The two largest harpsichord makers in the world during the middle of the eighteenth century were Burket Shudi (1702 – 1773) and Jacob Kirkman (1710 – 1792). Happily, the Sigal Music Museum has fine examples of both these makers, in the single manual and double manual styles. Both of these men worked or apprenticed under Hermann Tabel in London during the 1720s and 1730s, with Burket Shudi leaving to go on his own about 1728. Kirkman remained with his master until his death ten years later, acquiring his shop, tools, remaining instruments, and ultimately his widow Susanna!
Shudi achieved real success with his harpsichord business by the 1740s, and a number of his instruments survive from this decade and those that followed. He reputedly sold several harpsichords to the palace of Frederick the Great, and styled himself as having done so during his lifetime. John Broadwood joined the Shudi workshop in 1761, quickly rising to the position of foreman and then full partner with Shudi in 1769. Broadwood would later marry Shudi’s daughter Barbara.
The Shudi family in 1742, with the first harpsichord for Frederick The Great.
The Shudi single manual harpsichord was bought by Marlowe Sigal in 1969 as one of his earliest instruments in the collection. It remains one of the finest. Following closely on the tradition of Tabel, in the English style of the time, it is in a walnut case with bespoke brass hardware and mahogany and satinwood stringing around the main panels. Walnut was by this date a rather out of fashion wood for a primary surface, but harpsichords in particular in England tended to feature design elements that were well behind the fashionable trends of the day. It sits on a turned walnut stand, itself a design relic from 50 years earlier, but absolutely original to this harpsichord.
When this harpsichord was made in 1767, the principle builder would have been John Broadwood himself, with others helping the shop, and possibly Shudi doing the finishing work on the action. Once John was made partner, the firm was styled “Shudi & Broadwood” which Broadwood maintained after Shudi’s death, reverting to “Johannes Broadwood” for the pianos, and the very last harpsichord that firm made in 1793. The 1781 Shudi and Broadwood double manual harpsichord in the collection bears testament to this.
A few weeks of care and repair have now left the harpsichord in good playing condition again, and ready for a concert. Combined with our 1767 Kirkman, a fair comparison in the sound and playing qualities will be available for the researcher to study.