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 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 3rd February
Tomkison c. 1805 For Sale
Calling Culliford Rolfe & Barrow
Wood & Co c.1830 For Sale
Broadwood 1802 For Sale
Tomkison c. 1805 For Sale
Please see the Sale Page for details of this latest arrival, by the Royal Maker Thomas Tomkison.
Some of our readers may have noticed an interesting little piano that was sold at auction by Bellmans recently. I'm happy to say that the successful bidder was a Friend, and for the next few weeks the piano will be staying with me, and receiving some necessary attention.
At barely four feet long, it is the same size as the early Zumpes, and shares the unusual feature that the GG# key is a dummy, fixed to the GG.
There is every reason to accept the inscription and the date of 1771 as genuine, but who was Petrus Jaderblom? The only reference we can find is a single line in Rosamond Harding's 1933 book, which does record the date '1771'. Is it possible that she had seen this piano?
Can anyone throw any light at all on this 'Mystery Maker'? Please get in touch!
By the way, while I was at Bellmans (Billingshurst) collecting the piano, I happened to see a nice little 1779 Ganer that will be in the February sale - more details to follow.
Calling Culliford, Rolfe & Barrow
No, not a firm of dodgy solicitors, but three names well-known in the harpsichord and piano business. Thomas Culliford had made spinets, harpsichords and pianos for John Hitchcock and Longman & Broderip. William Rolfe, later with his sons, went on to become a leading maker in the early nineteenth century. About Barrow, we know very little. But at the end of the eighteenth century, these three briefly formed a partnership.
There are many pianos about carrying Rolfe's name alone, but we know about very few which have two or more of the above names. So this is an appeal, please, on behalf of Geoffrey Lancaster in Australia, who is working on a history of this partnership. If you have, or know of, a piano (or even a spinet) bearing the names Rolfe & Barrow , Culliford & Barrow, or Culliford, Rolfe & Barrow, would you kindly send an email with pictures if possible to me, David, at the usual address
- and I will be please to forward your mail to Geoffrey.
All facts, sightings, and even rumours welcome!
Wood & Co. c. 1830 For Sale
See the Sale Page for details of this piano by the leading Edinburgh maker.
Broadwood 1802 For Sale
Please see the Sale Page for details of this elegant piano.
Two Pianos Free to Good Home
These two pianos, separately or together, are kindly offered FREE TO GOOD HOME. This is surely a wonderful offer for a first-time enthusiast restorer - I would have wished that something like this would have come my way all those years ago!
The pianos are a Rolfe, c.1815 and a Broadwood, c. 1830. Please see the Sale Page for further details of this very special offer.
2015 was another successful year for sales of square pianos through the website. At one end of the scale we had one or two pianos that were offered 'Free to Good Home', and at the other, a very fine Zumpe. It is fair to say, though, that something of a buyers' market continues to prevail. As ever, the oldest and rarest pianos continue to be in demand, but there are fewer homes available for the later examples, splendid pianos though they are.
So if you are new to the world of Square Pianos, there has never been a better time to buy. There is a good selection on the Sale Page now, the oldest of which is a Longman & Broderip from the 1790s - seen above. This one is in playing condition, but it does need some work to make it even better. Professional restorers are available - Some are listed on Friends, Restorers and Suppliers page. Alternatively, it is a great deal of fun, and the best way of learning, to do some work ourselves, and Friends of Square Pianos is here to offer encouragement and support. We are fortunate these days that the availability of authentic materials has never been better, and through the internet we can share advice, experience and knowledge.
In Praise of Younger Pianos
As we said above, the earliest pianos are the most sought-after, particularly the eighteenth-century examples. There is no doubt that these very early pianos have a charm of their own, and a delightfully 'historic' sound. I confess that I am not immune from this charm, and my little 1787 Broadwood is my favourite. For Haydn and Mozart it is ideal.
However, we should remember that the first hundred years of pianos (say 1765 - 1865) witnessed very great and rapid changes in the character and capability of the instrument, and pianos quickly became obsolete. This is in complete contrast to the century-and-a-half since then. So Beethoven in his middle and later years would not have been at all happy with my old Broadwood, nor could his music have been played on it. Our Friend Olaf van Hees offers the follwing learned counsel:
Original Parts For Sale
We often need spare parts to replace those that are broken, missing, or have been replaced with inappropriate 'updates'. The Original Parts for Sale page is there to help, and I would take this opportunity of encouraging all amateur and professional restorers to make such parts available - please e-mail, with pictures, and I will be happy to put them on the page.
Newly-arrived on the page, some useful high-quality bushing cloth and felt.
Perhaps it's a bit early for Spring Cleaning (although there are flowers in the garden...) but let's all have a look in those forgotten boxes, and see what we can share, and replenish the range of parts on offer!
This is the time of year when I have usually been busy working on the plans for the Friends of Square Pianos Finchcocks weekend - confirming speakers and the programme, arranging the performances, ensuring practical support, and sending out the invitations and reminders.
It seems strange that this is not happening any more, and that there will never again be another 'Finchcocks'. But this is a time to remember the parties that we enjoyed, and to offer our thanks to Richard and Katrina Burnett for their wonderful creation that gave so much enjoyment to so many for the forty-five years it was open. We wish them the very best for the next chapter in their lives. Long may they continue to make, enjoy music, and to encourage young musicians and their interest in early keyboard instruments. We will keep in touch.
Making a Spinet
There is no better way learning about Early Keyboard instruments than to make one. And it's a lot of fun. There's also the bonus that with a bit of care, it should turn out well, and yield an instrument that plays decently.
One of the highlights of Finchcocks 2015 for me was the presentation of the 1704 Blunt spinet, which it has been my privilege to restore. It was an emotional experience to work on an instrument that was making music when Queen Anne was on the throne, and when Bach and Handel were teenagers.
The next stage in this journey is for me to make one, or probably two replicas, as accurate as I can make them, and to be able to compare the sound of original and replica side-by-side.
There is no rush for this - I am supposed to be 'retired', and I am an amateur anyway, which means that I will take as long as I need to do the work to the best of my ability.
I will be recording the progess of the project on the Spinet Page. The first sections are on there now, and more will follow as the work progresses.
If you have any comments or questions, do please email me, David at email@example.com I do hope that you will join in the fun and have a go - two Friends are involved already! I cannot promise to solve all problems, but at least you will have someone to talk to.
Go to 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.
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.