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:

2: Eastern Europe - Folk playing for the nobility


We have seen that in Germania the dulcimer was clearly an instrument with which ordinary folk entertained themselves: but the picture painted by all the writers on the history of the cimbalom instruments is of a flourishing folk tradition which was valued by the gentry; indeed according to Szabolcsi, the cimbalom-player was a normal part of the Hungarian court orchestra in the 17th century. The members of the household orchestra of Count Erdödy included 3 violinists, 1 cimbalom-player, 3 pipers, 4 trumpeters, a bagpiper and a drummer (97), while another band was described as having a special tune for each course of a wedding-feast:

'Call the fiddler to come with the bagpipe,
Zither, cimbalom, lute with the virginals,
Play a tune when they reach the veal ...' (97)

A similar image is conjured up by a poem about a 1695 wedding:

Here the cimbalom's strings when struck did twang
The virginal's keys more gently rang,
Many fiddles from skilful bows resounded,
The bagpipe's drone from the walls rebounded.' (97)

A painting from about 1700 shows a large dulcimer with a four-footed pedestal, in an ensemble with violin and cello: De twist der knechten, 'The Manservants' Dispute', in the Koninklijk Kunstpatrimonium, Brussels. Although painted by a Flemish artist, Hendrik Govaerts, the instrument does not fit in with the mainstream of west-European dulcimers: since Govaerts worked in Prague, Hungary and Vienna, it seems much more likely that it was modelled on an East European instrument. Apart from the size, which is remarkable, the pedestal is also significant; there are two long bridges, one each for treble and bass strings, plus a small separate bass bridge on the left nearest the player, as portrayed by Mersenne in 1636 (discussed below), so that the instrument is of type 12.2. If the date is authentic, this feature was first used on the early 1514 dulcimer in the Heyer collection (Cologne/Leipzig), but was at this time still rare on popular instruments. Hubert Boone considers that the stringing is of 8IV + 9IV or 8IV + 10V.

By the 18th century, according to A.L. Lloyd, the tsambal was in use in gipsy bands in Romania, also in Hungary, where Sárosi says it had replaced the bagpipes for completing the inner harmonies.

An illustration from MS IV.E52 in the Prague National Museum shows much the same sort of situation in Czechoslovakia: an orchestra, including violins, bass, cymbal and drums, is playing for a court dance in the early 1700s. The first gipsy band about which any detail is known, that of Panna Czinka (d.l772), had the same line-up of instruments as is normal today - two violins, cimbalom and bass (99).

Two more Hungarian verses tell the same story:

'Three put their fiddles to their ears,
The cimbalom-player put his cimbalom on his knees
An old man bent himself to his cello ... '(l787) (l00)

'I will have the cimbalom player
At night he is not sleepy
I found two fiddlers
And even a bassplayer
Whether slow or fast
They play the minuet well'. (1790) (100)

Either Hungarian cimbaloms or their fame had travelled to France by 1780, for Benjamin de LaBorde wrote in the Hungarian section of his Essai sur la Musique that

"les autres instrumens ont des noms qui n'apartiennent à la langue - izimbalom signifie cymbalum; orgona organum; trombita tuba & c.," (Tome 1:157).

'the other instruments have names which do not belong to the language - izimbalom signifies cymbalum; orgona organum, etc.'