At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clavichord a wiki author quotes from John Mainwaring:s biography of Handel:

From his very childhood Handel had discovered such a strong propensity to Music, that his father, who always intended him for the study of the Civil Law, had reason to be alarmed. Perceiving that this inclination still increased, he took every method to oppose it. He strictly forbad him to meddle with any musical instrument; nothing of that kind was suffered to remain in the house, nor was he ever permitted to go to any other, where such kind of furniture was in use. All this caution and art, instead of restraining, did but augment his passion. He had found means to get a little clavichord privately convey’d to a room at the top of the house. To this room he constantly stole when the family was asleep. He had made some progress before Music had been prohibited, and by his assiduous practice at hours of rest, had made such farther advances, as, tho’ not attended to at that time, were no slight prognostications of his future greatness.

I get two interesting facts from this: first is that families have been banning their children from making music for a very long time, and second is that there have been portable keyboard instruments available since the days of the Baroque.

I imagine the clavichord as the 17th and 18th century equivalent of the Casio and Yamaha portable keyboards of my childhood, something you can take almost anywhere and play in soft solitude at any hour of the day or night to scratchpad compose or pass the time. I read this because I wondered if clavichords, virginals, harpsichords and such required a different touch than a piano (the answer I found is “yes.”)

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