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 27th June 2017

 

Early Piano Course at Benslow

 

A Beautiful 'Jane Austen' Piano For Sale

 

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

An Amazing Pleyel Harpsichord.

Early Piano Course at Benslow

with Penelope Cave

The London Piano School: Exploring Earliest English Repertoire - Tue 29 - Thu 31 August 2017
Tutor: Dr Penelope Cave
Dr Penelope Cave offers pianists of all abilities the opportunity to study Clementi and his followers on a period piano. Her research into instruction methods by Clementi, Cramer, Corri, Kalkbrenner and others during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries will enhance the discussion as she tutors technique, style and interpretation of music published in London at the start of the instrument's popularity. A suggested repertoire list will be available early in 2017, from studies to the emerging virtuoso showpiece.

A Beautiful 'Jane Austen' Piano For Sale

  In this bicentenary year of her death, our beloved Jane Austen is very much in our thoughts.  So we are privileged to be able to offer for sale a handsome square piano from the late Regency period.  This lovely Astor & Horwood is in unusually good condition, and has benefited from a recent professional restoration.  Apart from tuning, this one is ready to play.  

  

  Please see the Instruments for Sale page for details of this exceptional offer.

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

An Amazing Pleyel Harpsichord.

   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. 

  The item of greatest interest to me was 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, starting with a sort of shoe, which is held down (adjustably), by a short square-headed screw on the part nearer to the player.  The front of this shoe (towards the strings) 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 middle 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 to the right of its proper position (courtesy of a broken string!) and is resting on its neighbours.  The picture below shows the detail of this part.

  This pin has a hole for the end of the string.  To rough-tune the note, the pin would be turned like a normal wrestpin, but clicking in the ratchet as it goes.  The pitch would be set either higher or lower than target, depending on how far down the other pin was screwed in.  Then finally, this holding-down pin would be turned, rocking the shoe to achieve fine-tuning.  The whole thing was beautifully-engineered, and must have been quite expensive to make.  

  Otherwise, the specification is quite standard, with 2 x 8' and 1x4' stops, coupler, lute, and buff, all controlled by six pedals.  

 

  This one did rather better than the estimate of £2,000 - £3,000, achieving £4,000 hammer-price (£4960 total), so happily we may assume that it has gone to a good home.    

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'!

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