hps-in church

French double manual by David Dutton, after Pascal Taskin, 1769. The original (of which this is a replica) belongs to the Yale University musical instrument collection.

More information on harpsichords & Pascal Taskin:




Replica by David Dutton of an eighteenth-century original made in 1784 by Andreas Stein, who lived and worked in Vienna.

This fortepiano has 61 keys, with ebony naturals and ivory sharps.  The case is walnut with a beautifully paneled lid.  The dampers, rather than being operated by foot pedals, are activated by a knee-lever on the underneath side of the instrument, just below the keyboard.

The action of a Viennese fortepiano is a wonder.  Unlike the later British action, the Viennese action is light and delicate under the fingers.  The hammer shanks are thin and tapered, and the hammers themselves are very small.  They are covered with a thin piece of soft leather.  This produces a sound somewhat like a marriage between the harpsichord and the modern piano.

The fortepiano sound is extremely responsive in the soft range, capable of going down to a bare whisper.  On the loud end it is surprisingly full.  The sound “decays” more quickly than a modern piano, resulting in a heightened sense of drama.  This fast decay was understood and used for the musical effect composers wanted.  American fortepianist Malcolm Bilson tells a wonderful story about a Haydn sonata that, at one spot in the score, instructs us to play the chord loudly and hold until the sound disappears.  On a modern grand piano, reports Bilson, it takes nearly a minute and a half to fade away!


Baroque strings and winds