CHAPTER 3: History to 1800

3.5 The Baroque, Rococo and Classical Periods 1600-1800

3.5.1 The west

1.1. Popular cultures in the 17th & 18th centuries:

1. Germania - Folk playing for themselves

Literary references


There are rather more references in the Baroque era than from earlier times, so that a selection will suffice to give a general picture.

Particularly interesting is the introduction to Anders Arrebo's 1623 collection "K. Davids Psalter, Sangviisz Udsat ...", ('King David's Psalter, arranged as songs, to over a hundred melodies and tunes') (72), since it is the only indication that there was a dulcimer in Norway; it is even less conclusive than it might otherwise have been because the work from which it comes was published in Copenhagen and written by a Dane.

Arrebo, born in 1587, was a cleric at the Royal Court in Copenhagen until 1618, when he became Bishop of Trondhjem Western Norway; he left there in 1622, apparently under a cloud, and his psalm-book appeared the following year; he is known in Scandinavia as 'the father of Danish poetry', and his psalms are considered to mark the breakthrough of Renaissance poetry in Denmark (1623) (73). The introduction shows that the psalms were not meant for church use, but simply to while away the long winter evenings in a way that will honour God rather than offend him, and paints a picture of country music which is delightful, if a little short on detail.

The problem is that one cannot be certain whether it is in fact Norwegian custom that he is describing - he would perhaps be an unusual 17th century Bishop who, coming from the Royal Court of an occupying power, was in close touch with native village life after only four years in what was to him a foreign country - or whether this is more a memory of his own land translated into poetic terms. The Norwegians and Danes are of common Scandinavian stock, of course, but communications have been very difficult in Norway until rather recently, so that in such isolation local characteristics and identities have remained strong: it would not be unduly surprising if a foreign musical instrument had not become known there, even when played in Sweden and Denmark.

The foreword is addressed to

"Haederlige/Høy oc Vellaerde Maend/ Superintendenter/ Praelater/ Canicker/ Probster/ Praester oc menige Clerici udi Norriges Rige" 'Honourable, eminent and learned men, superintendents, prelates, canons, deans, parsons and common (lay) clergy, in the Kingdom of Norway'

and reads:

"For det tredie/

er mig aff forfarenhed oc icke wbevist/ at eders Vngdom oc Menighed/ aff Naturen/ meget til Sang oc Music inclinerer, (til huilcket de lange Vinter Afftener end icke ringe Orsag giffve) huor udoffver oc offte hender/ at tiden med slik Music oc spil fortaeris/ af hui1cket Gud mere fortørnis end aeris/ oc Vngdommen mere offenderis en i noget godt leeris: Vilde jeg derfor/ her med/ giffve eders Vngdom oc Tilhørere/ disse halffandet hundrede Davidiske gyldne Harpestrenge og Israelitiske Muteter udi haanden/ deres Krogharper Hackebretter oc Langspil der med helligen oc sødeligen at conservere oc besaette: Huilcke Psalmer/ naar de paa dens Harper oc andre ringe Bonde Instrumenter, de lange Afften-timer slaes oc høris/ oc Foraeldre/ Børn oc Tiunde med Hierte oc Mund tillige istemme/ Glaedskabens Gud og HErre icke mindre forlyste oc behage vil/ end er David fordum tid/ med sine Harper/ Cither/ Cimbler/ Piber/ Basuner/ Trommer oc Orgeler/ etc., hans høye Majestet oc alle hans hellige Engle forlystede. Saa skal oc deres lange Vinter Afftener/ oc Tunge udroers Dage/ kosteligen og glaedeligen i Herren henflyde oc fructbarligen forløbe".


'... from my experience, I am not unconscious of the fact that your young people and congregations are by nature strongly inclined towards music and singing (for which the long winter evenings give no mean cause), on which occasions moreover it frequently occurs that time is consumed by music which offends rather than honours God, and which corrupt young people rather than teaches them anything worthwhile: I would therefore herewith dedicate to your young people and audiences these one hundred and fifty of David's golden harpstrings and Israelitic motets, thereby to fill their Krokharps (74), Hackebretts and Langeleiks (75) with that which is holy and sweet and to preserve them thus: which psalms, played during the long evening hours on harps and other lowly peasant instruments, with parents, children and servants joining in with heart and mouth, will not delight and please the God and Lord of joy any less than when David, in bygone days, with his harps, cithara, cymbals, pipes, trumpets, drums and organs, delighted his Most High Majesty and all His angels. Thus, with joy and gladness in the Lord, will your long winter evenings and hard days of oppression pass, and bear forth fruit.'

