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Dolmetsch Early Keyboard Instruments

Arnold Dolmetsch with Clavichord

In the Dolmetsch Collection, housed at the Horniman Museum, South London, the Green Harpsichord, made in 1896 at the instigation of William Morris, shows how Dolmetsch chose the 'historical' over the 'modernistic' approach of Pleyel. In the 1920s, Dolmetsch recorded Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues on this large oak double strung clavichord, strongly influenced by late German makers contemporary with Bach.

However, the harpsichord is not just a remnant from earlier times. In the 20th century many outstanding works were commissioned for 'modern' instruments - e.g. the concertos of Poulenc, da Falla, Martinu & Walter Leigh. The large concert harpsichord remains one of the few models designed for this 20th century repertoire. Modern performers who play these works on 'historical' instruments are no more 'historically informed' than those who perform early repertoire on 20th century conceptions of the harpsichord.

We also make 'historical models' - a Kirkman single manual (based on an 18th century original) and a Taskin double manual (one of the noblest harpsichords from the French high baroque).

Decorated Soundboard

Dolmetsch's experience as a restorer of original instruments, gave him the knowledge to satisfy the burgeoning interest in early music at the start of the twentieth century, in which movement he stands as a progressive figure, as well as preparing him as a designer and maker of new models. We still make many models he and his son Carl Dolmetsch designed but we are also restorers and makers of 'copies' of surviving instruments.

We do not make kits and we do not supply drawings of our models. Our business is craftsmanship and if a handmade instrument bears the name Dolmetsch it will have been made by and in the workshops of the Dolmetsch family.

A note about cedar by Peter Bavington

You need to be precise about what you mean by 'cedar'.

The word originally meant cedrus libani, the tall stately evergreen tree which is now usually called 'cedar of Lebanon' and which grows in quantity around the Mediterranean, but is also grown in temperate climes including here in Great Britain. Cedar of Lebanon is available from some timber yards here, and it is not expensive. The growth varies a good deal. Close-grown boards resemble cypress (by which I mean the true mediterranean cypress, cupressus sempervirens). It can be used for soundboards of Italian harpsichords but I have never heard of it being used for a clavichord soundboard.

Our Instruments

We show below a selection of our instruments:

Dolmetsch Kirkman Single Manual Harpsichord

Dolmetsch Small Single Manual Harpsichord

Dolmetsch Triangular Harpsichord

Dolmetsch Kirkman Large Single Manual Harpsichord

Dolmetsch Small Single Manual Harpsichord

Dolmetsch Triangular Single Manual Harpsichord

Dolmetsch Portable Jet Spinet

Wing-Shaped Spinet

Double-Strung Concert Clavichord

Dolmetsch Portable 'Jet' Spinet

Dolmetsch Wing-Shaped Spinet

Dolmetsch Double-Strung Clavichord


Descriptionex. VAT
Large Double Manual Concert Harpsichord£20,000 - £40,000
Small Double Manual Concert Harpsichord£16,000 - £23,000
Large Single Manual Concert Harpsichord£10,000 - £14,000
Small Single Manual Harpsichord£9,000 - £13,000
Triangular Single Manual Harpsichord£8,000 - £11,000
Portable 'Jet' Spinet£5,500 - £7,500
Wing-Shaped Spinet£7,500 - £10,500
Clavichord£6,000 - £8,000
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