Johann Christoph Fleischer


8'8' FF-f''' (original FF-d''')

4' FF-d

unfretted, a' 390 Hz

Museum Schwedenspeicher, Stade

Gregor Bergmann 2016

Resonanzboden, Fleischer 1728

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Fleischer's compromise

Four clavichords and one harpsichord by the Hamburg builder Johann Christoph Fleischer survive. Two fretted clavichords (C-c’’’) are located in Trondheim and Stockholm, two unfretted clavichords in Stockholm and Stade. In Lance Whitehead’s dissertation¹ the clavichords are viewed in a larger historical context and well covered in his article².

The clavichord by Johann Christoph Fleischer in Stade is of great value, being one of the oldest preserved unfretted clavichords. The number 9 in the signature with the date 1729 is ambiguous. It would be better to write 172?. The unfretted clavichord in Stockholm is signed 1723 and thereby the oldest extant unfretted clavichord in existence. Whitehead finds in his dissertation a uniform key tail spacing for all four clavichords. Fleischer apparantely extended his fretted models to make unfretted clavichords without changing the spacing of the key tails. The gaps in the key tails can be observed. They are a necessity in fretted clavichords but superfluous in unfretted ones.

The original instrument in Stade ranges from FF to d’’’. To the standard compass of his fretted clavichords Fleischer added 7 keys in the bass and 3 in the treble thus creating an unfretted clavichord.  To accommodate the extra strings he had to make the case longer toward the bass and to move the spine further back. But he avoided drafting a whole new instrument.  My task was to extend the compass to f’’’. Seeing that Fleischer already had taken his design close to its limits, this proved difficult to do. Two more natural keys in the treble changed the layout of the soundboard area significantly. The result was surprisingly good though. The treble did not suffer in quality as I feared, but complements the lower registers very nicely.


¹ Lance Whitehead "Clavichords of Hieronymos and Johann Hass"

² Lance Whitehead  "The clavichords of Johan Fleischer the Younger", Clavichord International, Volume 3, Number 1, May 1999


Pictures by Christoph Schönbeck & Moo Fricke (picture of original Fleischer soundboard)


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