The 'singular historical concert' arranged by the preacher Johannes Dilherr (Nuremberg, 1643) included hurdy-gurdy, Jew's harp, bagpipe, Hackbrett, castanettes and other instruments of the musica irregularis (76), while Brigitte Geiser has collected 15 or so references to the instrument's currency in Switzerland between 1612 and 1710(77). One of these illustrates the pleasures of young love, from the Choir records of Grosshöchstetten for 29th July, 1677:

"... Daniel Rüfenacht und Catharyna Küing ....(seien) im vorigen Jahr verflossenen Wiehnacht .... beysammen gewesen, und eine geraume Zeyt lang, bis auf den Abend spat bey dem Hackbrettspiel gesprungen und gegumpet .... Danneher these ihre Liebe und Lust gegeneinander je lenger, je tieffer gewutzelt ..." (78) '.. Daniel Rüfenacht and Catharyna Kttng ... (are supposed to have) been together last Christmas, and for a considerable time, until late in the evening, were springing and bounding to the playing of the Hackbrett ... which soon caused their love and lust for each other to grow longer and deeper...'(63)

According to Tobi Reiser (79), a 17th century church book in Henndorf, Austria, referred to the dulcimer-player as the Hackbrädler, while the earliest Swedish reference to the instrument comes from 1685:

"Euterpes hackebräd är nu ett spel för dränger" (79) 'The dulcimer of Euterpe (muse of singing) is now an instrument for farm-workers'.

The Frisian organist and schoolteacher Klaas Douwes mentioned in 1699 that there were all kinds of instruments he was not able to describe, including lutes, zithers, harps, lieren (hurdy-gurdies), Hakkeberden and such like (80), while in the same year it was obviously much more familiar to the preacher Abraham a Santa Clara: writing in Etwas für alle (Nuremberg, 1699), he said that:

"Die Köchin auf dem Lande spielt auf ihrem Hackbrett so hübsch, dass es die Götter mehr erfreut als selbst Apollos Lyra" 'The country cook plays her Hackbrett so prettily that the gods prefer it even to Apollo's lyre'.

Mattheson seems not to have been quite so enamoured of the instrument, writing in 1713:

"Die tändlenden Hackbretter (ausser dem grossen mit fleischernen Sayten bezogenen/ Pantalon genandt/ welsches hoch-priveligirt ist) sollen in die verdächtigen Häuser angenagelt werden" (81). 'The trifling Hackbretts (apart from the big ones with gut strings/ called Pantalon/ which is highly priviledged) should be nailed up in houses of ill-repute'.

fig. 59: from Johann Christoph Weigel,
Musicalisches Theatrum,
Nürnberg [c. 1715-25]


Johann Christoph Weigel on the other hand, considered the Cymbal worth including in his Musicalisches Theatrum (fig. 59), produced in Nuremburg sometime between 1715 and 1725, and gave it a lively caption, very idiomatic and rather difficult to translate:

'Hey, knobblyknees:
This instrument can delight your soul.
Here you come through the door, wild and drunk.
I was alone and I'll take no notice of you.
You, with only a groat of little-beard come:
So you may still bravely shout
And, along with Oltz and Kate, nearly dance your legs off.' (82)

The details of the instrument are discussed in the next section


fig. 68: etching, anon 18thC Dutch,
Haags Gemeentemuseum
Reproduced from the
microfiche edition
issued by IDC, Switzerland


In much the same spirit is the player of the Hakkebord in an anonymous Dutch engraving at fig. 68

'I love my Hakkebord, as much as one can love anything
Yes I love it a thousand times more than many a man
Is loved by his wife, though they reflect one another,
Yes I will exchange this sound for neither wife, dish, tobacco nor jug'. (83)

Brigitte Geiser mentions a charming porcelain figure of a dulcimer player from 18th century Zurich (84), apart from the Manchester angels and possibly the Colmar carving, the only example of dulcimer sculture discovered, whi1e according to Szadrowsky, in the 1720s there were more Cymbal players in the valleys of central Switzerland than in Appenzellerland - traditionally one of the homes of the Hackbrett.

From the early 1700s comes a slightly puzzling statement by Olof Rudbeck the younger, that in Sweden:

"Dock har man stundom ro av hackebärden torra" (85) 'However, one sometimes feels relaxed by dry dulcimers.'

Walther, writing in 1732, sheds some light on the question of names: although he has no entry at all under either Hackbrett or dulcimer (the latter name has apparently hardly ever been known on the continent), he says that salterio tedesco is drawn by Bonanni (discussed below), and is 'no other that a Hackbrett'.

"Salterlo Tedesco (It.) ist wieder in Bonnani Gabinetto Armonico p.106 befindlische abrichzeicht nicht anders als ein Hackbrett".

In the light of the social and geographical division mentioned above, he really seems to be saying 'although Bonnani gave it a name which sounds exotic to us, he was really only showing our everyday Hackbrett.'

His entry under Cymbal is unremarkable, except that he mentions that it is 'furnished with double bridges' (Mersenne had already described such features but only as an optional alternative):

"Cymbal, ist ein mit Drahtsaiten und doppeltenstegen versehenes viereckiges Instrument so mit Holzenen Heckgen oder Schlägeln tractiert wird: heisst sonsten auch ein Hackbrett".

The other interesting point is that he gives Dolcimello as an alternative Italian name for Hackbrett although Italian references to this name as late as the Baroque are not known.

