Friends of Square Pianos!
This is a website for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano, or possibly a spinet. Or anyone who is just interested, and would like to learn a little more.
Please get in touch with me, David, on email@example.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 18th August
Jane Austen and her Broadwood
Broadwood 1819 for Sale
Dolmetsch Clavichord Sold
Spinet by William Hewet
Making A 5-voet Muselaar
Jane Austen and her Broadwood
It's always good to hear news when something has worked out well. This handsome 1812 Broadwood was sold a little while ago through this website, and the new owners are using it to perform pieces from Jane's music book in authentic style. This is not her own piano, of course - we don't know exactly what that was - but it is a Broadwood that she writes about in 'Emma'.
Please click on the image above to hear one of Jane's favourite pieces played by Ros Oswald (perhaps the tune might surprise you) and don't miss the beautiful cat and the dog!)
Broadwood 1819 for Sale
This piano has been partly restored, and just needs a set of new strings and the work to be completed. Please see the Sale Page for details
Bates & Co 1793 - Sold
'Bates & Co' was the first of several names to occupy the address at the corner of Edward Street and Wardour Street at the end of the eighteenth century. The business was very soon taken over by Houston & Co. This piano is number 108, the earliest of seven Bates pianos known to us. Restored by Jean Maurer about fifteen years ago, it is now offered for sale. Please see the Sale Page for Details.
Dolmetsch Clavichord Sold
Arnold Dolmetsch was the leading pioneer of the revival of interest in early music in Britain, and he is remembered especially for his love of clavichords. He had made several examples before the dawn of the twentieth century, and the workshop in Haslemere went on to produce them commercially. Please see the Sale Page for details of this four-octave example.
Spinet by William Hewet
There's always something 'New'. Many of us will have been keeping an eye on the spinet that came up for auction on August 12th at Criterion Auctions, Islington. It was clearly an early spinet, showing the influence of John Player. Chris Nobbs was the first to identify William Hewet as an apprentice to Player, achieving his freedom of the Joiners' Company in November 1687. As the spinet carries his name, we may assume that it was made after that date. It is notable that it does not have the divided C#and D# keys of the broken octave, and that the compass, although apparently up to d''', was originally just to c'''.
It was an attractive little spinet, with a beautiful nameboard, but closer inspection did reveal considerable complications for any possible future restoration. It did raise again the question of whether it is sometimes better to leave these rare survivals as they are, as an historical record of all they have been through. Once this is disturbed, it is lost for ever.
As expected, this spinet attracted considerable interest, and was sold for a hammer price of £5,500 (nearly £7,000 including costs).
I wonder if we will ever see another spinet by William Hewet?
Broadwood & Son 1794 Sold
These five-octave Broadwoods with the early straight brass under-dampers are my favourite square pianos, as everybody knows by now. We are happy to feature an unusually fine example for sale - the handsome satinwood and mahogany veneer extends to the back of the piano, so that it would look elegant in the centre of a room. Please see the Sale Page for details.
A 5-voet Muselaar
As in many European cities and states, the unit of length in Antwerp was the foot (voet). This was supposed to be the length of a man's foot, but mine are nowhere near that big. The smaller unit was based on the length of a man's thumb, an inch in English (but mine are bigger than that). In the Netherlands, this was more logically called a duim. Now the Antwerp voet was not quite as big as the English foot, but fairly near. However, the Antwerp duim was a bit more than an inch, so there were only eleven to the voet. Flanders, of course, was different, and the Flemish voet (not the same as the Antwerp voet) contained twelve duimen. All clear?
I have always loved the sound of the muselaar, a kind of virginal favoured by Ruckers and others. It's special feature is that the strings are plucked near to their centres, which gives the instrument a rather solemn tone, with a booming bass. Although popular in the seventeenth century, there are not many about these days, so I thought I would make one.
Now we see the relevance of all that about thumbs and feet. The basic model of Ruckers virginal, at standard pitch (whatever that was) was called the 6-voet. Nearly six of our English feet. Sadly, the simple fact is that I haven't got enough space for one in my little 'music room', so the answer was to go for the next size down, the 5-voet. These were tuned a whole tone above standard pitch. However, they say that with brass stringing throughout, a good sound is achieved at a lower pitch.
Construction has just started, and if anyone is interested I'll be happy to maintain a 'real-time' log of progress on a separate page, as I have done for 'Making a Spinet' on the Spinet Page. All being well, I hope to have the muselaar ready for our party 'Chelveston 2020' on April 17/18.
The Lasting Benefits of a
This lovely 1801 Broadwood was expertly restored by David Hunt in 1991. He has kept in touch with the owner, and a few days ago paid a return visit to it. He writes:
Broadwood Square Piano No 5956 of 1801 - visit 16th July 2019. After a very comprehensive restoration in 1991, I was very pleased to find it still in excellent playing condition and very surprisingly only slightly below the design pitch of A415. Structurally it shows no signs of any problems and the soundboard is good. I have given it two tunings, pulling it up slightly, and checked all dampers, which are all working well. I had forgotten what a very original instrument it is and what a good sound its very old (original?) hammer covers make.
