Update December 28th
A Mystery Solved
Piano Auctions December Sale and
Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos -
More New Pictures
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 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.
A little while ago, we featured on this page a charming little piano that had recently appeared at Christie's. Formerly the property of Sir Albert Richardson, P.R.A., it was purchased by a Friend in Scotland, and I am now doing some work to restore it to playing condition.
In the best traditions of tabloid journalism, the headline 'Magical Mystery Piano' referred to the possible attribution to Joseph Merlin, on the basis of a pencil inscription on the reverse of the nameboard.
No name was seen on the front of the nameboard, and despite out best efforts at forensic science, no traces could be found. We did not have a sample of Joseph Merlin's signature, and there were some apparent inconsistencies the the handwriting. Also a very curious presentation of the date.
The dust-layer under the action and keys was thick and undisturbed, to the point that it was difficult to find the heads of the screws that secured the keyframe. If the action had ever been removed, it was a very long time ago.
When the dust was cleaned off, a surprise awaited us:
...the name C Trute was clearly legible, punched into the timber. This revelation was consistent with the fact that many details of the piano indicated that it was clearly not made by any of the 'usual suspects'.
Charles Trute was an interesting maker, but few examples of his work survive. It is possible that he worked for Adam Beyer in the 1770s, before setting up his own workshop. In 1780 he was at 26, Wardour Street, and from 1782 to 1789 at &, Broad Street. By 1794, he had emigrated to America, where he continued to make pianos, at first with Weidberg, and later alone. He died in 1807.
No, not a firm of crooked solicitors, but the makers of the three early square pianos which will be the stars of the Piano Auctions sale on December 12th at Conway Hall, Holborn. Pictures of all three are now on the Auction Page.
Here is the 1781 Ganer.
As usual, there will be an informal gathering of Friends of Square Pianos on the viewing day before the sale, Wednesday December 11th. Sadly, our favourite 'Casanovas' Treats' café has not re-opened, so we will meet in Conway Hall. I will expect to arrive at about 11 o'clock, and we will adjourn to The Dolphin pub for lunch at about 1 o'clock.
The gathering is open to all, so please come along if you can. As ever, we offer our thanks to Richard, Terry, and the team for making us welcome.
This famous piano was speciallly ordered from Johannes Zumpe by the Empress Ekaterina II for the wife of her son Pavel, future Emperor of Russia. It was installed in the beautiful newly-built palace of Pavlovsk, where it is still to be seen today.
The piano is musically a standard Zumpe of the time (1774) but is in a very elaborate case after the style of Robert Adam, beautifully constructed and inlaid. The case is larger than it needs to be to accommodate the piano itself, and it features an eight-leg style, well before the six legs that were introduced in the early 1800s.
It was recorded some years ago by Laurence Libin, but very little information was available then, and only a fuzzy B&W picture. We are indeed fortunate that the recent restorer, also named Pavel, is numbered amongst Friends of Square Pianos, and we now have up-to-date pictures and details.
Please watch this space for more news!
As the nights draw in, Spring 2014 seems like a long way off, but we are already planning for our fourth Square Piano Weekend at Finchcocks, on 10th - 11th May.
We hope to see familiar faces again, and would particularly encourage new Friends to join us. The whole event is very informal, and by no means 'exclusive'. I wouldn't be there otherwise...
To help planning, please let me know if (provisionally) you would like to come. To preserve the informal atmosphere, the numbers will be limited to about 35, so I have started a list already.
We will follow the same plan as previous years, with the main part of Saturday devoted to demonstrations, talks and dicussions, followed by a dinner in the Cellar Restaurant, and then a musical event in the evening. The Sunday will offer unstructured access to the amazing instruments in the collection, with the usual 'Open Day' in the afternoon.
I do plan to have more musical content during the main programme this year, but I would be very happy to hear from anyone about suggestions. It's your Weekend!
UPDATE: We were all enchanted by our soloist Martyna Kazmierczak at Finchcocks 2013. I am delighted to announce that Martyna has agreed to lead a presentation on the different stages in the development of square pianos, and the relationship between these technical differences, the music, and the approach to playing. Most of our previous topics have been technical or historical, and it will be a refreshing change to give more emphasis to the music, from the player's point of view. There will, of course, be plenty of musical illustrations in this presentation.
We already have a list of a good few Friends who are planning to attend. One issue that has arisen is that many local hotels seem to be fully booked for that weekend. I will be trying to find out more from Katrina at Finchcocks, but in the meantime I can only encourage you to to think about accommodation, and consider booking early!
For any questions or suggestions, Please get in touch with me, David, on email@example.com
Some of you may know that I am the fortunate owner of one of the very first Kirckman pianos, a Square, dating from 1777. It is an interesting little piano, and as far as we know it is supported by the earliest surviving example of a French stand. This is original beyond question.
However, the piano has not had an easy life, and it bears evidence of much 'Intervention'.
For better or worse, it is now my intention to restore it as far as possible to its original appearance and specification, even though certain elements, including the soundboard, will be new work. [As found,the soundboard was an old replacement, with diagonal grain, and incorrect pin positions.]
At some stage in its life, probably soon after 1800, its date was crudely altered from 1777 to 1797. Such alteration (or erasure) of dates was very common, to try to conceal to the world that our prized possessions were a few years old. (Human nature does not change... think of car number-plates.)
'Part of its History' this may be, but I have chosen to make a record of this as graffiti, and then to restore the original appearance.
Nameboards are delicate things, however, and I recognized this job as beyond my competence. I was fortunately given a lead to a skilled craftsman, gilder and picture restorer, with experience in such things. His name is Lancelot Sheldrick, and he has done a truly excellent job for me.
These small images cannot do justice to the quality of the work, but I will just say that the toffee-like varnish has been removed, to show the beauty of the wood, without damaging the delicate (and faded) arabesque tracery. Scratches have been softened. The digit itself (after removal of the rogue '9') has been replicated, not in black, but in just the right hue and density of dark brown. The whole appearance is completely harmonious and beautiful.
Lance is based in Stretham, near Ely, and is willing to consider all kinds of nameboard restoration, including those beautiful Clementi flowers. He has even developed a special and successful technique for restoring the real gold lettering on the name cartouches.
Please contact Lancelot Sheldrick firstname.lastname@example.org
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 since accepting early retirement, 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.