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Talks & Ideas

Talk: History of a Franco-Flemish Harpsichord

Tuesday 12 March 2019 16:30-17:30

Dr Grant O’Brien will talk on the restoration of a stunning gilded harpsichord with glorious decoration that has a "French" sound on par with the two famous instruments in St Cecilia’s Hall. The study of the instrument leading to its restoration has revealed that it was originally a Flemish instrument first made in 1617, enlarged at least three times (once by Louis XV’s harpsichord maker, Blanchet), and that, in relatively more recent times, it was involved in the Early Music revival being played by Diémer at the Exposition Universelle.

The talk will be illustrated by photographs of the lavish decoration – works by Huet and a member of the circle around Boucher – as well as a survey of the forensic organology that leads to uncovering its origin.

Grant O’Brien was raised and educated in Canada where he studied physics and nuclear physics at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. After several years teaching physics in Canada and a 2-year stint at Fettes College in Edinburgh he began to work with John Barnes, then Curator of the Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments at the University of Edinburgh, carrying out restorations and building new instruments. In 1974 he became the part-time Assistant Curator of the Russell Collection and in 1985 he became a Lecturer in the Faculty of Music and the Curator/Director of the Russell Collection. His initial interest in the Flemish School of harpsichord building led to a lengthy study of the instruments of the Ruckers/Couchet family, and eventually to the publication of his book Ruckers. A Harpsichord and Virginal Building Tradition (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990). Hence he was involved in the investigation with a view to restoration of the "fake Ruckers" harpsichord, the subject of the talk.

He has published widely in early keyboard organology. During all of this time he also carried out important restorations and consultations for a number of important museums and private collectors, as well as building copies of historical instruments in both the Flemish and Italian traditions. He is currently working on the restoration of the Franco-Flemish gilded harpsichord and major works dealing with the theory of the stringing of harpsichords etc. and two makers of note.

Event details:

History of a Franco-Flemish harpsichord
A talk by Dr Grant O’Brien
Tuesday 12 March 2019, 4.30pm - 5.30pm
Price: £5 (£3 concession)

Institut français d’Ecosse
Salle Emilienne Moreau-Evrard (First floor)
West Parliament Square
Edinburgh EH1 1RF

Access Details
The Institut français d’Ecosse and the Salle Emilienne Moreau-Evrard are fully accessible with step-free access available at West Parliament Square and George IV Bridge.

Book directly online or contact us at 0131 285 6030 or info ifecosse.org.uk

Concession rate applies to IFE members, students, people under 18, people over 60, registered unemployed, and registered disabled.

Institut Français Écosse 2022