The Göteborg Organ Art Center has carried out research on historical clavichord building and performance since its inception in 1995. Clavichord research at GOArt has focused primarily on the intimate relationship between clavichord and organ that existed until the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Historical accounts dating back to the fifteenth century describe the clavichord not only as a challenging performance instrument in its own right, but also as a valuable tool for preparing performances on other instruments, especially the organ. In fact, in Northern Europe, clavichords were usually built in organ workshops.
The clavichord building program within GOArt’s Organ Research Workshop thus parallels a historical situation, and has produced a variety of instrument reconstructions that broaden our discussion of the touch characteristics of historical organs. A number of these instruments have been placed in conservatories where they are important resources for teaching technique and musicianship to organ and keyboard students. In addition to performance practice, special focuses to date have included historical design and construction techniques, soundboard manufacture, and stringing and scaling practice.
GOArt’s first large research program, “Changing Processes in North European Organ Art: 1600-1970” (1995-2001), focused on the North German tradition of organ and clavichord building. The organ workshop produced an organ in the North German style with faithfully reconstructed eighteenth-century action. During this same period clavichords were also studied, including a 1766 pedal clavichord by Johann David Gerstenberg and a 1765 single-manual, five-octave unfretted clavichord by Christian Gottlob Friederici (both currently held by the Musikinstrumentenmuseum in Leipzig), as well as a 1752 single-manual, four-octave fretted clavichord by Anders Wåhlström (owned by the Hållnäs Local History Association).
Copies of the Gerstenberg and Friederici clavichords have been built for music conservatories and private musicians in Asia, Europe and the United States. A pedal clavichord built for the School of Music in Göteborg was modeled on the Gerstenberg but with keyboard and pedal board dimensions and configuration copied from the North German Organ. As a practice instrument for organ students, the School of Music instrument reinforces the tight connection between clavichord and organ in the North German tradition.
As part of the “Changing Processes” project, the workshop also produced several copies of the Wåhlström clavichord, which have served as practice instruments for organ students in Göteborg. The design of the Wåhlström clavichord was alayzed using geometrical design and historical units of measurement. The design plan was subsequently put into practice in the workshop in the building of a two-manual and pedal clavichord based on the Wåhlström model.
More recent clavichord research at GOArt has focused on the distinctive Swedish tradition of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, represented primarily by the instruments of the Stockholm builder Pehr Lindholm. The large, unfretted and relatively loud instruments built by Lindholm existed side by side with the newly popular fortepiano; they were used for domestic music-making, often to accompany song or music on the violin or flute. The clavichord workshop has built several copies of Lindholm instruments. They are ideal tools for exploring the tender, nuanced empfindsamer Stil of the late eighteenth century as well as later repertoire that is often considered to belong to the early piano. An 1801 Lindholm clavichord has also been restored in the GOArt workshop (currently held by Musikmuseet in Stockholm).