Virtual Vincenzo ™ – A Re-Creation of Sonic History
The Virtual Vincenzo is Sound Gallery’s digital restoration project of a rare harpsichord built in Italy in 1782 by master craftsman Vincenzio Sodi of Florence.
The actual instrument is on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter (RAMM).
In 1975 Decca made a vinyl recording of a collection of Scarlatti’s sonatas played by renowned harpsichordist and fortepianist Colin Tinley. The harpsichord used for this recording was built in Florence in 1782 by master craftsman Vincenzio Sodi and was made available by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, where it is displayed as part of the museums’s collection.
In 2002, creative director and recording artist Grice Peters from Exeter-based arts organisation Sound Gallery, was informed by a close musician friend and Scarlatti enthusiast, about the harpsichord which was featured on the DECCA vinyl record sleeve and intrigued by the instrument, he went to the museum and asked to see where it was displayed.
He was informed by the curator that the instrument was not on display and it was stored in the basement as it was deemed unplayable by experts following a crack on its soundboard after being exposed to heat and temperature fluctuations within the museum.
Prior to that, the Vincenzo Sodi harpsichord was proudly displayed and utilised by the museum for concerts and music events.
After acquiring permission by the Museum’s curator, Grice Peters assisted by sound engineer Paul Bateman, were able to digitally record all the working notes from the harpsichord. They then re-created the entire keyboard with the aid of the latest computer and MIDI technology.
The sampled notes were then transferred to a MIDI controlled master keyboard with an aim to make it playable again in its digitised format and make it heard by the public thus providing access to this important instrument. The Virtual Vincenzo was born.
In 2011, when the RAMM re-opened after a refurbishment project of the whole building, the actual harpsichord was displayed for the first time in public after 35 years being in storage.
Sadly, Sound Gallery’s digital installation project, the Virtual Vincenzo, which aimed to make the sound of this unique instrument accessible by the general public, and was discussed during a meeting between the Friends of Exeter Museums & Art Gallery (FEMAG) and Sound Gallery’s creative team, was not included as part of the display of the physical instrument.
The Vincenzo Sodi harpsichord, known for its highly individual timbre and fine construction is by all accounts one of the most authentic instruments surviving and very much in keeping with the instrument that Domenico Scarlatti would have been composing on for the late queen of Spain Maria Barbara. Vincenzio Sodi is considered to be the last notorious Italian maker of harpsichords.
Since then, the team at Sound Gallery Studios has developed a fully working keyboard which has been used in installations, music industry events, liver performances and recordings.
The Virtual Vincenzo keyboard instruments has also been exhibited at the State of the Arts event at Exeter Phoenix in 2005, the Big Bang show at Exeter University on 28th June and the Devon School mix on 27th June 2013, ‘New Works for Lost Voices’ live performance in 2006 at Exeter Phoenix main auditorium and The Analogue to Digital Expo in 2011 and 2012.
As a virtual instrument in its own right, the Virtual Vincenzo has received enthusiastic support from music instrument collections, curators and European music instrument museums, collectors, curators and harpsichord players and enthusiasts from around the world.
Virtual Vincenzo – A sonic renaissance
Vincenzio Sodi harpsichord (1782) Decca recording & notes by Colin Tilney
Research notes from the RAMM archive and international papers and experts
international links & contributors
The creative team and project contributors
DIGITAL RESTORATION & the future
The Virtual Vincenzo midi keyboard & practical applications.