This book tells the story of an improbable occurrence. It is a quixotic tale of the return to prominence of an instrument discarded by time, forgotten by the general public, and replaced in common usage by a larger, louder instrument. It is the story of an intrepid band of dreamers—men and women, some academic, some temperamental, some frankly quite mad—all determined that their chosen instrument should live again to make music.
The tale is populated by craftsmen, artists, and amateurs. Working independently in many cases, together in some, they accomplished their “impossible” mission: the sleeping beauty known as the harpsichord was awakened. Music of the past came to be performed in a style perhaps close to that known by its composers. And in this improbable happening, now a century in the making, there lies a fascinating story.
I have chosen, whenever possible, to let the protagonists and the reporters of the events tell their own stories in order to capture more closely the flavor of the time. Except for obvious typographical errors in the originals, spellings have not been modernized and terminology has not been updated.
The first six decades of the twentieth century are the years in which most of the rediscovery happened. When a principal character lived beyond 1960 it seemed logical to take the story a few years further; but, for the most part, the first seventy-five years of the harpsichord revival are the focus of this chronicle.