Thursday, April 21, 2011

Harpsichord producer restores medieval music

Living in a tranquil and snow-deep countryside, Shitada, in Sanjo City, a serene artisan sedulously has produced cembalo, an Italian word for harpsichords, and clavichords for many years. Yashushi Takahashi, now a half-century old, is also my old high schoolmate.
The harpsichord was believed to be invented in the late Middle Ages. European harpsichord makers were making the instrument as far back as the Renaissance and Baroque music eras. Due to the rise of the piano in the late 18th century, it lost popularity. However, after gradually making a comeback in the 20th century, it is once again resurgent today. Players now perform both older works and contemporary music with the harpsichord.

The clavichord is also a European stringed-keyboard instrument. Its history is a little longer and was mainly played for practice purposes and as an aid in composition.
Surprisingly, Yasushi collects materials, designs the instruments and, with the exception of such things as nails, screws and strings, he makes and assembles everything in his studio workshop.
He is normally reticent and genial, but if you get him talking about his instruments and music, he becomes impassioned. When it comes to his craft, he is even willing to bring (drag) his harpsichord across oceans and continents, to show off his wares as he did at an international exhibition and convention in Italy in 2009. There, he spoke at length in English about both his large masterpieces and production activities in Japan and received the applause and adulation from those in attendance. (The subject of his speech was “A Study of Clavichord Scale Design.”)
He is now dreaming of holding a small concert and gathering in Niigata for devotees of older musical instruments to exchange and share knowledge, ideas and love of music. Please feel free to visit his website and learn more about medieval musical instruments.
Of course, you can also buy one.