The National Music Museum in Vermilion, which acquired the instrument in 2009, worked with Chilean-born musician Catalina Vicens, who specializes in historical keyboards and percussion instruments, to produce the harpsichord’s first full-length recording.
The crowd-funded project resulted in a 20-track disc of compositions that Vicens said would have been performed in Naples when the instrument was in its youth. “It’s kind of magical because it is an extraordinarily old instrument, and the restoration that was needed was not extreme, so we can see the instrument’s stage is very close to the stage it was 500 years ago,” said Vicens, who lives in Switzerland and spearheaded the effort.
Harpsichords were popular for centuries until they were overtaken by the piano, which they resemble. Museum officials believe the Neapolitan harpsichord that Vicens played was built in 1530. The museum purchased it from its previous owner in Argentina six years ago for an undisclosed amount. An in-house conservator minimally restored it, including cleaning it and installing a new set of jacks — the pieces that pluck the strings — to make it what the museum believes is the oldest known playable harpsichord
Vicens raised more than $13,000 to cover the cost of the recording project, including travel to and from South Dakota, professional engineering, as well as the booklet design and printing of the CD, which will be released in January on the label Carpe Diem Records distributed by Naxos.
All tracks will also be available on iTunes that same month. People who contributed to the crowd-funding campaign will have early access to the music. “It’s a long process, lots of revisions,” said the 31-year-old Vicens. “It’s not music that everyone listens to every day, so it’s important to put the work in front of everyone. We want it to go into a wider market so the booklet is going to be in English, in German and in French.”