The beautiful instrument which we illustrate to-day is the invention of M. Dietz, of Brussels. His grandfather was one of the first manufacturers of upright pianos, and being struck with the difficulties and defects of the harp, constructed, in 1810, an instrument à cordes pincées à clavier - the strings connected with a keyboard.
Many improvements have from time to time been made on this model, which at last arrived at the perfection exhibited in the newly patented clavi harp. The difficulty of learning to play the ordinary harp, and the inherent inconveniences of the instrument, limit its use. It is furnished with catgut strings, which are affected by all the influences of temperature, and require to be frequently tuned. The necessity of playing the strings with the fingers renders it difficult to obtain equality in the sounds. It gives only the natural sounds of the diatonic gamut, and in order to obtain changes of modulation, the pedals must be employed. Harmonics and shakes are very difficult to execute on the harp, and - last, but not least - it is not provided with dampers. The external form of the clavi harp resembles that of the harp, and all the cords, or strings, are visible. The mechanism which produces the sound is put into motion directly a key is depressed, and acts in a similar manner to the fingers of a harpist; the strings being pulled, not struck. The clavi harp is free from all the objections inherent in the ordinary harp.
The strings are of a peculiar metal, covered with an insulating material, which has for its object the production of sounds similar to that obtained from catgut strings, and to prevent the strings from falling out of tune. The keyboard, exactly like that of a piano, permits of playing in all keys, without the employment of pedals. The clavi harp has two pedals. The first, connected with the dampers, permits the playing of sustained sounds, or damping them instantaneously. The second pedal divides certain strings into two equal parts, to give the harmonic octaves; by the aid of this pedal the performer can produce ten harmonic sounds simultaneously; on the ordinary harp only four simultaneous harmonics are possible. An ordinary keyboard being the intermediary between the performer and the movement of the mechanical "fingers" which pluck the strings, perfect equality of manipulation is secured. The mechanical "fingers" instantaneously quit the strings on which they operate, and are ready for further action.
The "fingers" are covered with suitable material, so that their contact with the strings takes place with the softness necessary to obtain the most beautiful tones possible.
The clavi harp is much lighter than the piano - so that it can easily be moved from room to room, or taken into an orchestra, by one or two persons - and is of an elegant form, favorable to artistic decoration. Sufficient will have been said to give a general idea of the new instrument.
It is undeniable that at the present day that beautiful instrument, the harp, is seldom played; still seldomer well played. This is attributable to the difficulties it presents to pupils. Its seven pedals must be employed in different ways when notes are to be raised or lowered a semitone; chromatic passages easy of execution on the piano are almost impracticable on the harp. The same may be said of the shake; and it is only after long and exclusive devotion to its study that the harp can become endurable in the hands of an amateur, or the means of furnishing a professional harpist with a moderate income. It is needless to point out how far, in these respects, the harp is surpassed by the clavi harp.
Vocalists who accompany themselves on the harp are forced, by the extension of their arms to reach the lower strings, and by frequent employment of their feet on the pedals, into postures and movements unfavorable to voice production; but they can accompany themselves with ease on the clavi harp.
Composers are restricted in the introduction of harp passages in their orchestral scores, owing to the paucity of harpists. In some cases, composers have written harp passages beyond the possibility of execution by a single harpist, and the difficulty and cost of providing two harpists have been inevitable. These difficulties will disappear, and composers may give full play to their inspirations, when the harp is displaced by the clavi harp. - Building News.
The Clavi Harp
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