Carbessus (1739) would 'not deign to speak of the common instruments..., such as the tympanon, the psalterion, the shawm, the onion flute (kazoo), the Jew's harp. ("je ne daigne pas parler des instruments vulgaires .... come le tympanon, le psalterion, le chalumeau, la flute l'oignon, la guimbarde." (86)), while Eisel in his 'teach-yourself music' (1738) expressed much the same sentiments, but at greater length:

"Das Hacke-Bret ist ein langlicht-viereckiges mit metallenen Saiten, wie ein Clavichordium bezogenes Instrument darauf man mit zweyen forne etwas gebogenen Stecklein schläget, und nach Noten allerhand Stücke spielet. Dieses tändlende Instrument ist zwar nicht ohne alle Annehmlichtkeit, und wird dann und wann bey Kirchen- und andere Musigue zum Accompagnement gebrauchet. Well es aber bisher so übel gemissbrauchet worden, wollen wir dessen weiter nicht gedenken; Wer einen extraordinairen Appetit darzu hat, mag seine Liebhaber aufsuchen und von solchen es erlernen" (87) 'The Hacke-Bret is a longish rectangular instrument with metal strings like a clavichord, whereon one strikes with two little sticks, slightly bent over at the front, and plays all kinds of pieces from (written) music. This trifling instrument is no doubt not without its agreeable side and is used now and again for accompaniment in church music and elsewhere. But because it has been ill-used until now we will not consider it further. Anyone who has an appetite extraordinaire may seek out its enthusiasts and learn it from such'. (63)

The reference to playing from written music ("nach Noten") is particularly unusual.

Sackett writes about the German community in Kansas and how they migrated to the area of the Volga in the 1760s lured by promises of free land and no military service, taking their Hackbretts with them (88); while Ignatz F.X. Kürzinger in the little dictionary contained in his Getreuer Unterricht (1763), uses the first sentence of Eisel's description of the Hackbrett slightly rephrased, and spelt with a single 't':

"Hackbret: es ist ein länglicht-viereckiges mit metallenen Saiten bezogenes Instrument, darauf man mit zwei vornen etwas gebogenen Stecklein allerhand Stücke spielet".

But the real interest of Kürzinger's dictionary is that there is an entry describing Psalterium as an instrument in practical use:

"Psalterium: ein musikaliches Instrument, gleich einem Hackbret, weiches wie eine Harffe mit den Fingern gerührt wird. Man pflegt auch, um den Klang starker zu geben, Ringlein mit zugespitzten Federkielen an die Finger zu stecken". 'Psalterium a musical instrument like a Hackbrett which is touched with the fingers like a harp. To produce a louder sound, it is normal to stick on the finger little rings with sharpened quills.'

Since the only difference he mentions between Psalterium and Hackbrett is the playing technique, we may perhaps assume that the instruments themselves were essentially similar; there appears to be only one other reference to the Psalterium as a practical playing instrument in German from this period, apart from Praetorius' enigmatic engraving (both discussed below), so it does not seem likely that it was normal or common in Germany; but the technique of rings and quills is certainly familiar south and west of the Alps, where salterio and psaltérion were the normal dulcimer names; and a German would be just as likely to translate these as Psalterium as leave them in their original form. It seems likely, therefore, that Kürzinger was actually describing a French, Spanish or Italian dulcimer here.

An interesting and rare reference, one of the few to mention together the dulcimer and one of the European ancestors of the Appalachian dulcimer, comes from another Frisian organist, Jacob Lustig, expressing what by now seems quite stereotyped disdain:

"Wyders, met dingen, die by Kermissen en tot soldaatenmuziek worden gebruikt, gedenk ik my niet op te houden: alzo blyft de noordsche balk, het hakkeboord en diergelyke, hier buiten aanmerking. Dit laastgemelde, konde ook tot de slagtuigen worden betrokken; maar, wet left ons daar aan gelegen? genoeg, als wy zaaken van eenig belang naauwkeurig konnen vaststellen". (89) 'Furthermore, I don't intend to spend time on things which used at fairs and for soldiers' music; consequently, the noordse balk, hakkebord and such-like will be excluded. The latter could be included in percussion instruments but why should this concern us? enough, if we could establish anything of interest'. (90)

Nowadays one thinks of the Hackbrett in Switzerland as belonging particularly to the German language-area, but this was clearly not always the case. Brigitte Geiser quotes four references to the instrument in French-Switzerland from the late 18th century: an instrument survives from 1772, from the Pays d'enhaut; in 1773 a payment was entered in the accounts book of the de Severy family of Lausanne, of four pounds for a Hackbrettlerin (female Hackbrettler) in 1781 a joueur du tympanon was 'discovered' at Bex; while Suzanne Curchod, 'the future Madame Nacker', learnt to play not only the violin and cembalo but also the Hackbrett - rather unusual for one of the ladies of the gentry (91).

Sachs mentions an improved Psalterium of the Kappellmeister Zimmerman having been used in concert by one Frau Bauer, but that the playing technique was unknown; further details are not available (92).