CHAPTER 3: History to 1800

3.5 The Baroque, Rococo and Classical Periods 1600-1800

3.5.1 The west

1.2. Higher cultures in the 17th & 18th centuries: 2: The Pantaleon

1 The First Generation: Ambition
2 The First Generation: Establishment
3 The Second Generation



Pantaleon by Peter
Although the mainstream of dulcimer-playing in Germany was of the popular Hackbrett there was an 'improved' version of the instrument which made its impression on the musical culture of the 18th century; it concerns a former dancing-master and fiddler named Hebenstreit [no-one seems to have found his original first name] born in Eisleben in 1669, and his instrument, known by the unlikely name of Pantaleon, in a variety of spellings. Both artist and instrument have been thoroughly researched and written about by Alfred Berner, Annelore Egerlan and others: what follows is

1 The First Generation: Ambition

The story goes that in c. 1690, the 21-year-old Hebenstreit was fleeing from arrest for his Leipzig debts, and entered the household of the Pastor of a village near Merseburg, as tutor to his children; a Hackbrett was used for dance music at the village inn, and he developed the notion of adapting it into an instrument for art music, with the help of the Pastor's skill as a craftsman. In 1697 a courtier passing through the village was attracted by the instrument, and arranged a demonstration at the Dresden court, and Hebenstreit was also heard in Leipzig; the following year he visited the Weissenfels court of Duke Johann George, where he was given a permanent appointment as dancing master. In 1705 when he was 35 or 36, he visited the French royal court, and played to the delight of Louis XlV, who decreed that instrument and player should share the name Pantaleon (Pantalon) (112). The Abbaye Francois de Chateauneuf recorded his impressions most graphically, although they were not published until 1725:

"...C'etoit une espèce de Tympanum, compose de plus de deux cent cordes tendues par quantités de chevalets sur une planche de bois ordinaire, longue de six pieds, épaisse d'un pouce et sans aucune concavité. Mais ce qu'on y remarquoit de plus singulier (par-ce que l'on avoit inutilement tente jusqu'ici) c'est qu'au lieu de cordes de clavessin (qui se sentent toujours de l'aigreur de leur matière), c'etoit de cordes de loth. On admiroit longtemps le nouveauté de cet instrument, sans qu'on savoit quel son pouvait produire deux batons très-legers en frappant sur les cordes de cette espèce, qui sembloit avoir besoin d'etre touchées avec les doigts, et qui de plus était placées sur un bois épais et solide: mais dès qu'il eut commencer à préluder on ne fut plus occupé qu'à admirer son execution, que bientot après parut encore plus étonnante que ses lumières des sons génies ..." (113)

'... It was a kind of tympanum made up of more than two hundred strings stretched from quantities of pins on an ordinary wooden plank, six feet long, an inch thick and without a single concavity [presumably 'hole' rather than 'concave surface']. But what we noticed as being most singular (because we had been trying in vain [to work it out] until that point ...) was that, instead of harpsichord strings (which always suffer from the harshness of their material), they were lute strings. We admired the instrument as a novelty for a long time, without being able to understand what sound could be produced by two wispy sticks hitting strings like those, which looked as if they should be plucked with the fingers, and which furthermore were set on a thick, solid log: but once he had begun to improvise his prélude we were quite caught up in admiring his playing (execution) which ['que' for 'qui'?] soon afterwards seemed even more amazing than his knowledge (illumination) of magic sounds ...' (tr. DK)