based on an instrument by J.H. Silbermann



This clavichord is based on an instrument in Nuremberg which has been reliably attributed to Johann Heinrich Silbermann, the nephew of the famous organ-builder Gottfried Silbermann. Although remarkably compact for a five-octave unfretted clavichord, this is by no means a compromised space-saving design. Silbermann’s genius has provided an unfretted clavichord which has the liveliness and presence of a small fretted one. With a bright treble and an almost orchestral bass, it is ideal for W.F. Bach, C.P.E. Bach and Haydn.

Outline specification:

Compass: The compass of the original is FF-f³, and I copied this in my first two instruments of this design. In the latest version, however, I have found a way to add top f#³ and  ; this brings in several important pieces otherwise out of reach.

Pitch: = 415 Hz (a semitone below standard modern pitch).

Size: 1372 × 502 × 162 mm (4 ft 6 in × 19¾ in × 4½ in).

Strung in brass, the lowest basses having specially made open-wound strings.

Keyboard: Naturals of ebony, sharps of pearwood, capped with bone. The keylevers themselves are made of lime with Silbermann’s characteristic style of decorative carving.

Case: European walnut with oil finish. Mouldings round base and on top edge of case. Three-panel lid with folding flap over the keyboard. Decorative brass hinges and lock. The instrument can be played with the lid fully open or supported by the music desk.

Four turned and fluted screw-in legs of walnut. The instrument can be easily transported and set up.

Music desk: specially designed to fit within the instrument (removable).

The instrument is supplied with tuning key, stringing tools and wedges, and an ‘owner’s manual’ which explains how to use these things. The original instrument has no tool-box; however, it is convenient to keep the main tools within the instrument if possible, so in my most recent version the tuning key fits in a socket at the rear of the instrument, and other items can be kept in a small box with sliding lid at the left-hand end of the keyboard.

[tool compartment]

Tool compartment and tuning key socket


[Rose of the 'Silbermann' clavichord]

This rose is in the back right-hand corner
of the soundboard. It is an original design,
inspired by the rose in the eighteenth-
century original, but not a direct copy.

For more on surviving clavichords attributed to J.H. Silbermann, click here.

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