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date: 08 December 2019

Bas, Louis locked

  • Anne Beetem Acker


(flc1780–90). French keyboard instrument maker. Little is known about him; possibly he was related to the harpsichord builder Jean Bas of Marseille. A grand piano (1781, US.V.n) by Louis Bas, the earliest known French grand (excepting Johann Heinrich Silbermann’s from Strasbourg), is inscribed ‘Villeneuve lès Avignon’ on its interior. Inscriptions on two spinets seem to indicate that he worked in Marseille in 1783 and Lyon in 1786. The 1781 grand is double strung throughout, has a compass of F″–g, a painted case (later stripped), and an ornately decorated soundboard like a contemporary French harpsichord’s. At one time the piano apparently had dampers (now missing) held in upper and lower guides like those of a harpsichord. Damper and una corda effects were controlled by knee levers or pedals (missing). Its inverted wrestplank and action resemble those by Cristofori, but with significant differences: the keys are guided by end pins that move in a slotted rack; the pearwood escapement jacks looks like harpsichord jacks but with the top shaped into a T, and they are mounted in holders attached to the key levers with threaded iron wire; the action lacks a check. The treble is scaled for iron strings similarly to Silbermann pianos but has a strike point much closer to the nut, producing a brighter tone. These features point to a Cristofori influence that might have arrived in France via Silbermann....

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