The type of instrument now usually called a harpsichord in English is generally called a clavicembalo or simply cembalo in Italian, and this last word is generally used in German as well.
At the peak of its development, the harpsichord lost favor to the piano.
The earliest complete harpsichords still preserved come from Italy, the oldest specimen being dated to 1521.
German harpsichord makers roughly followed the French model, but with a special interest in achieving a variety of sonorities, perhaps because, some of the most eminent German builders were also builders of pipe organs.
One respect in which harpsichords varied greatly was in the mechanisms that controlled which choirs of strings would sound when the keys were pressed.
A revolution in harpsichord construction took place in Flanders some time around 1580 with the work of Hans Ruckers and his descendants, including Ioannes Couchet.
A harpsichord is any of a family of European keyboard instruments, including the large instrument currently called a harpsichord, but also the smaller virginals, the muselar virginals and the spinet.
The number of such uses is vast; for a partial list, see harpsichord in popular culture.
The eighteenth century French harpsichord is often considered one of the pinnacles of harpsichord design, and it is widely adopted as a model for the construction of modern instruments.
Harpsichord building in England only achieved great distinction in the 18th century with the work of two immigrant makers, Jacob Kirckman (from Alsace) and Burkat Shudi (from Switzerland).
The harpsichords by these builders, built for a prosperous and expanding social elite, were notable for their powerful tone and exquisite veneered cases.
Both Dmitri Shostakovich (Hamlet, 1964) and Alfred Schnittke (Symphony No.8, 1998) used the harpsichord as part of the orchestral texture.
The Flemish harpsichords were often elaborately painted and decorated.
A harpsichord can have from one to three, and occasionally even more, strings per note.
In chamber music, Gyцrgy Ligeti has written a small number of solo works for the instrument (including "Continuum") while Henri Dutilleux's "Les Citations" (1991) is a piece for harpsichord, oboe, double bass and percussions.
The first music written specifically for solo harpsichord came to be published around the middle of the sixteenth century.
Finally, a solution was found: Prometheus was invited to return to Mount Olympus and was given a ring by Zeus that contained a piece of the rock to which he had been previously bound.
Starting around the middle of the century, harpsichord construction took a new turn when a new generation of builders sought to imitate the designs and construction methods of earlier centuries.
A clavicytherium is a harpsichord that is vertically strung.
Composers who wrote solo harpsichord music were numerous during the whole Baroque era in Italy, Germany and, above all, France.
Favorite genres for sole harpsichord composition included the dance suite, the fantasia, and the fugue.
Single manuals, or keyboards, are common, especially in Italian harpsichords.
Like almost all instruments of classical music, the harpsichord has been adapted for popular work.
The origin of the harpsichord is obscure, but is known to have begun some time during the high or late Middle Ages.
Unsurprisingly, for an instrument that was produced in large numbers for over three centuries, there is a great deal of variation between harpsichords.
Through the nineteenth century, the harpsichord was ignored by composers, the piano having supplanted it.
The Italian harpsichord makers made single-manual instruments with a very light construction and relatively little string tension.
A Latin manuscript work on musical instruments by Henri Arnault de Zwolle, c. 1440, includes detailed diagrams of a small harpsichord and three types of jack action.
Most harpsichords built nowadays are based on the rediscovered principles of the old makers, and this includes harpsichords that have been assembled from kits sold by modern harpsichord manufacturing companies.
Bohuslav Martin? wrote both a concerto and a sonata for it, and Elliott Carter's Double Concerto is for harpsichord, piano and two chamber orchestras.
Note that these categories are not concrete and a single subfield may overlap many of them, especially as the field of nanotechnology continues to mature.
Some German harpsichords included a choir of 2-foot strings (that is, strings pitched two octaves above the primary set).
Several harpsichords with heavily modified keyboards, such as the archicembalo, were built in the sixteenth century to accommodate variant tuning systems demanded by compositional practice and theoretical experimentation.
The Ruckers harpsichord was more solidly constructed than the Italian was.
A musician who plays the harpsichord is called a harpsichordist.
The harpsichord family is thought to have originated when a keyboard was affixed to the end of a psaltery, providing a mechanical means to pluck the strings.
A striking aspect of the eighteenth-century French tradition was its near-obsession with the Ruckers harpsichords.
Well into the 18th century, the harpsichord was considered to have advantages and disadvantages with respect to the piano.
The 2-foot and 16-foot stops of the German harpsichord are not particularly favored among harpsichordists today, who tend to prefer the French type of instrument.
The earliest written references to the instrument date from the 1300s and it is possible that the harpsichord was indeed invented in that century.