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 5th December 

 

Piano Auctions Sale December 12th

 

Six Turned Legs For Sale on Parts Page

 

An Important Kirckman Harpsichord For Sale at Sotheby's

 

Piano Auctions Sale and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos Wednesday Dec 11th

There are no square pianos in the Piano Auctions sale on December  12th, but there is a very interesting five-octave 'Viennese' piano, evidently modelled on those of J A Stein.  This is the sort of piano that would have been familar to Haydn, Mozart, and the young Beethoven.

 

The Friends of Square Pianos who live outside the M25 will, for variaous reasons, not be able to come to London this time, but Luke Bradley will be 'taking the chair' for all who are able to gather on the viewing day, Wednesday 11th.  Luke will be at Conway Hall (or in the café in Red Lion Square) from about 11 o'clock, and going for lunch at about 1.oo.  Please come along if you can - as ever, new friends welcome.  

 

Please see the Auction Page for details and more pictures.

Six Slender Turned Legs For Sale

Six slender turned legs from an early 19th-century piano, all with casters and mostly serviceable threads.  Please see Parts for Sale page for details.

An Important Kirckman Harpsichord

For Sale at Sotheby's

There are only a few Kirckman harpsichords as elaborately decorated as this one.  Perhaps only those of us who have attempted marquetry on a keyboard instrument can understand the skill, patience, and time involved.  And all that before the days of electric lighting, disposable scalpels, and the other aids that we so easily take for granted.

This harpsichord was made in 1766, and carries the name of Jacob Kirckman.  The disposition is conventional for a large English harpsichord of the period, with two 8' stops and a 4' available on the lower manual, with buff to one 8', and 8' or lute on the upper manual.  The knob on the left cheek engages the machine stop, which acts via the pedal to allow rapid changes of selected combinations.  The main lid shows evidence of the 'nag's head' swell (devised to circumvent Shudi's patented Venetian swell) but the mechanism for this device is no longer in place.   What sets it apart from the standard large harpsichords is the exquisite veneering and marquetry against a burr walnut background.

 

It is listed in 'Boalch' of course, and remarkably has remained with the Berkeley family at Spetchley since 1935.  There are alleged Royal connections, with Queen Charlotte, Marie Antoinette, and Queen Victoria mentioned.  Of these, Queen Victoria is the most likely, although Charlotte would certainly have owned a fine harpsichord.  

 

The estimate for this magnificent instrument is £30,000 - £50,000, which is modest considering what it would have fetched thirty years ago.  It deserves the best possible home where it will receive the care that it needs, but Sotheby's do draw attention to the increasing complications of export.  The auction will take place on 12th December.

 

Follow the link to Sotheby's Website  for further details.

Pictures by courtesy of Sotheby's.

Attention: Copyright in these images shall remain vested in Sotheby’s. Please note that these images may depict subject matter which is itself protected by separate copyright. Sotheby’s makes no representations as to whether the underlying subject matter is subject to its own copyright, or as to who might hold such copyright. It is the borrower's responsibility to obtain any relevant permissions from the holder(s) of any applicable copyright and Sotheby’s supplies this image expressly subject to this responsibility. Note that the image is provided for a one-time use only and no permission is granted to alter this image in any way.

Longman, Clementi  & Co. c. 1799 For Sale

This beautiful piano was made just before the turn of the century, when the bankrupt firm of Longman & Broderip had been rescued by the celebrated musician Muzio Clementi.  Within a very short space of time, the name on the pianos was changed to the more familar Muzio Clementi & Co.  Please see the Sale Page for details.   

An Elephant Never Forgets

It’s been almost a year now since the UK Ivory Sales Bill received the Royal Assent, and became law.  All that now remains is for it to be enacted and enforced.  We in the UK don’t have a parliament just now, but according to the official website, the enactment is the responsibility of the Department, in this case DEFRA.  This was supposed to happen "during 2019”, then “later in the year” and then “at the end of the year”.  Well, there’s still time (just).

 

A possible reason for this delay was an attempt by a group of antique dealers to challenge the legality bill on the basis that it was contrary to European Law, but this failed under the recent court judgement on 5 November.  In fact, there is a hot rumour that the EC is considering a parallel ban based on the UK law.  A spokesman for IFAW says we "can now get on with implementation of the Act without any further distractions."

 

The ban on the sales of items containing ivory is almost total, but we are fortunate to have an exemption for musical instruments made before 1975 and containing less than 20% of ivory.  But before these can be offered for sale, sold, or bought within the UK, they must be registered.  This will be an on-line process, for which there will be a fee.  Before the act can be enforced, this scheme must be announced, and reasonable time allowed for owners to complete the process.  So surely next year now before we are directly affected.

 

Then, not connected in any way, but probably happening within the same timeframe is - Brexit.  My reading is that whatever the ‘deal’ or transitional arrangements, when the United Kingdom leaves the EC, then for CITES purposes it will be a separate entity.  Therefore CITES permits will be required for entry and exit, just as is the case now for Norway, Switzerland, the Channel Islands, and every other non-EC country in the world.  Please remember that CITES covers other materials as well as ivory, such as Dalbergia species (rosewood, tulipwood, etc.) and baleen (’whalebone’).

 

Watch this space!

 

DEFRA – Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs

IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare

CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

New Early Keyboard Cloths

from Graham Walker

Graham Walker has been working for several years on authentic cloths for Early Keyboard Instruments, and many of us now depend on it for building new instruments as well as restorations.  These cloths are woven from pure wool, of course, and are as close as possible to the original textures and colours.  The range has now been extended with the addition of a thicker 2.5 mm green cloth, and the damper and listing cloths now have a closer weave.   The picture above shows samples of  2.5 mm green and 1.5 mm green keyboard cloths, red facing cloth (e.g. for Broadwood hitch-blocks), red damper cloth, and natural damper cloth.  Please see Graham's website for details and prices.

 

https://www.earlypiano.co.uk/keyboard-materials/early-keyboard-cloth/

John Paul Harpsichord - New Home Found

Please see the Sale Page for details of this interesting mid 20th-century harpsichord.

Broadwood 1833 - Price Reduced

This handsome piano is in much better condition than most.  It is number 43408, which dates it to 1833, possibly 1834. 

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.

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.

 

Please see the Sale Page 

"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.  

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