Welcome to Friends of Square Pianos!

Update July 8th

 

A Chance to Own a Piece of History

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 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.

 

A Piece of Piano History

I hesitate to use the word 'Unique', but I have never seen one like this before.

The story begins conventionally enough.  The name on the piano is Feliks Yaniewicz (or Janiewicz) who was quite well known as a violinist in the early years of the nineteenth century.  He was associated with the composer and impresario Domenico Corri, and also with the piano-maker Thomas Loud.  The piano itself was probably made by Loud in London, although it is essentially a Clementi, and could have been made in the Clementi workshops.  The painting is indeed identical to that on many Clementis; the left-hand half is identical to the sweet pea design used for the header of this website, whereas the right-hand half is the 'morning glory' motif.  A few other 'Yaniewicz' pianos are known.

But on opening the lid, we see something truly amazing.

During the early years of the nineteenth century, a great many weird and wonderful inventions were made and patented, to cure real or imagined defects of the early piano.  Several of these related to stability of tuning and pitch.  When the room temperature goes up, metal expands, and therefore a string will tend to go flat (wood is less affected, which is why clock-pendulums are often made of wood).  Brass expands more than iron, so the brass strings will go out of tune with the iron ones.  This remains an issue to this day, but one we live with, partly helped by the fact that most of our pianos live in heated homes and avoid extremes of temperature.   It is less of an issue with modern pianos, partly because all the strings are steel (the bass ones have steel cores) and partly because the iron frame expands at more-or-less the same rate as the strings.  However, in the early years of the nineteenth century, this was one of the many subjects for experimentation and those ingenious patents.  This one is a manifestation of patents filed by Isaac Hawkins and  Peter Litherhead in 1800 and 1802 (Eng. 2446. 2430, and 2594).  To maintain constant tension of the strings, regardless of expansion and contraction, each string was connected at its hitchpin end to a strong spring.  Rosamund Harding's 1933 pioneering work 'The Piano-Forte'  gives details. (Page 301 in the 1978 edition).  

Like most of these innovations and patents, this one never came to much of course, although it can't have been a disaster, because the owner  mentions that the piano is still capable of making a sort of musical noise on some notes.  As far as I know, this is the only surviving example of this invention.  I have never seen or heard of another, so it could be unique; very few can have been made in the first place.

 

Zooming in on the above picture, we notice another extraordinary thing: the strings do not pass over a nut in the usual way, but (apart from the lowest notes, which have no springs either) are guided by 'agraffes' (as used in all modern grand pianos.)  The invention of the agraffe is credited to Érard in 1808, but whether it was patented or not, I do not know. Nor do I know whether a French patent would have been respected in England during the Napoleonic Wars.  Or is it possible that this piano pre-dates Érard's claim?  

This piano now needs a new home.  Such an amazing invention should really be in a museum, so please apply, you curators!  But it is perhaps more likely that it will go to a new private owner, so here's your chance to own a Piece of History.  We do hope that it will go to a good home where it will be given good care for the future.  Contact details will be put on the Sale Page as soon as I have time, but please contact me directly if you wish to declare and interest.  It is difficult to put a value on something as unusual as this, but to the right home, the price will be just a modest £200. 

 

The red shoes are included!  In general, the condition of this piano looks to be reasonably good, although of course a full restoration would be necessary if it is to make music again.  Most of the springs seem to be there.  The legs are presumably later replacements - we would expect to see a French stand on a piano of this age (c. 1805 - 1810?)

Finchcocks 2014

  Our fourth Square Piano Weekend at Finchcocks was very successful and enjoyable.  

 

 Keynote Presentation - Martyna Kazmierczak

We were all enchanted by our soloist Martyna Kazmierczak at Finchcocks 2013.  So it was a privilege for us to welcome her as our keynote presenter this year.

Please see the Finchcocks Page for a report on this very enjoyable event.

 Piano Auctions June Sale

and

Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos

There was a very good turnout of Friends for our usual informal gathering - our numbers were well into double figures, and we all had a good time eating and drinking in the sunshine, in the café in Red Lion Square Gardens.

 

 We did manage to spend some time looking at the pianos as well, and there are more details (ncluding prices realized) on the Auction Page.  For many of us, perhaps the Star of the Show was the beautiful and newly-discovered 1792 Broadwood grand.  Not surprisingly, this achieved a price comfortably above the estimate.  Good news is that Piano Auctions hope to have another early Broadwood grand in the September sale.

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..

My real work is with homeless cats now, though - I have the privilege to be Co-ordinator of the local voluntary branch of Cats Protection.

 

www.cats.org.uk/wellingborough

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© David Hackett