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Peter Tkach

Harpsichord Maker

Mission Statement

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Mission Statement
Biographical Sketch
An Interview With Peter Tkach

 

My goal in making early keyboard instruments is not to re-create the past. To this end, I use plans and designs proven by the makers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but attempt to create instruments for today. My instruments are serviceable and practical rather than delicate and quixotic. I do not shy from using modern tools and construction techniques in order to achieve instruments that will maintain their integrity and dependability for many years. I have seen too many case corners opening up and nameboards and wrestplanks twisting out of shape to fail to put strength and stability at the top of my priorities for instrument making. Therefore, all case corners in my instruments are reinforced with multiple cross-fingers; all members which span the instrument, including the wrestplank and nameboard, the belly rails and the frames, are either mortised or dovetailed into the case sides; and the bottom is made of solid wood, finger-joined at the belly rail and glued and screwed to the case and frames.

Visual beauty, rewarding to the eye, is also of primary importance. The input of my clients is essential to me in determining the appearance of an instrument. My wife, Andrea, who does the soundboard painting on most of my instruments, and I both discuss colors, content, gilding patterns and application, decorative hardware, and other decorating details with our .clients. We know that a person's instrument will last longer than a car, furniture, perhaps even a house, so it is our goal that a client has an instrument which will be visually pleasing for many, many years.

Ultimately, the most important aspect of an instrument is its musicality. Here, my background as a trained musician has served me well. My end product must gratify me as a musician. Even more importantly, I have come to trust myself over the years to create an instrument that is musically pleasing and has an appealing, refreshing quality that will not pale, either in its sound or its action. While it is tempting to play the adjective game, devising phrases and comparisons that describe the sound of my instruments, I let them speak for themselves.

Finally, I have been asked how I can make custom harpsichords so reasonably. (My base prices are now $10,500 for a single, $12,500 for a double. This includes a finished instrument with turned stand and matching bench.) My short answer is one word: overhead. Except for some contract work, I work alone in a shop in my home. I made my first instrument in my home in 1965, and have since then found it convenient and efficient to maintain this format. Large shops with multiple employees (and all the above-salary expenses they require) can make five instruments in the time it takes me to make one, yet cannot market those instruments as reasonably as I can. Furthermore, working alone affords total quality control, so essential in an integrated, unified system such as a harpsichord. I know that my methods and steps in construction, and their order, are correct for me, and I have every confidence that the result is an exceptional value for my clients.

© 2001 Peter Tkach
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