The English harpsichordist, clavichordist and maker of historical keyboard instruments, Derek Adlam, studied at the Guildhall School of Music from 1956 to 1960 (AGSM, Piano Performer; GGSM, School Music). His teachers traced their musical ancestry to European traditions established by Carl Czerny, Franz Liszt and Clara Schumann. As a child he was, however, drawn instinctively to the ancestors of the modern piano. Neglected spinets and strangely shaped pianos with haunting, ghostly sounds possessed a magical appeal. This attraction remained strong, and while a student he began to play the harpsichord. He also began to explore the musical possibilities offered by the early piano.
After 5 years of teaching music subjects, Derek Adlam became involved in restoration of early keyboards, particularly the fortepiano. With the encouragement of his friends, he began his first experiments in the restoration of an antique fortepiano. A chance encounter with C. F. Coltís great keyboard instrument collection in Kent was a turning point. With the benefit of Mr Coltís critical eye and ear, and working with a gifted cabinet-maker, Derek Adlam eventually became in 1970 curator-restorer of the collection. At about this time he recorded the complete Bach Partitas on the harpsichord for Oryx. This received critical acclaim, The Gramophone pointing out that it was the first time these great works had been recorded on the harpsichord. In 1969 he first began the construction of new, Ďoldí instruments with a virginal based on an Antwerp muselar of 1611 by Ioannes Ruckers. This was premiered by Colin Tilney in a recital of English renaissance music at the Purcell Room, London.
During these years of development, interest in early music was expanding rapidly. This movement had received a strong impetus after the World War II. After years of destruction and confusion, baroque music especially seemed to offer order, clarity and beauty. To some extent, it was an anti-establishment movement providing a platform for young talent turning away from long held tastes and opinions, and the 19th-century symphonic tradition.
In 1971, Derek Adlam moved to Finchcocks in Kent. There, in partnership with fortepianist Richard Burnett, a thriving instrument making workshop was set up alongside a public museum of playable harpsichords, fortepianos, clavichords and organs. The workshop produced many restorations and new instruments for professional players, museums and teaching institutions. Today, these are in use around the world. This operation existed until 1980.
In 1982, Derek Adlam moved to Welbeck in Nottinghamshire to the Harley Foundationís newly opened art and craft workshops. He became involved with the Foundationís charitable work, and until 1999 supervised many of its artistic developments, including the building of a public art Gallery at Welbeck. Although no longer building instruments, he continues to perform, principally on the clavichord, and has given recitals in the UK, many European countries and the USA.
Derek Adlam is President of the British Clavichord Society. Publications: Chapter: The Anatomy of the Piano in the Book of the Piano (1981). Contributor to: Early Music Magazine; The New Grove. Honour: Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship. Hobbies: Fine Arts.