Abstracts of issue 7-8 (1989)

Katy Romanou

Greek Keyboard Instruments

Since the last decades of the nineteenth century keyboard instruments capable of playing in the intonation of traditional Greek music were considered by various Greek musicians indispensable in music instruction. It was thought that this was the only means left to protect the sense of Greek musicians from the overwhelming influence of Western music and the equally tempered scale.
Today we are able to describe with relative accuracy two among the various instruments constructed to that end: the Ioakimion Psalterion, designed by a Committee created in the Great Church and built in Constantinople in 1882, and the Evion Panharmonion, designed by K. Psachos in Athens and built by Steinmeyer in Oettingen, in 1924.
The Ioakimion Psalterion had an organ mechanism. The largest of the three instruments constructed by Steinmeyer on Psachos designs was also an organ. The other two were harmoniums, one of which is kept today in Hestia Neas Smyrnis in Athens.
In the Ioakimion Psalterion the octave was equally divided in 36 minimum intervals, limited by the all white keys of the keyboard. Over the keys was adapted a sliding ruler (Canon) with buttons, the disposition of which represented the diatonic scale (consisting of two equal disjunct tetrachords). By sliding the canon over the keyboard and playing on the buttons, the scale was transposed to whatever pitch wished. On the Evion Panharmonion the 42 pitches within the octave correspond to 42 keys placed within the span of a piano octave. The succeeding intervals are different to each other and there are not even equally divided tetrachords in one octave. Comparing the intervals produced by the two instruments, it is observed that the psalterion has considerable similarities to equal temperament the influence of which it was wished to resist though Psachos instrument is related, for the most, to pure intonation.