Welcome to

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 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 21st July

 

The Lasting Benefits of a

First-Class Restoration

 

New Page!  Spinets, Harpsichords, and Clavichords For Sale

 

Johan Malmsjö c 1860 Free to Good Home

 

Goulding, D'Almaine & Potter c. 1815

For Sale 

The Lasting Benefits of a

First-Class Restoration

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 at an affordable price.

 

Also on the Page, the Zuckerman virginals at a reduced price.

Johan Malmsjö c 1860 Free to Good Home

This splendid piano by the Royal Maker was in good shape until it had to go into storage, where it has suffered somewhat.  But we believe that all the bits are there, and it deserves to be restored to its former glory.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

Goulding, D'Almaine & Potter c. 1815

For Sale 

The firm who made this piano went through many changes of partners, and the combination 'Goulding, Dalmaine & Potter' embraces the period 1811 - 1823. The 'blonde' nameboard suggests a date fairly early in that range.  This piano was fully restored by John Clarke some years ago.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

Broadwood 1831 For Sale in

Full Working Order

This handsome piano is in full playing order.  It was professionally restored by Lucy Coad in 2000, and has been carefully maintained played since then until earlier this year when it sadly lost its owner.

 

Please see the Sale Page for details.

"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.  

Piano Auctions June 27th, and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos June 26th

Piano Auctions' June sale was held as usual at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London.  We enjoyed the customary informal gathering of a few Friends of Square Pianos on Wednesday June 26th,  the viewing day before the sale.

 

It was good to see three square pianos in this sale, as well as a clavichord and two spinets.  

For me, of course, the star of the show was an original eighteenth-century spinet inscribed forWilson of Whitby.  This was in good playing order, and had a lovely tone.  It sold for an encouraging £5,000 hammer-price to an internet bid (£6,200 total)

 

Please see the Auction Page for details of this, and other instruments.

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 Marlowe Sigal Collection and

Carolina Music Museum

 

Our good friend Tom Strange, Curator and Artistic Director of the Carolina Music Museum (seen above with Allie Cade, Executive Director, has made the following important announcement:

As many of you know, a longtime friend, collector, and amateur musicologist Marlowe Sigal of Boston USA passed away in May of 2018. Despite his best attempts late in life, Marlowe never developed a firm plan for the fate of his major musical instrument collection when he died. Late last year, the Carolina Music Museum joined the Sigal family’s ongoing conversation in seeking a resolution for the future of the collection – first to quickly liquidate Marlowe’s factory of the pianos that had spilled over into storage, and later to address the fate of the full collection itself. After several months of discussion with the family and cautious deliberation on the part of the CMM, in which we carefully considered the immense responsibilities of conservation, storage, collections management, and future exhibition, we have now arrived at a deal that will be mutually beneficial to the Sigal Collection, Marlowe’s family, and our museum in Greenville.

 

The Sigal Collection of musical instruments will be coming to Greenville later this year, along with a substantial permanent endowment fund to provide an open, climate controlled storage facility and support for operations. In recognition of this generous gift and the financial significance involved, our name will be changing to reflect Marlowe’s legacy as we become “The Sigal Music Museum” with final naming rights reserved to the Sigal family. Our staff will remain as you know us for now, with obvious growth that will happen in the coming months and years. Our Executive Director, Alexandra Cade, has played a critical role in helping manage the moving pieces and engaging the full board in this effort, and we look forward to many years with her at the helm. Staff growth is high on our list of priorities as we navigate towards full accreditation and a more national presence among our fellow museums.

 

While the Sigal Collection is breathtaking in scope, our bringing it to Greenville was a full team decision involving key musical instrument experts outside of our organization, and with rather little of the ‘collector’s hunt’ in it. It is and will remain an enormous responsibility and not one to be taken on lightly. We will have professionals and experts involved in removing the collection, transporting it, and setting it up again in Greenville, while we actively plan an opening in the spring of 2020 to showcase the best of the gems. Over the next decades we will have ample opportunity to tell stories with instruments that have been in private hands for a long time and we look forward to sharing this phenomenal collection with the public. For those of you less familiar with this collection, it consists primarily of over 80 world class harpsichords and early pianos, clavichords, etc., and a comprehensive collection of woodwind instruments of every description, from the late 17th C to the early 20th C., amounting to over 600 instruments altogether.

The Sigal Music Museum will be strongest when we actively listen to input from our musical family and act in the best interest of the instruments, educational engagement, and public entertainment, in that order. To that end we need to hear from you. Help us make the best choices and we will act in all ways as good stewards of these objects into the foreseeable future.

Further details have just been published in the Greenville Chronicle.

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.

De-Ivorising

  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.  

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; a second replica has joined the Carolina Music Museum.   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.

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