Tradition, concept and approach

In the 17th en 18th centuries the harpsichord reached the heights of its development. My aim is to equal the tonal quality and technical perfection of the ‘Old Masters’. To this end three skills are required: 

Sound and sensibility
My harpsichords produce a surprising sound. This surprising sound of my harpsichords is due to the great dynamic potential and well balanced structure of the tone, lacking dissonant or sharp upper paritals. Clarity and a powerful fundamental are important, since an instrument with too many upper partials, or too little warm fundamental, tires the ear quickly and produces insufficient resonance.

Contact with the keyboard
As the player senses that the instrument reacts to his intentions, translating the desired dynamics into sound, a warm relationship develops between player and instrument, inviting one to play with imagination and to experiment with the instrument’s potential. Many professional harpsichordists agree that my instruments meet these requirements and therefore remain a source of inspiration.

Woods are selected most painstakingly and even tested for signs of warping before being worked. Only traditional woods are used, with different sorts for different types of instrument.

Onno Peper The case must offer sufficient resistance to the tension of the strings. This can only be achieved through sound jointing, such as dovetail and mortise joints, according to the particular design. The wrest plank is always jointed to the sides so that it can never loosen. Case torsion through string tension can result in a badly bent soundboard and an instrument that will not stay in tune. My engineering background and my extensive study of historical building methods enable me to construct stable and reliable instruments without making them unnecessarily heavy. This is why the bentside is always made of a single solid plank, bent by heating. The result is stronger and ore reliable than a bentside built up in layers.

Here again, technical insight is indispensable. Too much play produces a noisy action, while too little, or a faulty design, leads to mechanical unreliability. Both problems make the key movement feel ‘insecure’. My jacks and guides are therefore made with the greatest precision: the slots in the guides are shaped to give the jack just enough room to move freely but silently. The same goes for the key movement: the play is hardly felt, guaranteeing a sense of security and absence of noise. All components are produced at the workshop.

With the exception of the Italian instruments (for which cypress is also used) soundboards are made form the finest spruce for a 270-year-old pine tree of more than 40 meters height and 80 centimetres diameter. This grew on a northern mountainside near Hallstadt in Austria. The wood of this particular tree forms the heart of my instruments. It is highly resonant and has the required strength and elasticity. The surface is hand-planed without the use of glass paper. This helps to produce the required tone and power, and gives a fine finish.

The various designs
The various types and designs naturally have their specific tonal characteristics, depending on what the original builder envisaged. Other determining factors are the period and school from which a particular instrument stems. Small harpsichords, spinets and virginals hier weer: virginal of viginal? are not inferior to the larger instruments; on the contrary, they have a direct presence and pronounced character. Sometimes however, keyboards with a shorter compass present a limitation in terms of repertoire. With this in mind I usually add several keys to extend the compass of smaller instruments. In addition to the above-mentioned factors, the final sound is influenced by my personal concept and manner of working, lending an individual character to instruments from my hand.

Instruments are usually finished in the style of the time: Ruckers harpsichords for instance, with marbled sides, block-printed paper, original profiles and soundboard decorations with flowers and birds. Grammaticaal klopt deze zin niet, geen werkwoord. The legs of the frame are turned by hand. Beside the rather rich 17-th century decoration a more sober and simple finish, or even a modern design may be preferred. Both finish and decoration are discussed at length with customers.

Guarantee and maintenance
My instruments require little maintenance and have a life expectation beyond your own. And rightly so: early harpsichords still on view and in playable condition in museums bear witness to this. My instruments retain their value and have a ten-year guarantee. If you learn to cut a plectrum, adjust the height of a jack and just a few more small matters, you can keep your own instrument in top form. Naturally, I can maintain it for you if required.

Delivery conditions
The conditions are the same as drawn up by the Netherlands Society of Musical instrument Makers, unless agreed otherwise with the customer. Each commission and/or purchase is accompanied by a specification including an extensive description of how the instrument is to be built, which materials and methods are to be employed, etc. You will be most welcome to inspect all stages of construction.

If you are not familiar with my work, I sincerely hope that this short description has whetted your appetite. I will be delighted to supply further information and to welcome you to my ‘well sounding’ workshop in Oss in the province of Brabant, where I’ve been working since 1994.