LIST OF CONTENTS
Since I began building instruments in 1971- 1972, I have made more than 467 instruments for professional musicians and serious amateurs alike. In all that time, I have received only half a handful of thoughtful well considered critiques about my instruments. That makes a review written to me recently by Jan Katzschke of Dreseden, Germany all the more interesting. As most of my readers already know, I base my work exclusively on aesthetic and musical principles that I submit myself to and apply as faithfully as possible. The less of my self I interject into the business of making an instrument the better. This review, see below, is an affirmation that my decision to govern my instrument making behavior according to these principles was not made in vain.
Jean-Philippe Rameau - Nouvelles Suites de Pièces de clavecin , Sarabande (1727) played by Jean Rondeau – harpsichord by K. Hill Opus 194, after the Ahaus Ruckers, made in 1984
Now you are able to view my "Opus List" by scrolling to the last entry on the ABOUT KEITH HILL page. Most of these harpsichords, clavichords, violins, guitars, and fortepianos continue to serve music as I intended them so to do when I made them. My chiefest aim has always been to build sounds that inspire a way of playing that deeply moves and excites listeners. This aim can be realized only by acoustical work of the highest quality. I define quality as anything that makes my instruments more like the antique instruments.
Now that I have achieved my personal goal of a reliable mastery over sound, I am able to produce the kind of sound I could only dream of 40 years ago. It is that skill and understanding that I am able to bring to each and every instrument I make. It is this skill and understanding which makes my instruments unique in our time. That is what I have to offer.
The photograph below is of a 1769 Taskin model harpsichord I built and decorated for myself in 2000, which recently sold to the University of Western Australia in Perth. The following performance is of my brother, Robert Hill, playing the first concert on that instrument in Perth.
Here is a Sound Sample Bach's Sarabande in d minor from Robert Hill’s transcription from the solo violin Partita.
The cardinal signs of a Hill instrument are: powerful tone, gorgeously vocal trebles, solid and resonant basses, beauty of tone color, intensely musical behavior of sound, flexibility of touch and color, and a singing and affectively "loaded" tone.
Here is a Sound Sample of Bach's Fugue from his solo concerto in a minor played by Elizabeth Farr on my most recent 16' Harpsichord.
The next Sound Sample is from CPE Bach's concerto for piano and harpsichord played on one of my Cristofori Pianos and one of my Taskin Harpsichords.
Why are these traits necessary? It is obvious that players and composers in the 18th century demanded instruments possessing these qualities to be made so that they would aesthetically support their musical conceptions and intentions. How do we know this? CPE Bach states explicitly in his Versuch to "Play from the Soul, not like a trained bird...endeavor to avoid everything mechanical and slavish". J.J.Quantz in his treatise, On Playing the Flute, explains to musicians that "musical execution may be compared with the delivery of an orator..." and that musicians and orators should aim "to make themselves masters of the hearts of their listeners, to arouse or still their passions, and to transport them now to this sentiment, now to that".
Pictured below are photos of the 1658 de Zentis harpsichord, which I restored in 2004 and which now resides at the Piccola Academy in Montisi, Italy, and of my most recent Italian Harpsichord- a copy of the de Zentis of 1658. Below the photos are sound samples, of the harpsichords pictured, played by Pamela Ruiter Feenstra, Martha Folts, and Elizabeth Farr, and Leonardo Garcia-Alarcon.
Italian Harpsichord after the G. de Zentis of 1658 made by Keith Hill Opus 407 in 2008
I understand that they meant these things literally, rather than hopefully. Therefore, I build my instruments with the sole aim of creating sounds which enhance and support (meaning: to make reasonable, logical, and beautiful) a highly expressive, highly flexible, highly affective, highly inflected, powerfully communicative, yet balanced style of playing. Playing that is, in a word, soulful.
Until I built this 6 Octave Cristofori Fortepiano, no one had ever attempted to take Cristofori's design to its maximum limits. It is double strung in Brass. The two pedals work the Dampers and the Una chord keyboard shift. This piano is my Opus 363 made in 2003 and finally completed and sold in 2007 to the Technical University in Trondheim, Norway. The recordings below were made by Marianne Ploger on this piano just before it was shipped to Norway.
My goal now is to do everything in my power to encourage a return again to a sane, meaningful, highly expressive, masterful way of playing great music and creating great art. It is to this end that my instrument making is dedicated.
I have posted an article I wrote some years ago titled "The Art of Listening" in which I explain my understanding of the nature of what it means to listen...not merely hear. You can read this article by clicking on the ARTICLES button under the main heading of this page and selecting the specific page. I wrote "The Art of Listening" as a chapter in my "Treatise on the True Art of Musical Instrument Making" but was told that my view on the business of listening had no place in my Treatise, so I removed it even though I disagreed with the few readers who thought it best not to reveal how I listen. I hope you enjoy reading it and that it reveals something that will help you improve your own skill of listening.