The harpsichord (clavecimbel) is the precursor to the modern piano and first became popular in the 16th century when Italian harpsichord makers began making lightweight instruments with low string tension. In the late 16th century the Flemish Ruckers family started making heavier harpsichords with a more powerful and distinctive tone. In subsequent decades, the French, German, and English all made their own modifications to the instrument, creating regionally distinct sounds and styles.
The harpsichord was widely used in Baroque music, a period that is generally considered to extend from 1600 to J.S. Bach’s death in 1750. Bach, and those before him, had only the harpsichord as a keyboard instrument. Twenty years after Bach’s death a young Mozart was still playing the harpsichord, but the fortepiano was becoming more popular. Twenty years after Mozart’s death, Beethoven was composing solely on the fortepiano, which was on its way to evolving into the modern piano. In the 20th century, the harpsichord and the fortepiano made a resurgence, which continues today.
Noriko owns a Harpsichord built by Anthony Sidey. It is a splendid instrument!
German Harpsichord after M. Mietke, 1702-1704 (Berlin)