Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/665

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


a similar double instrument inside the lid) : the other is in the Maison Plantin, Antwerp, and was made as late as 1734-5, by Joannes Joseph us Coenen at Ruremonde in Holland. In rect- angular instruments the octave one was remove- able, as it was in those double instruments mentioned under RUCKERS (p. 195 6), so that it could be played in another part of the room.

According to Mersenne, who treats of the spinet as the principal keyed instrument (' Har- monie,' 1636, liv. 3, p. 101, etc.), there were three sizes ; one of 2\ feet, tuned to the octave of the ton de chapelle' (which was about a tone higher than our present high concert pitch) ; one of 3* feet tuned to a fourth above the same pitch ; and the large 5-feet ones, tuned in unison to it. We shall refer to his octave spinet in another para- graph.

The compass of the Ottavine was usually from E to C, three octaves and a sixth (a) ; of the larger 16th-century Italian spinette, four octaves and a semitone, from E to F (6). The French epinettes of the I7th century were usually deeper, having four octaves and a semitone from B to C (c ).

() + <&) (0 +.



��*S -- -j-

�� ��The reason for this semitonal beginning of the keyboard is obscure unless the lowest keys were used for ' short octave ' measure, an idea which suggested itself simultaneously to the writer and to Professor A. Kraus, whose conviction is very strong as to the extended practice of the short octave arrangement. The Flemish picture of St. Cecilia, in Holyrood Palace, shows unmis- takeably a short octave organ keyboard as early as 1484.*

Fortunately we are not left to such suggestion for the spinet short octave. Mersenne, in a passage which has hitherto escaped notice ( Harmonie,' liv. 3, p. 107), describing his own spinet, which, according to him, was one of the smallest in use, says ' the longest string has little more than a foot length between the two bridges. It has only thirty-one steps in the keyboard, and as many strings over the sound- board, so that there are five keys hid on account of the perspective (referring to the drawing) to wit, three principals and two chromatics (' feintes'), of which the first is cut in two ; but these chromatics serve to go down to the third and fourth below the first step, or C sol, in

notation |3 3 , in order to arrive at the

J Hubert, or Jan. Van Eyck's St. Cecilia. In the famous Mystic Lamb, may be referred to here although appertaining to the organ and not the spinet, as a valuable note by the way. The original painting, now at Berlin, was probably painted before 1426 and certainly before 1432. The painter's minute accuracy Is unquestionable. It contains a chromatic keyboard like the oldest Italian, with boxwood naturals and black sharps. The compass begins In the bass at the half-tone E. There is no Indication of a 'short octave,' but there is one key by Itself, convenient to the player's left hand ; above this key there Is a latchet acting as a catch, which may be Intended to hold it down as a pedal. D is the probable note, and we have in Van Eyck's organ, It seems to us, the same compass, but an octave lower, as In the d'er- man Positif of the next century at South Kensington viz. D. E, then 8 chromatic octaves fromF, and finally F#, G, A. There Is no bottom- rail to the keyboard, nor is there in the painting at Holyrood.

�� ��third octave, for the eighteen principal steps only make an eighteenth; that is to say, a fourth over two octaves.' Here is the clearest confirmation of short -octave measure in the spinet, the same as in the organ, both key- boards, according to Mersenne, being conform- able. But owing to the fact that the woodcut represents a different spinet from that described (apparently descending to B), the description is not clear. To reach the third octave would re- quire an F, for which one half the cut chromatic in the spinet described may be reserved. But the B of the drawing would, by known analogy with organ practice, sound G, and A would be found on the Cfl. The B also on the Dfl key, though this is generally found retained as Eb on account of the tuning. 3 It is inferred that F was reached by dividing the lowest natural key ; these diagrams therefore represent what we will call the C short measure, as that note gave the pitch.

AB AEfr P AB.orEfr

EfflfflE BUD

��G C D EP

��G C D E F

��G C D E P

��Mersenne's express mention of C as the longesi string shows that the still deeper G and A were made so, in his spinet, by weight : an important fact, as we have not seen a spinet in which it could have been otherwise, since in large in- struments the bridge is always unbroken in its graceful curve, as it is also in the angles always preserved of the bridge of an octave one. The intimate connection of the spinet and organ keyboards must palliate a trespass upon ground that has been authoritatively covered in ORGAN (p. 588). It is this connection that incites in- quiry into the origin of the short octaves, of which there are two measures, the French, Ger- man or English C one, which we have described, and the Italian F one, which we will now con- sider. We propose to call this F, from the pitch note, as before. We have reason to believe these pitch notes originally sounded the same, from which arose the original divergence of high and low church-pitch ; the C instrument being thus thrown a fourth higher. The Italian short mea- sure having been misapprehended we have sub- mitted the question of its construction to the high authority of Professor Rraus, and of Mr. W. T. Best, who has recently returned from an examination of the organs in Italy. Both are in perfect agreement. Professor Kraus describes the Italian short octave as a progression of three dominants and tonics, with the addition of B molle(b) and B quadro (D) for the ecclesiastical tones. The principle, he writes, was also ap- plied to the pedal keyboards, which are called 'Pedaliera in Sesta,' or 'Pedaliera a ottava

��2 It may have been on account of the tuning that A and D were left unfretted in the old ' gebunden ' or fretted clavichords ; but the double Irish harp which Galilei (Dissertation on Ancient and Modem Music, A.D. 1581) says had been adopted in Italy, had thost notes always doubled in the two rows of strings, an importance our tuning hypothesis fails to explain.

�� �