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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 September
Broadwood Hammers - all Sold
1803 Clementi at Gardiner Houlgate - Sold for £3,000 Hammer Price (£3,720 Total)
Clementi 1824 For Sale
Piano Auctions September Sale and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos
Bernd Fischer 1945 - 2019
Broadwood Hammers - all Sold
There is increasing interest in the 'Original Parts for Sale' page - have you got any parts from old square pianos that you would like to sell?
Please see the Page for details.
Clementi 1813 'Grand Compass' - Sold
This six-octave Clementi is special - the lowest note is CC, rather than the usual FF. This compass was very unusal on square pianos, but was more common on contemporary grands. Only about four square pianos with this keyboard are listed in 'Clinkscale' , and there was one in the Colt Collection. This example is an exceptional restoration prospect. Please see the Sale Page for details.
Clementi 1824 For Sale
This Clementi has been a Sleeping Beauty for fifteen years - time for her to be awoken! Please see the Sale Page for details.
Broadwood 'Peacock' Dampers -
Those beautiful Broadwood brass under-dampers are efficient and reliable. After more than 200 years they can still work as well as they did when new, but the little jaws which hold the damper-cloth are delicate, and some have suffered damage. Also, previous owners have sometimes attempted to adjust the position of the damper by bending the brass, which is not a good idea. For those reasons, we sometimes find that a piano is short of its full complement of dampers, those in the upper positions having been moved down to close up the gaps. Replicas are avaialble as replacements, but we have been able to locate a quantity of originals. These will be supplied lightly cleaned (but not polished!) and lubricated with special clock-oil. The price is similar to reproductions, but surely the real thing is better? These are the 1794 - 1806 curved type. They were graded in size and weight from bass to treble. There were immediate enquiries for these, and they all sold!
Piano Auctions September Sale and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos
The next Piano Auctions sale will be on Thursday 26 September, and there will be an informal gathering of Friends of Square Pianos on the viewing day before, Wednesday 25. Please come along if you can; we particularly welcome new friends. I will be there from about 10.00, either in Conway Hall, or drinking tea in the café in Red Lion Square Gardens. We'll have lunch at about 1.00, either in the café or, depending on the weather and who wants chips, in The Enterprise, Red Lion Street. And then I will have to get away fairly soon after that.
There's just one square piano there this time, a nice-looking restored 1820s Broadwood (estimate £600 - £800) and also a 1960s Morley spinet (estimate £800 - £1,200).
More pictures on the Auction Page.
All images by, and by courtesy of, Piano Auctions Limited.
Bernd Fischer 1945 - 2019
Derek Adlam writes:
Bernd left us in April 2019. Born in Dresden during the last weeks of WWII, he joined the Adlam Burnett team in its earliest days as keyboard instrument makers at Finchcocks where he demonstrated his extraordinary skills in woodworking, instinct for precision and knowledge of materials. When that workshop disbanded in 1981, he remained in England to continue his calling, moving to Welbeck in Nottinghamshire. He was remarkably self-effacing – only the work was of importance, and he was perhaps most comfortable when contributing to the work of others. Making friends easily, most importantly, he kept them. He returned to Germany to care for his elderly mother, continuing to make beautiful instruments until his retirement.
To commemorate Bernd’s life and work, his friends will meet for music and readings at 3.00 p.m. Sunday 29th September at The Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AT. All will be welcome; if you wish to attend, please contact Claire Hammett email@example.com or Derek Adlam firstname.lastname@example.org.
1792 Longman & Broderip Sold
This lovely piano is in full playing order, and has been used for many professional recitals. Sadly, health concerns now mean that it must be sold. It is a five-octave piano, with the patented escapement action. Please see the Sale Page for details.
1803 Clementi at Gardiner Houlgate
This attractive Clementi was in the Gardiner Houlgate sale on Friday, 13th September. These early Clementis are very pretty, and when well-restored are a delight to play. This one is number 3369, dating from 1803. More pictures and details on the Auction Page.
Sold for £3,000 hammer price.
Pictures by, and by courtesy of, Gardiner Houlgate.
Broadwood 1831 Free to Good Home
This handsome piano is very kindly being offered Free to Good Home to a new owner who will give it the attention it needs and restore it to playing order. Please see the Sale Page for details.
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!)
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?
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 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..