The piano is now for sale at a price of £3,000. This is rather more than most of the pianos offered for sale, but they usually need extensive restoration. A full professional job could easily cost between £4,000 and £6,000, without taking into condsideration the complications of logistics and time. Also consider that this is a very desirable piano anyway, and a buyer has the opportunity to hear what it sounds like. So the asking price is surely very attractive when we consider what will not need to be spent after purchase,
The other point is that if a piano is really well restored, the benefits will last for many years.
Details of this one on the Sale Page.
New Page! Spinets, Harpsichords, and Clavichords For Sale
Welcome to this new page, specially for the 'Older Keyboard Instruments'. In contrast to square pianos, there are relatively few original older instruments about, So although we will be happy to welcome Originals, most of the instruments on these pages will be replicas or 'Revival' instruments.
We start the listings on this dedicated page with a 1975 Clavichord, very neatly built by John Kilpatrick from one of the the much-missed John Storrs kits. Please see the Sale Page for full details of this attractive instrument.
Also on the Page, the Zuckerman virginals at a reduced price.
"The Road to Goya"
Eighteenth-Century Spanish Piano Music
on a 1780 Ganer Square Piano
There are not many available recordings of square pianos, so it's always good news to hear of a new release. The talented young pianist Naruhiko Kawaguchi has just recorded an album of eighteenth-century Spanish piano music, and we may now hear it on Youtube
Six of the tracks (4,5,6,7,9, and 10) are played on a 1780 Ganer piano, owned by and restored by Olaf van Hees.
The UK Ivory Bill - latest news
As we said some time ago, the Act of Parliament which prohibits the sale of ivory, with limited exceptions ( notably pre-1975 musical instruments) received the Royal Assent in December 2018 and is now law. It just remains for it to be 'implemented' before it will be enforced. Apparently, this means that the Bill must be 'Laid before Parliament', but Parliament must have other things on its mind, and nothing has happened yet. So the expected implementation date which was 'the second half of the year' is now 'the end of the year'.
After the implementation date, any keyboard instrument with an ivory keyboard will need to be registered to receive an exemption before it can legally be offered for sale, sold, or bought within the UK. It will not be possible to register instruments made after 1st January 1975.
Please remember also that if and when the UK leaves the EC, all instruments cotaining ivory (and some other materials such as rosewood) will need CITES certification before they can be exported anywhere.
The Zumpe & Buntebart Piano of the
Museu de la Musica de Barcelona
This is the first book solely devoted to Zumpe and Buntebart, and is written around one piano in particular. Unusually, it has three authors, Pablo Gomez Abalos (historian and pianist), Michael Cole (technical expert and historian), and Kerstin Schwarz (restorer).
Please see the Bookshelf Page for a review, and details of how to order the book.
The Keene & Brackley Spinet
After spending some time in Chelveston for rebuilding of the soundboard, the famous Keene and Brackley spinet has arrived safely at its new home in South Carolina.
There were some anxious moments (to put it mildly) with the Port Authorities in Baltimore, but after skilful negotiation by Myrtle (of G&R Removals) and Tom Strange himself, the problems were overcome. However, the prospect of getting antique ivory keyboards into the USA is looking increasingly difficult and risky.
However, all is well now, and after careful packing and shipping by G&R, the spinet needed only minor adjustments to the tuning to play again. It sounds lovely, with a lyrical rather solemn tone, and is now set for a long and active future with the Carolina Music Museum.
It's always fun to invent a new word: although we won't find
'de-ivorising' in the dictionary, we know exactly what it means.
With the approach of the UK restrictions on the sale of ivory (see the Ivory Page for details) we might consider the implications for each of us personally. We will soon be able to register our old instruments, which will mean that they can be sold legally after the regulations come into force, later this year. But the exemption from the ban applies to musical instruments made before 1975, and many of us have instruments made after this date by Morley and other professional makers, or indeed by ourselves, which have ivory keys. Even if they were made a few years earlier than this, it might be difficult to prove. We should note that the age of the ivory itself has no bearing on the case; no doubt partly because of the difficulty of proving its age, I see no mention in the Bill allowing for the use of antique ivory. There are also considerations of CITES, and so we should be actively considering replacing the ivory on our modern instruments with an accceptable substitute.
The second of my instruments to receive attention has been a spinet made in 2006. This origially had boxwood sharps with thin ivory slips (recycled from old uprights) on top, as seen in the upper notes in the picture above. For the update, I decided to make 'skunktail' sharps, as favoured by Thomas Hitchcock in particular. These are sandwiches of Eforyn and ebony, prepared on the bandsaw, and finished by sanding.
I am very pleased with the result, which looks and feels better than the original. Making the sharps was simple enough, but I should make two observations: As I noticed with making the sharps for the replica Blunt spinet, the Elforyn has a severe blunting effect on bandsaw blades, which will not cut wood afterwards! I believe that this is due to the fine mineral filler in the resin. Also noticeable was a very fine white dust (probably the same filler) which got everywhere, and clogged the filter on the vacuum-extractor. The bandsaw was directly connected to the extractor, but use of a belt-sander was more of a problem. We all know that we should wear proper masks for dusty operations, but in view of the very fine nature of this powder, I suggest that it is particularly important in this case.
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; a second replica has joined the Carolina Music Museum. Please see the Spinet Page for the story.
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.
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..