Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940) and the clavichord

Commemorations of the 150th anniversary of Arnold Dolmetsch’s birth are already under way, including a presentation at the International Clavichord Symposium in Magnano on 7 September 2007.

A concise and entertaining assessment of Dolmetsch’s immense contribution to the history of the clavichord was prepared by his son Carl for a British Clavichord Society meeting in 1995. Click here for an account by Kenneth Mobbs, with more information about Dolmetsch clavichords.

An edited version of Carl Dolmetsch’s talk, entitled ‘Plus fait douceur que violence: Arnold Dolmetsch and the Clavichord’, was published in The Consort (Vol. 52, No. 2, Autumn 1996) and has now been reprinted by the British Clavichord Society with the kind permission of the Dolmetsch Foundation. This is being issued free to British Clavichord Society members with the October 2007 Newsletter, but is also available for sale to non-members. Click here to e-mail us for details: please include the word ‘clavichord’ in your message title.

The Dolmetsch Foundation is marking the anniversary with a welcome reissue on CD of the famous 1930s records of Arnold Dolmetsch playing the clavichord, together with harpsichord recordings by his son Rudolph; for details, contact the Dolmetsch Foundation, whose wide-ranging website provides much valuable information.

Click here for a report written in 1990 by the late John Barnes after restoring the Dolmetsch 1896/7 clavichord in the Russell Collection, Edinburgh. This is notable for showing that the prototype for Dolmetsch’s 1890s clavichords was not, as sometimes suggested, the 1784 Hoffmann (now in the Yale Collection), which was the inspiration for the clavichords made when Dolmetsch was working with the Chickering Company (1905-11): ‘In fact, the design of the [Russell Collection] clavichord is so close to that of a J. A. Hass as to leave no doubt that it is a Hass copy.’ The fullest account of the 1890s London clavichords is by Jenny Nex and Lance Whitehead, ‘The six early clavichords of Arnold Dolmetsch: their construction and inspiration’, Galpin Society Journal LIII, 2000.

Over the coming months we hope to build up this website with further information about Dolmetsch and the clavichord: please revisit. Comments and suggestions for this site would be welcome; click here to e-mail us: please include the word ‘clavichord’ in your message title.

Go to Kenneth Mobbs’s report of Carl Dolmetsch’s talk (pdf: right-click to download)

Go to John Barnes’s report on the Dolmetsch clavichord in Edinburgh (pdf: right-click to download)

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updated 20 February 2009