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tool : Virginel

VORGINEL (English virginal, French. Virginale) - a string keyboard instrument. The name may be related to the popularity of the instrument among women - music lovers (lat. Virgo - woman), possibly comes from the Latin word virgnla - wand. There is evidence that this term, similar to “clavier” in Germany and “champagne” in Italy, has become collective for all keyboard string instruments - not only rectangular, but also wing-shaped, like a harpsichord.

It is a genus of small harpsichord; by the principle of the device and the manner of sound extraction, the virginal was one of the predecessors of the piano. They usually made it in a rectangular shape, most often without legs and with one manual (keyboard).

There was one string for each sound; the strings were located diagonally (from left to right). The case, as a rule, was richly decorated with inlays and paintings. The range did not exceed four octaves. During the game, vaginel without legs was placed on the table.

The sound of a virginiel is weaker than the harpsichord, but louder than that of a spinet. There were two types of virginel: in the most common keyboard, it was located to the right of the center of the side of the case facing the performer, the strings were plucked closer to the middle, the sound was deaf; in the other, the keyboard was located on the left side of the center, and the strings were plucked closer to the edge, which made the sound more delicate and silvery, and its timbre was distinguished by softness, tenderness and muffled coloring, which brought it closer to the harp and lute.

Thus, the method of sound extraction on the virginel was carried out using a special rod from a crow feather or a leather plectrum, which clung the desired string when pressing a key.

The so-called “double” virginels (English double virginal, German Doppel-Virginal) were also made, which were a combination of two of the same type of virginels or one ordinary and the second smaller, tuned by the octave above. On such an instrument could play as one performer, and two (4 hands).

Small “octave vanguels” were also found as an independent tool (their keyboard occupied the entire front side of the case).

In the 16-17th centuries. Virginel was widely distributed in the Netherlands (the well-known firm "Rukkers") and in England among music lovers and professionals as a tool for home music making. He gave the name of one of the most brilliant pages in the history of English music, and rich musical literature was created for him. The largest vaginalists were W. Byrd, J. Bull, J. Farnaby and others. What they created for the virginal and generally for the harpsichord, is still of lasting importance.

Elizabethan English virgin music is called the first golden age of keyboard music. By the way, Queen Elizabeth I herself loved this instrument very much. We have heard a lot of evidence of her exceptional musicality. Charles Burney, the greatest English music historian, stated: “If she could play all the pieces from the Fitzwilliam Virgin Book, she must have been a very good performer, since these plays are so difficult that there is hardly a master in Europe who dares to play at least one of them without teaching her for a month. ”

And here is the judgment of Elizabeth’s contemporary, Sir James Melville, the envoy of Queen Mary of Scotland at the English court: “After lunch, Lord Huntsden carried me along with him to a quiet gallery where I could hear the Queen playing the Virginia. I froze, admiring her game ... ".
In the 18th century The virginel was also popular in Germany, where it received the name "Jungfern- und Frauenzimmer-Clavier" ("Room Clavier for Girls and Women").

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