Welcome to

Friends of Square Pianos!

This is a sort of on-line club for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano, or possibly a spinet. Or anyone who is just interested, possibly to learn a little more.

 

Please get in touch with me, David, on friends.sp@btinternet.com with questions, comments, or just to say 'Hello'.  This is a site for everyone, especially those new to the world of Square Pianos.  And of course, we very much appreciate the support of those with more experience.

 

Update 17th June 2017

 

1852 Broadwood  Sold

Piano Auctions Sale June 22nd, and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos June 21st.

 

Spinet Day at Chelveston 8th April

Update to Report

 

Piano Auctions Sale June 22nd, and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos June 21st.

   For various reasons, including the unusually hot weather, there was just a small turnout at our informal gathering of Friends of Square Pianos on Wednesday 21st June. 

 

   There were no square pianos in the auction this time, but there were several items of interest.

 

Lot 34 was a spinet by Tony Hammant (c. 1980).  

  This one did need a little attention, so we could not really judge the sound.  Very much in the typical English style; five octaves GG - g3.  Against an estimate of £400 - £600, the hammer fell at just £100.  

 

  Next is a complete contrast - a historically very important 'early revival' harpsichord by Pleyel, made around 1906, the era of Dolmetsch and Landowska.  These 'modern' harpsichords are very much out of favour these days, but they were beautifully made and an important part of musical history.  This one was reconditioned about ten years ago, which is probably a good thing in view of the complexity of the mechanism.  

   The thinking behind the 'Revival' harpsichords makes a truly fascinating study, and Wolfgang Zuckermann's 1970 book is well worth reading.  This early example by Pleyel is fairly typical in having a piano-style frame with an open bottom, although not yet a metal frame.  The early Revival makers were obsessed with perceived tuning instability, and although simple iron pins whacked into a wooden plank were good enough for Steinway et al for big pianos, the innovations in tuning systems pioneered by Pleyel were remarkable, and have to represent a triumph of ingenuity over common sense.  This early example uses a two-stage tuning mechanism that I have never seen before.  

  The top surface of the wrestplank is made of metal.  Each 'wrestpin' is in three parts, consisting of a sort of shoe. which is held down (adjustably), by a short screwed square-headed on the part nearer to the player.  The front of this shoe engages in a shallow rebate in the metal surface, allowing the shoe to rotate to a limited extent under the control of the screw.  The part of the shoe further away fom the player has a plain socket with a serrated 'ratchet' top.   The third component of each unit is a short square-headed pin with a serrated collar that engages the ratchet in the shoe.  In the picture above, one of these pins has been temporarially removed (courtesy of a broken string!) and is resting on its neighbours.  The picture below shows the detail of this part.

(To be continued tomorrow...)

 This one did rather better than the estimate of £2,000 - £3,000, achieving £4,000 hammer-price (£4960 total).

 

Also by Pleyel (c. 1930) is this magnificent double grand piano, recalling the 'vis-a-vis' instruments of Stein.  

  Two pianos for the price of one!  And if you have enough friends, you could give a totally different meaning to the term 'piano quartet'.  

 

  This splendid piano is 9' 6" long, in a limed oak case.  It was formerly owned by André Malraux, novelist, art historian, and statesman.  It was last sold in 994 at auction at Poulain le Fur.

 

  Possibly not the most practical of instruments, and it was unsold (estimate £30,000 - £50,000).   

A Fine 'Late' Broadwood - Sold

This magnificent 6¾-octave 1852 Broadwood needs to find a home urgently, hence it is being offered at a bargain price.  Please see the Sale Page for details.  Truly a 'Square Grand'!

 Many of us remember Roy Knowles, who died recently in his 93rd year. In the early 1970s he worked on Broadwood pianos with Alastair Laurence, and shortly afterwards became a full-time restorer.

 

  Amongst other activities, he carried out the work on Broadwood square piano N° 8119, the subject of the excellent book 'Mrs Findlay's Broadwood Square Piano'  (Michael Hannon, 2015).

 

  Of all the pianos he worked on, he kept this Samuel Bury instrument for himself, and it is now SOLD.

New CD from Patrick Hawkins

There are not many recordings featuring square pianos, and we are happy to welcome a new one from our Friend Patrick Hawkins.
 
"The CD is GS001: Golden Square Records
This is a premiere recording of three sonatas by Giovanni Antonio Matielli (1733-1805). Matielli was a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart in Vienna and his music was highly regarded by Gluck. For the recording, I wanted to feature various square pianos from the time of the music, so you will hear three different squares: Johannes Broadwood (1787), Longman, Clementi and Co. (1799), and Christopher Ganer (c. 1785-90). The first two pianos are in the collection of Tom and Debra Strange and the Ganer square is mine. The Ganer was restored by Michael Cole." 
 
Details of other Friends' Recordings are on the page of that name.

Spinet Day at Chelveston, 8th April

 

  On a glorious spring day, a group of 29 of us gathered in Chelveston for a very enjoyable Spinet Day.  Good company, good food, and good music.  And an assembly of ten spinets, dating from 1704 to 2015.  What more could we ask?  

  A report is on the Spinet Day page.  This includes PDF downloads of the two talks.

Making a Spinet

  Some of you may have been following the construction - starting from a pile of wood - of this replica of a remarkable and important instrument.  The spinet is now complete and playing well, and has gone to its new home in Scotland.    

 Please see the Spinet Page for the story.

The Spinet Page

  We all love those beautiful English Spinets, and now they have a Page of their own, where I hope to encourage interest, ownership, and amateur makers.

Square Piano Tech

Please take time to visit our sister website www.squarepianotech.com  This is run by our Friend Tom Strange in America, and is rapidly growing into a treasure-store of permanent wisdom.  

About the 'Webmaster' (David Hackett)

My only claim to respectability is that Carl Dolmetsch once offered to take me on as an apprentice.  This was in 1962, when I had just shown him my first clavichord, and been his guest at Haslemere.  However, he also advised me that it would be better to go to University, and I accepted his advice.  Early Keyboard Instruments have therefore remained a hobby, and now happily retired, I am able to spend a bit more time enjoying them - and encouraging others, I hope..

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© David Hackett