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Celesta Schiedmayer mechanism

File:Чайковский Танец Феи Драже из балета Щелкунчик.webm

Celesta Schiedmayer mechanism 2
Celesta Schiedmayer Studio open backview

Celesta is a musical instrument that belongs to the keyboard family. The instrument is known for its unique, celestial sound, which is produced by hammers striking metal plates or bars, connected to a keyboard. The celesta's sound is often described as ethereal or heavenly, which is fitting given its name derives from the French word céleste, meaning "heavenly". The instrument has a range that is similar to that of the piano, but its mechanism and sound production are more akin to those of the glockenspiel.

History[edit | edit source]

The celesta was invented in 1886 by Parisian harmonium builder Auguste Mustel. His invention was a culmination of experiments in keyboard percussion instruments, building upon the earlier development of the typophone by his father, Victor Mustel. The celesta quickly gained popularity among composers for its distinctive timbre and expressive capabilities.

Construction and Mechanism[edit | edit source]

A typical celesta looks similar to a small upright piano, but instead of strings, it contains metal plates or bars. These are struck by felt-covered hammers when the keys are pressed. The plates or bars are suspended over wooden resonators to amplify their sound. The instrument's range is usually about four to five octaves. Modern celestas can have a pedal mechanism similar to that of a piano, allowing for sustained notes.

Use in Music[edit | edit source]

The celesta has been employed in various musical genres, but it is most commonly found in classical music. It gained widespread recognition after Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky used it in his Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker suite, showcasing its magical and delicate sound. Since then, many other composers, such as Gustav Mahler, Claude Debussy, and Dmitri Shostakovich, have incorporated the celesta into their works.

In addition to classical music, the celesta has been used in film scores, jazz, and even pop music. Its distinctive sound often evokes a sense of wonder and has been used to add texture and atmosphere in various musical contexts.

Notable Works Featuring the Celesta[edit | edit source]

- Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6 by Gustav Mahler - The Planets by Gustav Holst, particularly in the movement Neptune, the Mystic - Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy (in orchestral arrangements)

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The celesta remains a unique and enchanting instrument, capable of adding a magical touch to music. Its heavenly sound continues to inspire composers and musicians, making it a cherished addition to the orchestral and solo repertoire.


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD