C. F. Lehmann’s ”Musical Cabinet”
The restoration of the large rococo item of furniture “Lehmann’s Musical Cabinet”, produced by C. F. Lehmann in 1757, has led to a fascinating research collaboration with Curator Ture Bergstrøm from The Museum of Music/The National Museum of Denmark, in order to find and recreate the music which the cabinet played in the mid-1700s.
Conservation Technician Tom Feilberg and Ture Bergstrøm have developed a system for decoding the cabinet’s musical cylinders, as the mechanism was so damaged that it couldn’t be recreated without the loss of important musicological information. On the cylinder for the trumpet piece, which is controlled by a hidden clock (with striking mechanism), there are 7 fanfares, and in the large musical box, which works with two synchronously rotating cylinders, there are 14 pieces of music for flute and cembalo. All the cylinders have been digitally measured and decoded with a laser camera. The results have been corrected in relation to measurable errors in the cylinders, for example ovality, crooked pins, and cracks in the wood. After this the results were converted into digital sound files, which thus revealed music which hadn’t been heard since the time of Frederik V. Following conversion into actual music, it has been possible, using the soundscape, to correct mistakes which had not been measurable.
The final step in the process was to have professional sound recordings made of everything in the musical box which originally made a sound. The flautist Winnie Bugge Frendsen has played all 24 flutes, and the organ builders Frobenius have sounded all the organ pipes (the trumpets). Sound engineer Simon Tamdrup made all the recordings, including of the striking mechanism’s clock and all sorts sounds made by the mechanism. The cembalo is missing but the notes are known. Using the tuning of the flute (the concert pitch = 413 Hz) Simon Tamdrup has retuned recordings of a contemporary cembalo from southern Germany, so that this sound is also convincing.
All of these recordings have now been sampled into the decoding of the cylinders, so that it is possible to recreate the original soundscape of “Lehmann’s Musical Cabinet”. The music and the coding work were presented at an international congress for musicologists on 28 August (CIMCIM Conference 2014).
Ture Bergstrøm subsequently described the research project in “The Galpin Society Journal” in an article entitled “The Music of the C. F. Lehmann Kunstschrank at Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen”. In this article the music is described in detail in the context of musicology with reference to the audio examples below.
In all 21 pieces of music – including 14 recreated from the flute mechanism and 7 recreated from the trumpet mechanism – can be enjoyed in three different versions using the links below:
Christian Friedrich Lehmann
Master carpenter Christian Friedrich Lehmann has until recently been a relatively unknown figure in the history of Danish furniture. In connection with the special exhibition, curator Jørgen Hein has completed a number of investigations through which it has been possible to partially reconstruct Lehmann’s activities in Copenhagen. Lehmann came from the region around Berlin and worked as a cabinetmaker at the Danish court from 1755-66. Lehmann’s career ended abruptly after he fell out of favour with the court architect N-H Jardin. This was in many ways tragic for Danish furniture making, as Lehmann is considered the most important cabinetmaker of the 18th century. He only managed to deliver around 10 to 20 items of furniture in all, and thus didn’t make a significant impression or form a school. Lehmann’s workshop was in the Life Guard’s quarters at Christiansborg Palace, where we today find the square in front of Thorvaldsen’s Museum. In 1762 Lehmann had 14 assistants in his workshop.
Lehmann’s Large Musical Cabinet
The four metre high musical cabinet is not simply the most impressive example of the craft of furniture making made in Denmark in the 18th century; it also has a built in “music machine” with a mini orchestra. Frederik V was able to impress and enchant his guests in the golden dining room at Christiansborg Palace with the cabinet’s automated trumpet, flute, and cembalo mechanism. Every half hour a bell in the cabinet chimed, after which the finest music in the form of a trumpet fanfare played; the cabinet also played a piece for flutes and cembalos every hour. There was a choice of 14 different pieces for flute, and 7 pieces for trumpet. The cabinet is evidence of extravagant spending, and the price of 6,560 rigsdaler was the equivalent of buying a small palace. Frederik V ordered the piece himself in 1755, and it was already finished two years later. At that time Denmark was a major power, and it was important to display one’s wealth and position. With the cabinet’s virtuoso craftsmanship, noble varieties of wood, lavish gilt bronze fittings, and enormous size, nobody could be in any doubt about the king’s capabilities. Guests at the palace could also let themselves be enthralled by the fact that the court followed the newest fashions; the cabinet was made in the wildest and most advanced form of rococo. Simultaneously, the cabinet exemplified the age’s interest in mechanics. It was before the industrial revolution and there was a great fascination with machines and mechanics, which is for example known from clocks of the time. Automated objects were the preserve of the few, and pure mechanical art in a fantastic guise like the large musical cabinet’s exterior was worthy of a king. The cabinet was in every way a showpiece.