Harpsichord, Vicenzo Sodi (maker,) Florence, Italy, circa 1739-1779; Extremely Rare; Historically Important
This rare musical instrument WAS consigned from The Albert Augustine Estate and is prominently listed in Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440-1840 by Donald Boalch. Said reference source dates the instrument at 1779.
The instrument is signed Vicenzo Sodi, Florence. The inscription appears to read 1739 but is believed to be more accurately dated 1779. As such, it is among the last harpsichords made before the current revival began in the early part of the 20th century.
The Sodi Harpsichord is a single manual Italian harpsichord. It measures approximately 82 - 84" long. The width at the keyboard is about 33". The case is about 8 1/2" deep.
The cheek and spine are cut at an angle to the keyboard end. The case is not the customary inner/outer construction of Italian instruments, but rather a sturdy rim made of stock about 5/8" thick The case walls are in excellent condition.
The bottom is planking which runs the full length of the instrument. The lid is about 3/8" thick with a rim. The underside is plain. There is a double flap on the lid. All exterior surfaces of the cabinet are inlaid, in relatively good condition.
The stand has three gilded harpies which are connected with stretchers that look modern. There is a possibility that the harpies had nothing to do with the original instrument and may be modern.
The jack rail and the action (except the keyboard) are new. The slides may be original. The jacks are wood with adjustable end pins. Jack rail felt and dampers are in new condition. Plectra are leather.
The grain of the soundboard runs diagonally. An area of about one foot square at the treble has water stains. The board itself is flat, possibly new. The area under where the bridge had been glued is light colored.
The hitch pin rail appears sound except for a few inches at the extreme treble where it is split. It is a sign of weakness, but there is no advanced cheek disease. There is a hairline crack in the cheek/bent side corner but no indication of serious trouble.
Two large reinforcement blocks are placed flush with the top of the case. They are rough wood, totally out or keeping with the rest of the workmanship. One runs from the cheek/bent side corner to the spine and is a few inches wide. The other is several inches wide and runs at an angle through the middle of the bent side to the spine. They are held in place with brads nailed into the case, and the fit of the curve is approximate. They seem to have been added to reinforce the integrity of the case walls.
There is a label on the spine above the keyboard which reads "A. Olivetti & Co. Firenze/Italy 3014”. This label seems perhaps to be an inventory label. The number is a stamped number, and the rest of the label is printed with set type.
The instrument had been previously restored to playing condition, probably around 1950 -- 1960. It is presumed the restorer had either an affiliation or an association with Zuckerman Harpsichords. One such restorer, Hugh Gough, is a likely candidate. This assessment is made on the basis of materials, techniques, and the quality of workmanship observed.
The stop levers were made of 1/4" square section brass. There are polished brass spheres about 1" diameter on each lever. They come through the name board, one on each side. The stop levers themselves are not polished.
The loops for the strings were wound with tails sticking out to one side, as opposed to the double helix loop.
There is no tension on the strings of the instrument. The tension may have been released, but the more likely reason is that the bridge is totally unglued from the soundboard. I failed to check for possible tension on the lowest few strings which go over the tail section of the bridge, which is independent of the main section. This short piece seemed to be still glued to the soundboard.
The keyboard seems to be original. The octave span is just under that of a modern piano, maybe 1/16th inch or so. This is appropriate for an Italian instrument. The compass is C to f#, which is unusual. The material seems to be boxwood, somewhat dark, possibly stained. The grain is close and looks like boxwood. The playing surfaces are rounded out. The sharps are made of a similar material but capped with thin slips of what appears to be ebony. The levers are somewhat warped but serviceable.