Foreign harps

The Kaiser harp

Not to scale

Also known as the Brussels harp

Dated perhaps to the 16th century

Kept at the Musée des Instruments de Musique, Brussels.

"Baroque Italian" design;
53 strings (30 in main rank), longest ?133.5cm

This instrument has a label with the name 'Martinus Kaiser' and the date 1675 but this may be a later repair; it could be from before 1600. The harp has two parallel rows of strings, to provide diatonic and chromatic notes, and each string has a buzzing bray pin to produce a growling, nasal tone. There is evidence that the stringing configuration was changed at least once as there are blocked up pin holes in the neck.

Further reading: The construction of an accurate replica of this instrument was desribed by Robert Hadaway, 'The Re-creation of an Italian Renaissance Harp', Early Music vol 8, no.1, Jan 1980, and follow-up letters in vol.8 no.4 (Oct 1980) and vol.9 no.3 (July 1981).

Simon Chadwick