The Pantalon Clavichord

The Pantalon Clavichord The pantalon clavichord owes its origin to the dulcimer player Pantalon Hebenstreit, who was travelling virtuoso, using a dulcimer of his own design. His influence was considerable, and a number of clavichords were built with a dulcimer, or pantalon, register, whereby a separate set of tangents to the left of the playing tangents were raised to form a second bridge resulting in an un-damped string-band. The clavichord could be played as usual, or the playing tangents could be used as little hammers. Early square pianos were also fitted with a damper raising device, operated, as on the clavichord, with a hand stop. Later this was replaced by a pedal or knee lever, which evolved into the modern sustaining pedal.

A small number of clavichords having, or having had, this device have survived – very few are playable. By way of experiment I have recorded C.P.E. Bach’s “Hamlet” Fantasy (H.75/3) on an anonymous pantalon clavichord, probably from the mid-eighteenth century, and made either in Brunswick or Hanover. It originally had two pantalon registers, one with cloth-covered pantalon tangents, the so-called Celestine, and one without the cloth coverings. The latter register has been reconstructed by the instrument maker Thomas Glück, the Celestine remains unrestored. C.P.E. Bach, in his chapter on the free fantasy, gives the clavichord and fortepiano as the best instruments whereon to improvise fantasies, in particular the un-damped register of the fortepiano. Not mentioned, but implied, is the un-damped pantalon register of the clavichord, which can be heard on this recording (recording engineer Julian Lehmann, Zofingen).