The harpsichord is a keyboard instrument with a shape similar to the pianoforte, with the difference that it might have one or two keyboards. The harpsichord's sound is produced when the strings are plucked by crow or delrin (plastic) quills fixed in the saltadores, which rest at the end of the keys. The oldest reference to its creation is dated from the 14th century in Italy, when it was called clavicembalo. The harpsichord was considered the most important and versatile keyboard instrument from late 16th to early 19th centuries, after the organ. The harpsichord had already been present in Rio de Janeiro's musical scene since 1721, date of the oldest import registration of this instrument to the city. Until 1830, the Jornal do Commercio (a local newspaper) also announced the sale of harpsichords by residents of Rio de Janeiro. The harpsichord has fallen into disuse in the early decades of 19th century and rose again around 1882. The only surviving historical instrument in Rio de Janeiro is a Portuguese harpsichord of Jozé Cambiazo, dated of 1769. The instrument was transformed into a piano and probably belonged to the portuguese Paulo Perestrelo da Câmara, that left Lisbon in 1841 to settle in Rio de Janeiro.
Copies of historical harpsichords began to be made in Rio de Janeiro in 20th century by Roberto de Regina, since the end of 60's, which in addition build the instruments, was also harpsichordist and teacher.
The harpsichord is still present in the Rio de Janeiro contemporary musical scene. Theatre plays, operas and classical music concerts, beside Brazilian music, are some examples of the use of this versatile instrument.
Curious to learn how to play the instrument? Watch the video below and Rosana Lanzellote playing an excerpt from a Lundu, by Spix e Martius.