Custom Made Harpsichord

SØRLI Lautenwerke and Harpsichords

Steven Sørli, 425 Pratt Corner Road, Amherst, MA 01002
Telephone: 413-259-1774
email: sorli(at)lautenwerk(dot)com

Lute and Guitar Strings For Sale & Lautenwerk Conversion Kits



Steven Sørli began his harpsichord making career as an apprentice of the famous Boston harpsichord maker, Frank Hubbard in 1971. He quickly became skilled in all facets of the craft and was especially gifted in the art of decoration. Steven set up his own workshop to design, make and adorn harpsichords individually from scratch. His construction process relies on intuition and ingenuity to ensure a serviceable and singular work of art. The sound qualities achieved by Mr. Sørli are often described as having a distinctive antique tone. Innate artistic abilities contribute to a tasteful blend of color and form that add a complimentary balance to the tonal shades. In 1982 he was awarded a craftsman's fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Over 73 instruments have left his workshop and are scattered throughout the United States and abroad.

At the turn of the century, Mr. Sørli began designing many models of the lute-harpsichord or lautenwerk. There are many words and spellings of this instrument including lautenwerke, lautenwerck, lautenclavicymbel and theorbenflügel (theorbo-harpsichord). An example of the plural form is lautenwerke or lautenwerken. This type of instrument was originally fitted with gut strings and sounds very much like a lute or nylon-strung guitar. The response to this revival of the lautenwerck has been quite positive.

Mr. Sørli's latest success has been in designing a hybrid harpsichord/lautenwerk in the 17th Century South German style. This double manual instrument features 2 brass choirs on the lower manual and one lute choir on the upper. In an effort to maintain the original type of sound produced by a small-sized case and to offer a practical compass of notes, the two keyboards are offset a fourth. The result is 5 extra notes when combining the available notes of each keyboard. The total compass is FF-d''' (58 notes) and the instrument is only 33" wide.

The brass choirs have a sweet, ethereal and fluty sound. When the back 8' is played alone the dampers of the front 8' are off to allow a rich enhancement of sympathetic vibration. This effect is not usually available on a double that has the 8' choirs on different keyboards. The upper manual lautenwerk has two ranks of jacks playing the same choir at different plucking points and can be engaged together for a strong and textured lute sound. A dialogue between the two keyboards renders a colorful contrast in tone. Listen to this beautiful instrument in the "Sound Samples" page.

Another South German model has the two keyboards in alignment with a range of GG,AA,C-d'''. The two 8' brass choirs are on the lower with an additional rank of jacks on the upper. This model has the same feature of the sympathetic enhancement when playing one 8'. The 4' is lute-strung and requires no dampers. The 4' jacks are dogleg style and can be played from either manual. The dampers for the 8' choir with 2 ranks of jacks are on the dogleg 4' jacks. No keyboard coupling is necessary which keeps the action light and easy to maintain.

Mr. Sørli is also the first harpsichord maker to resurrect the keyed lyre or clavicytherium with an open lyre. This upright instrument is inspired by the oil painting "Marcantonio Pasqualini Crowned by Apollo" by Andrea Sacchi (1641). It has one choir of 8' gut or synthetic gut strings with a range of GG-d3. The total height is 81" and takes up only a 37" by 18" floor space. The sound from the small soundboard just above the keyboard was frequently described as "magical" at the Boston Early Music Festival. The sound has a sweet, hollow, vocal quality that radiates out from both sides of the soundboard when the back lid is open. This instrument resembles a lute and harp in sound and is amazingly versatile. Place your order early for one of the musical sensations of the century. Recent owners of the Sørli clavicytherium are Peter Sykes, Julianne Baird, Mark Shuldiner, Margaret Irwin-Brandon, the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève and Cristina Banegas of Uruguay. Listen to 20 minutes of this unique sound in the "Sound Samples" page. You can also view and listen to Ryan Layne Whitney playing his clavicytherium on YouTube: Click Here For Video

The standard decor includes birds-eye maple key tops with carved key fronts, walnut sharps, stained and painted case, intricate parchment or gilt cast rose, elegantly turned legs and tasteful music desk. All finishes are made from organically grown plant oils and resins. Also included are plastic jacks (wooden optional), unique transposing system (allowing some jacks with no dampers), regulating tools and a padded moving cover. Many standard models are available to order. Check the "Available For Sale" page for the instruments currently available for delivery.


Clavicytheria at the Boston Early Music Festival 2013

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Designing Harpsichords

Gut-Strung Clavicytherium

Gut-Strung Clavicytherium

Andrea Sacchi (1641)

"Marcantonio Pasqualini Crowned by Apollo"