Copy available on application.

2014 'Arnault's clavicordium: three solutions for a discrepancy' in Unisonus. Musikinstrumente erforschen, bewahren, sammeln. edd. Beatrix Darmstädter and Ina Hoheisel, (Praesens Verlag, Vienna, 2014), pp.

2015 'Differences between Maffei’s article on Cristofori’s piano in its 1711 and 1719 versions, their subsequent transmission and the implications'. download.

2016 Checklist: 'A list of surviving Italian string keyboard instruments originally provided with more than 12 notes per octave' download.

2017 'Cristofori's piano, its development, and the two assistants', paper read at the Convegno internazionale di organologia dedicato a Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, Museo di San Colombano, 21-22 ottobre 2017. download.

2019 'Cristofori's piano workshop and Giovanni Ferrini', The Cembalo a Martelli from Bartolomeo Cristofori to Giovanni Ferrini. The proceedings of the international conference held in honour of the memory of Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, Bologna 21-22 October 2017, ed. by Michael Latcham and Giovanni Paolo di Stefano (Pendragon, Bologna, 2019, ISBN 978 88 3364 086 0), 107-115.  download.

2021 'Arnolt Schlick and the pedal keyboard: vnnd offt confusiones machen'.  download.

2021 'A 14th-century clavichord according to the book of Baudecetus'.  download

2021 'Cristofori, Jennens, and the first pianoforte in England'. download.

2021 'The Gubbio organ: an intarsiatore's hoax?'. download.

[in press] 'Establishing Pitch Relationships in Italian String Keyboard Instruments', Proceedings of the conference "Stimmton und Transposition im 16.-18. Jahrhundert', Bremen October 1999.


page updated 2 November 2022