Reference Entry


James Holland, Blades James and Anne Beetem Acker

in Oxford Music Online

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(Fr. céleste).

A keyboard idiophone in the form of a small upright piano, patented by Charles Victor Mustel (b Le Havre, 13 June 1815; d Paris, 25 June 1890) in 1886. His son Victor (Auguste) Mustel (b Le Havre, 1842; d Paris, 1919), a harmonium maker, is frequently credited with the invention, and they likely collaborated. Metal plates (usually steel) suspended over resonating boxes are struck by hammers from above and have dampers that can be raised or lowered as in a piano. Mustel’s celesta was probably inspired by the typophone for which Charles received a patent in 1866, and the dulcitone invented by Thomas Machel (1841–1915). In the typophone a series of tuning forks is sounded by means of a keyboard and upright piano action.

As an orchestral instrument the celesta is normally played by the keyboard player (the part written as for the piano, but an octave below sounding pitch), though some composers include it in the percussion parts. Ernest Chausson was one of the first to use it (...

Reference Entry.  327 words. 

Subjects: Music

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