Chanah Ambuter, Michigan Harpist

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A Claviharpe - c. 1860

An interesting bit of history - it's like a strange exotic fish or a long lost cousin, haha!

This was written in the 18th century, and this instrument is dated to around 1860.

For context's sake, the double-action pedal harp was only patented in 1810 by Erard, and had quite a few "kinks" to work out. The tension was quite high (especially for these delicate-flower-women of the Victorian Era - read about Louis Spohr's wife's difficulties with it here), the pedaling system was confusing because of its novelty, and they were of course insanely expensive. (See this brief excerpt on Henriette Renie's comment on the early double-action pedal harp).

I suspect this article exaggerated the "paucity" of harpists. Think of Elias Parish-Alvars, Jacques-Georges Cousineau, and Charles Oberthür in that time, and then - as the double-action pedal harp took hold, the flood of virtuoso harpists - Hasslemans, Salzedo, Grandjany, Renie, Laskine, Salvi, Tournier, Zabaleta, etc. I suspect this claviharpe was an attempt to "answer" the double-action pedal harp, just like Pleyel's Chromatique harp (See Debussy vs Ravel 's "Commission Competition").

So, fascinating piece of history written by someone with an agenda!


Handel's famous "Harp Concerto in Bb" on Claviharpe. 

Handel's famous "Harp Concerto in Bb" on harp!

Recorded live from my U-M Junior Recital in 2012.