David Catalunya has conducted several research projects on Gothic organs, bells and strung keyboard instruments in collaboration with different instrument makers (Philipe Humeau, Paul Poletti, Etienne Fouss, Walter Chinaglia).


The hammered clavisimbalum (2012) is one of the most recent and innovative organologic projects, carried out by David Catalunya in collaboration with Paul Poletti.


Historical evidence shows that strung keyboard instruments were quite popular in the second half of the fourteenth century and in the fifteenth century. Chief among these sources is Arnaut de Zwolle’s well-known treatise (ca. 1440), which describes a number of different instrument layouts, as well as two different harpsichord-like plucking actions, a clavichord-like tangent action, and a simplistic piano-like hammered action. Arnaut’s text has provided a great source of inspiration for modern craftsmen wishing to recreate such instruments, given the relatively high degree of detail it provides.


The purpose of Catalunya’s and Poletti’s reconstruction project was to explore the territory beyond Arnaut, with the ultimate aim of imagining a design for a hammered keyboard instrument within the confines of medieval musical instrument making. This sort of late-medieval pianoforte, or ‘mechanized psaltery’, as the sources from the period describe it, is able to produce a wide range of dynamics thus proving the 14th- and 15th-century keyboard music with an unsuspected dimension of expressivity and refinement. The organologic research was published in the Journal of the Alamire Foundation 2012 (Brepols Publishers).


Listen to the hammered clavisimbalum - recordings by France Musique

CD Recordings

Le chant de l'eschiqier | Dufay and Binchois songs in the Buxheim Codex

Tasto Solo

Label: Passacaille © 2016. Catalogue number: PAS1012.

Meyster ob allen meystern | Conrad Paumann and the 15th-Century German Keyboard School
Tasto Solo
Label: Passacaille & Musica Vera © 2009. Catalogue number: PAS950.

Faventina | The Liturgical Music of Codex Faenza 117 (1380-1420)
Mala Punica
Label: Ambrosie © 2007. Catalogue number: AM105. 

Spinato intorno al cor | Zacara da Teramo

Label: Lawo Classics. Catalogue number: LWC1026.


Photo Gallery

Hammered Clavisimbalum Paul Poletti 2012

Plectrum Clavisimbalum Philippe Humeau 2003