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Lieder der Goethezeit für Gesang und Harfe

Einleitende Informationen zum Musikinstrument Harfe

The harp in the Goethezeit


Hakenharfe – The hook-harp in the Goethezeit


The hook-harp was a revolutionary invention compared to the complicated double and triple harps of the Baroque. The first Hakenharfen appeared in Bohemia at the beginning of the 18th century. These instruments had from 35 until 40 strings. The sound of very string could be varied in a semitone by means of a hook that was placed on the left side of the harp neck.

The hook-harps, also called Manualharfen, became so popular in the German-speaking territories that the musician Johann Georg Heinrich Backofen (1768-1839) called it "unsere deutsche Harfe" in his book Anleitung zum Harfenspiel (1801).

The hook-harp in images

This page shows some pictures of hook-harp players on restored instruments. Please note the hokk mechanism on the left side of the harp neck. The performer had to show a great performance in order to change the hooks with the left hand and still keep on playing with the left one.

Some German harpists like Emma Klein or Nancy Thym have rescued original repertoire for hook-harp and play it on historic instruments. This allows us to get an idea of the characteristic sound of this instrument, which Klopstock himself called "Silberton"

Hook-harp mechanism in detail. By Emma Klein.

More hook-harps

This page shows more historic hook-harps in detail, as well as some pictures by artists who got inspired by this lovely instrument. For more photos, please visit Nancy Thym's webpage www.harptree.de

The harpist Nancy Thym (see photograph) even dresses up as a Harfenjule (female wandering harpists of the 18th and 19th centuries), which allows the public to imagine the life and playing of these women. Most of them came from Bohemia and started earning their life as wandering harpists as soon as they reached maturity. They travelled alone or with other musicians who sometimes were members of their own family. This groups were called Harfenkapellen. Fairs, city markets or spas were just but a few of the places they used to perform.

 Goethe himself mentions a couple of encounters in his diaries, most of them took place in Karlsbad.

Two shoots of Nancy Thym during a performance.

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