LAUTENWERK AND HARPSICHORD HOME PAGE
Steven Sorli began his harpsichord making career in 1971 as an apprentice
of the famous Boston harpsichord maker, Frank Hubbard. He quickly became
skilled in all facets of the craft and was especially gifted in the art
of decoration. Steven set up his own workshop to design, make and adorn
harpsichords individually from scratch. His construction process relies
on intuition and ingenuity to ensure a serviceable and singular work of art.
The sound qualities achieved by Mr. Sorli are often described as having a
distinctive antique tone. Innate artistic abilities contribute to a
tasteful blend of color and form that add a complimentary balance to the
tonal shades. In 1982 he was awarded a craftsman's fellowship grant from
the National Endowment for the Arts. Over 80 instruments have left his
workshop and are scattered throughout the United States and abroad.
At the turn of the century, Mr. Sorli began designing many models of the
lute-harpsichord or lautenwerk. There are many words and spellings of
this instrument including lautenwerke, lautenwerck, lautenclavicymbel and
theorbenflugel (theorbo-harpsichord). An example of the plural form is
lautenwerke or lautenwerken. This type of instrument was originally
fitted with gut strings and sounds very much like a lute or nylon-strung
guitar. The response to this revival of the lautenwerck has been quite
"Marcantonio Pasqualini Crowned by Apollo"
Mr. Sorli is the first harpsichord maker to resurrect the keyed lyre or
clavicytherium with an open lyre. This upright instrument is inspired by
the oil painting "Marcantonio Pasqualini Crowned by Apollo" by Andrea
Sacchi (1641). It has one choir of 8' gut or synthetic gut strings with
a range ofGG-d3. The total height is 81" and takes up only a 37" by 18"
floor space. The sound from the small soundboard just above the keyboard
was frequently described as "magical" at the Boston Early Music Festival.
The sound has a sweet, hollow, vocal quality that radiates out from both
sides of the soundboard when the back lid is open. This instrument
resembles a lute and harp in sound and is amazingly versatile. Place your
order early for one of the musical sensations of the century.
Recent owners of the Sorli clavicytherium are Peter Sykes, Julianne
Baird, Mark Shuldiner, Margaret Irwin-Brandon, the Conservatoire de
Musique de Geneve and Cristina Banegas of Uruguay. Listen to 20 minutes
of this unique sound in the "Sound Samples" page. You can also view and
listen to Ryan Layne Whitney playing his clavicytheriumon on YouTube: Click Here For Video
Mr. Sorli has designed a remarkable hybrid harpsichord/lautenwerk
in the 17th Century South German style. This double manual instrument
features two brass choirs on the lower manual and one lute choir on the
upper. In an effort to maintain the original type of sound produced by a
small-sized case and to offer a practical compass of notes, the two
keyboards are offset a fourth. The result is 5 extra notes when
combining the available notes of each keyboard. The total compass is
FF-d''' (58 notes) and the instrument is only 33" wide.
The brass choirs have a sweet, ethereal and fluty sound. When the back
8' is played alone the dampers of the front 8' are off to allow a rich
enhancement of sympathetic vibration. This effect is not usually
available on a double that has the 8' choirs on different keyboards. A
dialogue between the two keyboards renders a colorful contrast in tone.
Listen to this beautiful instrument in the "Sound Samples" page.
Also new is a pedal board clavicytherium suitable for practice or
performance. This original design stands behind the bench and player with
a trestle stand in front to support any style or size harpsichord. This
is the only pedal harpsichord which provides the player with a perfect
stereo balance of volume between the manual and pedal instruments.
The standard decor includes brown mallee key tops with carved key
fronts, oak topped with casein ivory for sharps, stained and painted
case, intricate parchment rose, elegantly turned legs and tasteful music
desk. All finishes are made from organically grown plant oils and
resins. Also included are plastic jacks (wooden optional), unique
transposing system (allowing some jacks with no dampers), regulating
tools and a padded moving cover.
Clavicytheria at the Boston Early Music Festival 2013