The decision to use an original fortepiano by Conrad Graf (Artesis Antwerp, deposited at the Museum Vleeshuis) for Schubertiade was founded on two considerations. First of all, the instrument takes us very close to the composer: it was built in 1826 – two years before Schubert’s death – by a maker he knew personally. Secondly, it offered a unique opportunity for this eternally fresh instrument – recently restored by Jan Van den Hemel (2011) – to be reunited with its twin brother, a splendid facsimile of 1997, made available by the Ruckers Society.
This association has been working for nearly half a century now to promote knowledge of the historical instruments of the Vleeshuis collection, through research into the context of their genesis and performance practice, documentation work and archival care, study of design and realisation, conservation, restoration and active heritage retrieval. The society is named after Hans Ruckers, the founder of a renowned Antwerp harpsichord workshop which was among the best in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Ruckers Society in 1994, it was decided to make a facsimile of Graf’s masterpiece (Viennese action, leather-covered hammers, six and a half octaves, four pedals), which had been restored by Adlam/Burnett in 1974 and by Christopher Clarke in 1991. It was also to Clarke that the construction of the facsimile was entrusted. He went on to work on the instrument for three years and was awarded the ‘Prix Liliane Bettencourt pour l’intelligence de la main’ (prize for craftsmanship) for the result.
Sofie Taes & Jeannine Lambrechts-Douillez
Fortepianos used in the series of Schubertiade concerts: Conrad Graf, 1826, Artesis Antwerp – Christopher Clarke, 1997 (facsimile of Conrad Graf, 1826), Ruckers Society