Introduction to the history of 20th-century Czech harpsichord building
Professor Zuzana Růžičková, the foremost Czech and international harpsichordist, established the tradition of the Czech harpsichord school on the basis of many years of goal-directed activity going back to 1952. I was powerfully attracted by the instrument from my early childhood and I have continued to love it ever since. After my music studies I also started to become interested in the harpsichord as an instrument-maker.
Some time in the mid eighties I was approached by an old friend of mine and former classmate, Pavel Klikar, an excellent musician, who by then had founded two musical ensembles that rapidly achieved European reputations: The Original Prague Syncopated Orchestra (1947), for the performance of traditional jazz, and Musica Antiqua Praha (1984), a Baroque ensemble of historic musical instruments, along the lines of the celebrated Musica Antiqua Köln, for the performance of historically authentic interpretations. Pavel asked me to build a copy of an Italian harpsichord, which he needed as a basso continuo instrument for his Baroque ensemble. After brief hesitation, I got down to work. With the help of two highly-skilled cabinet makers, whom Pavel Klikar subsequently recruited for me, I completed the requested instrument in 1985 (this instrument can be heard on CDs that M.A.P. recorded for the Supraphon company in subsequent years). It was the first copy of a harpsichord built in the Czech lands in the 20th century. On the basis of that first achievement I set up the first Czech harpsichord workshop in the mid 1980s with one those associates, František Vyhnálek.
When, more than a decade later, the activity of that workshop started to adopt a course that differed from own perception, I left and set up a new workshop in 1997 in association with two young piano builders Jan Bečička and Stanislav Hüttl. In the case of both those workshops I was supported from the outset by my friend of many years, the leading German harpsichord maker, Jürgen Ammer, who taught me the profession.
Harpsichord Workshop - Jan Bečička & Stanislav Hüttl & Petr Šefl – Bystřec
The second harpsichord workshop to be established in the Czech Republic bears the name Jan Bečička & Stanislav Hüttl & Petr Šefl. Since its establishment at Hradec Králové in 1997 it has been building top-class copies of harpsichords. Relying on the experience of their senior associate, the two younger craftsmen achieved European recognition from the outset. The workshop soon undertook the restoration of original historical instruments from the collections of the National Museum in Prague. Due to growing interest in its work and increasing orders, the workshop was obliged to find larger premises and in in 2008 it moved to the picturesque village of Bystřec in the Eagle Mountains. It builds instruments for leading musical institutions, music schools and foremost instrumentalists, as well as for students and beginners on the harpsichord. It regularly attends music festivals, loans instruments and provides a concert service. Foremost Czech and foreign artists have given concerts and made recordings with our instruments. The workshop is fully equipped and performs not only routine repairs but also undertakes extensive restoration projects and the reconstruction of all types of keyboard string instruments, including rare historical originals (see chapter on restoration).