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date: 19 October 2019

Chekker (Fr. archiquier, eschaquier, eschiquier; Ger. Schachtbrett; Lat. scacarum, scacatorum; Sp. eschaquer, scaquer)locked

  • Denzil Wraight

Extract

(Fr. archiquier, eschaquier, eschiquier; Ger. Schachtbrett; Lat. scacarum, scacatorum; Sp. eschaquer, scaquer)

The earliest term used in archives and other writings to denote a string keyboard instrument. Its exact meaning is still the subject of debate and research, but it is probable that most references are to a clavichord. There appears to be no Italian equivalent of the name; Farmer suggested that it is derived from the Arabic ‘al-shaqira’ and tentatively identified this as a virginal, but there is no supporting evidence. Some writers identified the chekker as an upright harpsichord (i.e. a Clavicytherium), since a letter written to Juan I of Aragon in 1388 referred to ‘an instrument seeming like organs, that sounds with strings’, but the instrument was not named. Galpin (Grove4, suppl.) believed that the Dulce melos described by Arnaut de Zwolle (c1440) was identical with the chekker. However, instruments with hammer action, such as the dulce melos, appear to have been rare, whereas the name ‘chekker’ appears frequently, and there is no evidence to support this identification. Galpin further suggested that the chekker’s name was derived from the fact that the action was ‘checked’, in the sense that the motion of its keys was stopped by a fixed rail; this is unconvincing and could in any case apply to a clavichord, a harpsichord or a virginal. These suggestions can therefore be disregarded....

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H. C. Colles, ed.: A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (4/1940)
Galpin Society Journal
Early Music