Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/698

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686
HARP.
 

date than a.d. 830, has no front pillar. The beautiful form of the more modern Irish harp is well known from its representation in the royal coat of arms. Two specimens are to be seen in South Kensington Museum: one is a cast of the ancient harp in Trinity College, Dublin, said to have belonged to Brian Boiroimhe. In these the body is perpendicular, or nearly so, instead of slanting, as in modern harps; the front pillar being curved to admit of this, and the neck—in the Irish harp called the Harmonic Curve—descending rather to meet it. This form gives a more acute angle to the strings, which were of brass, two to each note, the sounds being produced by the pointed finger-nails of the player. The number of strings is uncertain, but the fragments of the 'Dalway' harp, shown in the Special Exhibition at South Kensington in 1872, inscribed 'Ego sum Regina Cithararum,' and dated a.d. 1621, justify our assuming the large scale of fifty-two for this instrument.

The Irish Gaelic harp must have been the Scotch Gaelic one also. According to Gunn (Historical Inquiry, etc., Edinburgh 1807) a lady of the clan Lamont in Argyle took a harp with her on her marriage in 1640 to Robertson of Lude, which had for several centuries been the harp of a succession of Highland bards. Gunn described it as then existing, 38 inches high and 16 broad, with 30 strings. Another, also then existing and in excellent preservation, he stated to have been the gift of Queen Mary to Miss Gardyn of Banchory. It was smaller than the Lude harp, ami could only have carried twenty-eight strings. [App. p.668 "The Lamont harp carried 32 strings. The Queen Mary harp had originally 29, and a later addition made 30 in all."]

The Welch Harp has likewise a perpendicular body, but is larger than the Irish, increasing considerably downwards. The neck ascends, the front pillar being longer. The Welch harp has three rows of gut strings, the outer rows being unisons in diatonic series, the inner the chromatic semitones. There is one at South Kensington, lent by Lady Llanover.

The earliest representation of the portable mediæval harp, which so many painters loved to delineate along with lutes and viols, is perhaps that in Gerbert's 'De Cantu et Musica Sacra,' copied from a MS. of the 9th century in the Monastery of St. Blaise in the Black Forest, destroyed by fire in 1768. The form of this instrument is preserved in the modern harp, the front pillar only differing in being straight instead of slightly curving, to admit of the movement of the rods for working the pedals.

That the Western harp belongs to Northern Europe in its origin there seems to be no doubt. Mr. Max Müller claims the name as Teutonic, and has contributed these historic and dialectic forms: Old High German, Harapha; Middle do., Harpfe; Modern do., Harfe; Old Norse, Harpa. From the last were derived the Spanish and Italian Arpa, the Portuguese Harpa, and the French Harpe—the aspirate showing the Teutonic origin. The Anglo-Saxon form was Hcarpe. The Basque and Sclavonian, as well as the Romance, took the name with the instrument, but there is a remarkable exception in the fact of the Keltic peoples having their own names, and these again divided according to the Gaelic and Cymbric branches. Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte has supplied the following illustration:—Irish Gaelic, Cláirseach; Scotch do., Cl'arsach, Manx, Claasagh; Welch, Telyn; Cornish, Telcin; Breton, Tílen.

The Mediæval harp, a simple diatonic instrument, was sufficient in its time, but when modern instrumental music arose, its limits were found too narrow, and notwithstanding its charm of tone it would have fallen into oblivion. It had but one scale, and to obtain an accidental semitone the only resource was to shorten the string as much as was needed by firmly pressing it with the finger. But this was a poor expedient, as it robbed the harpist for the time of the use of one hand. Chromatic harps were attempted by German makers in the last century and early in this, but it was found impracticable through difficulty of execution to give the harp thirteen strings in each octave, by which each would have been a sharp to its next lower and a flat to its next higher string. The first step towards the reconstruction of the harp was due to a Tyrolese, who came upon the idea of screwing little crooks of metal (crotchets) into the neck, which when turned against the string would cause the shortening necessary for a chromatic interval. Still the harpist lost the use of one hand while placing or releasing a crook, and one string only was modified, not its octaves. About the year 1720, one Hochbrucker, a native of Donauwörth in Bavaria, conceived and executed the first pedal mechanism, and rendered the harp fit for modulation, by using the foot to raise each open string, at will and instantaneously, half a tone higher, and leaving the player's hands free. This brought about a very remarkable revolution in harp-playing, giving the instrument eight major scales and five minor complete, besides three minor scales descending only. Hochbrucker's mechanism acted upon crooks which pressed the strings above nuts projecting from the neck. But there were inconveniences arising from this construction; each string acted upon by a crook was removed from the plane of the open strings, an impediment to the fingering, and frequent cause of jarring, and the stopped strings were less good in tone than the open. A fault no less serious was due to the mechanism being adjusted to the wooden neck, which was intractable for the curving required; if too much bent it was liable to break, and if not bent enough the middle strings would break when tuned up from being too long.

The first to make harps without crooks, and yet to stop half tones, were Frenchmen—the Cousineaus, father and son. They passed each string between two small pieces of metal (bequilles) placed beneath the bridge-pin. Then by the pedal action these metal pieces were made to grasp the string, and shorten it the distance required. The Cousineaus also introduced a slide to raise or lower the bridge-pin regulating the length of the string, and placed each system of levers