This beautifully carved ivory oboe was made by Giovanni Maria Anciuti of Milan, one of the greatest wind-intrument makers of his day. This exquisitely decorated instrument is unsigned but was probably made in about 1740 in Naples, where furniture veneered with inlaid tortoise-shell was a speciality. This instrument would most likely have been called a liuto attiorbato (or theorboed lute) at the time it was made.
Matteo Sellas (active from 1614 - 1650) worked at the sign of the crown (alla Coronna) in Venice. Princely inventories of the 16th century occasionally refer to pieces of furniture, like tables and cabinets, covered with glass, but precious few examples actually survive. Being a highly decorative but mysterious object, this instrument has acquired a number of romantic associations. Octave spinets were portable keyboard instruments, widely used in private homes in Italy throughout the 17th and 18th centuries to accompany singing. The inside lid of this example is painted with the tale of Arion and the Dolphin, a suitable decorative theme for a musical instrument, as the story tells of a famous singer, from ancient Greece, who was rescued by a dolphin after being robbed and thrown overboard by pirates. Among the very earliest keyboard instruments are the pipe organ, hurdy gurdy, clavichord and harpsichord. The clavichord and the harpsichord appeared during the 14th century, the clavichord probably being the earlier. On most keyboard instruments, a "black note" is one of the smaller keys that stand above the "white notes".
These notes act as the "accidentals" to the original notes, allowing the player to play sharps or flats of a given note. Much effort has gone into finding an instrument which sounds like the piano but lacks its size and weight. Significant development of the synthesizer occurred in the 1960s and has continued ever since. Keyboard controller — A keyboard controller is musical keyboard instrument that does not produce any sounds of its own. It was most likely made between 1717 and 1740, the period from which Anciuti's dated instruments survive. The treble recorder was played in the key of F, and composers like Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741) wrote music for it. It has seven courses or pairs of strings immediately above the fingerboard, which provided the melody, and six separate courses, which provided more bass. These range from Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia to Queen Elizabeth I of England, whose glass virginal was seen by Paul Hentzner, a German traveller, at Hampton Court in 1600. Dr Charles Burney (1726 - 1814), the great English musicologist of his day, wrote in 1771: 'the keys are so noisy, and the tone so feeble, that more wood is heard than wire'.


Carl Engel of Hanover (1818-1882) The most important single collection of musical instruments in the V&A was formed by Carl Engel of Hanover (1818-1882). Whether a group has a special area of interest, wishes to explore a particular gallery or just get an overview of the Museum's collection the Groups Team can help.
Any well-known instrument in the Keyboard instrument instruments family is included along with photos when available. The organ is without doubt the oldest of these, appearing in the 3rd century BC, though this early instrument—called hydraulis—did not use a keyboard in the modern sense. The harpsichord and the clavichord were both very common until the widespread adoption of the piano in the 18th century, after which their popularity decreased. Early electromechanical instruments, such as the Ondes Martenot, appeared early in the century. The white tangents were made of ivory, the black of ebony, but now artificial materials like plastic are used to cover the wooden keys. All the black notes found within an octave form a pentatonic scale.[1] Black notes can be referred to as sharps of the white note below, or as flats of the white note above. The electric piano and electronic piano were early efforts that, while being useful instruments in their own right, were not successful in convincingly reproducing the timbre of the piano. Earlier oboes like this example have simple holes bored into them, and only the lower ones are covered with keys, so as to facilitate the natural stretch of the hand.
However, by about 1780, the recorder had lost its place in the orchestra to the flute, a louder instrument.
At this time it was only possible to make gut strings lower by making them longer, and the only way to accommodate them on the instrument was to use a longer and slightly twisted neck. Both are decorated with strips of glass and glass-paste tableaux that resemble examples made in about 1600 in the ducal workshops of Schloss Ambras, near Innsbruck, in Austria.
Unfortunately, what Hentzner saw was also decorated with jewels, the royal cypher and verses in Latin, none of which this instrument has. He organised the Special Exhibition of Ancient Musical Instruments at the Museum in 1872, and in 1874 he published his most important work, the Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Instruments in the South Kensington Museum. Other widely used keyboard instruments include organs of various types as well as other mechanical, electromechanical and electronic instruments.
From its invention until the 14th century, the organ remained the only keyboard instrument.
The piano was revolutionary because a pianist could vary the volume (or dynamics) of the sound by varying the vigor with which each key was struck. In keyboard percussion instruments with a layout similar to that of the piano, the corresponding notes are often also called "the black notes" though in reality the bars producing those notes are of the same color as the rest of the instrument's bars. At the outset, the museum's aim was to acquire the best objects from every country and every period in history so as to help British manufacturers improve their designs and compete more successfully with their commercial rivals overseas.


Often, the organ did not feature a keyboard at all, rather buttons or large levers which were operated by a whole hand. The piano's full name is "gravicembalo con piano e forte" meaning "harpsichord with soft and loud" but can be shortened to "piano-forte", which means "soft-loud" in Italian.
This applied to musical instruments as much as to ceramics, sculpture, textiles or furniture.
In 1882 Engel sold his personal collection of 201 instruments to the South Kensington Museum for A?556 - 6s (A?556.30). Musical instruments have been acquired more as works of outstanding beauty than of musicological importance. These included European folk instruments like the Spanish bandurria , Northumberland bagpipes and Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, as well as one of the earliest surviving banjos.
This might at first seem odd, especially when we consider that sound is the most important aspect of a musical instrument. He also owned some highly decorative instruments like the Barthold Fritz clavichord and the Medici chitarrone made by Matteo Buechenberg in 1614. Exceptionally beautiful examples are more likely to be preserved, even if they end up as family mementoes or artists' props. The founders of the V&A intended that designers and craftsmen could copy the decoration on the instruments and apply them to a piece of furniture or other woodwork, and they are just as important to the furniture historian of today as they would have been to cabinetmakers in the 1860s. Lavishly decorated instruments, such as the French horn shown below, can also be just as important to the musicologist. 809-1869 Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt Two woodwind instruments, one an ivory oboe by Giovanni Maria Anciuti of Milanand the other an anonymous tortoiseshell-covered recorder from Naples, once belonged to Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), the famous Italian composer. They once formed part of a trophy of musical instruments which hung on the wall of the salon of his Paris apartment. These, together with the Taskin harpsichord, mentioned above, and a very fine ebony and ivory theorbo by Matteo Sellas, dated 1637, were acquired in 1869 from the shop of a Monsieur Bauer of 93 Rue d' Autin in Paris. Bauer's instruments were bought on the recommendation of Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt (1805 - 1886), a highly successful architect.
Although he made no claims to be a musicologist, Wyatt had a flare for finding highly decorative instruments. Ranker requires that your browser support JavaScript, most of our functions wont work with JavaScript disabled.
His reports were often embellished with beautiful drawings, which no doubt helped persuade those who would otherwise have balked at the prices asked.



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