Instruments for Sale

Modern Revival double-manual harpsichord,

John Challis, 1960


Specifications: Harpsichord by John Challis: click to enlarge

Range: 63 notes, FF-g3, non-transposing.   This instrument was designed and built to be pitched at a' = 440 Hz.


Disposition: Lower manual: 1 x 4', 2 x 8', 1 x 16'; Upper manual: 1 x 8'; pedal activated registers, separate buff stop on each 8', 7 pedals, plastic jacks, leather plectra.   By the simple device of having 3 ranks of 8' jacks, the manual coupler (along with its weight and complexity when associated with pedals) is avoided.   The instrument has only four choirs of strings: 1 x 4', 2 x 8', 1 x 16'. N.B., the very wide gap necessary to accommodate so many jacks makes the use of music wire imperative. The load-bearing structure is so over-built that there should be no worry about continuing to pitch the instrument at a' = 440 Hz.


Harpsichord by John Challis: Click to enlargeDecoration: The walnut-veneered case is finished in clear lacquer.   The lid and flaps, also veneered in walnut, are carried on handsome tapered and pierced strap and butterfly hinges.   The metal soundboard is coated with a gold-colored finish and sports a decorative 'rosette'.   The keyboard is covered in the reverse color scheme. The black naturals and boxwood accidentals are heavily lacquered, presumably to reproduce the slipperiness of a piano keyboard. The instrument stands on a walnut trestle stand, which is fitted with heavy-duty casters for easy movement around a flat floor.


Dimensions: 97" length, 41" width


John Challis was the most important American harpsichord maker at the middle of the 20th century.   His approach to the instrument was idiosyncratic and unashamedly modernistic.   He attempted nothing less than to reinvent the harpsichord as a product of 20th-century materials.   It must have seemed like a good idea at the time - it certainly made the seminal work of Hubbard and Dowd harder and less certain of acceptance.  In any case, whether or not it really was a good idea, this type still possesses exactly the sort of sound and resources that many of the best 20th-century pieces for harpsichord require for their most authentic realization.   Through his apprentice, William Dowd (!), John Challis' influence on the subsequent development of harpsichord making was profound.


Harpsichord by John Challis: Click to enlargeThis instrument represents the ideal to which John Challis strived.   Everything is beautifully made and precisely executed.   The soundboard and bridges are of metal, the jacks are milled plastic and most of the wood has no function other than to conjure the illusion that this is a 'normal' harpsichord.  

This instrument saw heavy use as a working studio and rental item but, having fallen out of service some time ago, morphed into a back-wall wraith. It has encountered more than its share of door jambs, instrument cases, chair backs and music stands, but is most in need of a complete action restoration.   It would be perfect if returned to a studio or stage environment where its compromised cosmetics wouldn't matter.   A complete or partial cosmetic restoration would of course be possible, as well, but we choose to defer in this matter to the eventual owner.   It must be said that, although the details may here and there be ragged and at close range it may look a bit of a wreck outside, it is structurally no different than new and, failing catastrophe, should continue as such well into the future; it should be ethically restorable in the 22nd century!  

The offering price includes the cost of the necessary action renewal.   Please inquire for information regarding cosmetic restoration.

Harpsichord by John Challis: Click to enlarge(MM-1)   Sold



For more information, or to purchase this instrument, please contact Hubbard Harpsichords.


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