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 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 23rd September

 

 

Caring for the Elephants -

Latest Updates 21st, 22nd, and today,

23rd September

 

New CD Release - Jacob Kirkman

 

Not a Square Piano

 

Southwell Upright Square 

New CD Release

  I'm always happy to feature Friends' recordings on this website, especially if they are on square pianos!  This one by Medea Bindewald is remarkable in bringing to us the music of the little-known composer Jacob Kirkman, a nephew of our most famous harpsichord maker.  It is also notable as one of the last recordings made at Finchcocks.  The release date will depend on the success of a 'Crowdfunding' campaign.

 

Please see the Friends' Recordings page for more details.

Caring for the Elephants -

See latest updates below

  We all want to see an end to the terrible business of ivory poaching and illegal trade.  But I can't see how destroying eighteenth-century pianos is the answer to the problem.

 

  We know that there have been 'difficulties' in the USA, including impounding the instruments of a visiting symphony orchestra (tips of violin bows, rings on bassoons...) but it does appear that common sense has prevailed, and my understanding is that the movement of antique items, including musical instruments, is now specifically allowed, as long as the ivory is incidental to the main purpose of the item (e.g. the keys of a piano) and there is a limit of 200 grams - not by coincidence the weight of the ivory on the keys of a typical piano.  

 

  However, I am getting a bit worried about the situation in the UK.  It is well-known that a paragraph in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto contained the words '...a total ban on ivory sales.'  Perhaps some of us thought that the government had other priorities on its mind, but an article by William Hague in the Daily Telegraph on September 2nd indicated that the issue is very much alive.  In the article he says: 'It is now essential that this commitment is honoured in full.'  And he casts doubt on the possibility of exemptions by saying 'The trouble is that well-intentioned but complex rules are difficult to enforce and easy to circumvent.'

 

 He goes on to state that the proposals have the support of Princes Charles, William, and Harry.  And he makes it clear that the timescale is within this parliament.

 

  It is, of course, perfectly possible to scrap the ivory on an historic instrument, and replace it with a synthetic material.  And for a new instrument, I was happy to use 'Elforyn' on the replica of the Blunt spinet (see the Spinet Page).  But for an old piano, there would be a cost.  My first estimate would be about £400, and the seller would have to undertake this work before offering a piano for sale.  In practical terms, this would mean that all but the most valuable historic pianos would become effectively impossible to sell, and therefore worthless.

 

  For an antique spinet such as this beautiful 1735 Hitchcock, the work would be even more expensive, and who would want to do it?  

 

Update September 18th: In today's 'Sunday Telegraph', the topic receives half-a-page, including a large picture of conservation activity.  The article says: 'At last year's general election,the Tories promised action to ban all ivory sales, although this pledge has not yet been implemented.

  'The proposal has been criticised by antique dealers, who say it will put them out of business.

  'However, senior Conservative figures, including Lord Hague, the former Foreign Secretary, and Owen Paterson, the former Environment Secretary, are now demanding that ministers act urgently to fulfil their election pledge.

 'Mr Paterson is calling on the Prime Minister to announce a ban on ivory sales in Britain ahead of an international conservation summit this month.'

Any thoughts?  Perhaps just one from me:  It is possible that exemptions along the lines of the US example might be agreed, but if you are thinking of buying or selling an old piano, perhaps now might be a good time?

Update 21st September

Update 21st September.  

 

More encouraging news today, courtesy of the Antiques Trade Gazette, who report that the ban which is to be announced will relate to sales of post-1947 ivory.  These are in any case subject to CITES rules and require certificates; it appears that such exemptions might no longer be possible.  It's not over yet, but it seems that our old pianos might be safe after all.  Link to ATG article below:

Update 22nd September

A press release from the government.  

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-ban-on-modern-day-ivory-sales

 

This is encouraging from our point of view, and I think that we could all support it.  There are certainly very few post-1947 square pianos with ivory keys!  There are just a few late twentieth-century harpsichords and other replica instruments that could be affected (there were at least three in the recent Finchcocks sale) but I think that it something we could accept.  Certainly, I would not advise amateur builders now to use ivory, even though it is usually recycled from old pianos.  It might well be 200 years old, but it would be expensive to prove that.  

Update 23rd September

There's more...  a large group of prominent people, including William Hague, say that the proposals don't go far enough, and ae pushing for a 'total' ban, as per the Conservative Party manifesto.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/06/african-wildlife-officials-appalled-as-eu-opposes-a-total-ban-on-ivory-trade

 

Not a Square Piano

  - But a very fine instrument indeed, and a remarkable restoration project.

   Combinations of square pianos with pipe-organs were quite popular at the end of the eighteenth century, and were known as 'organized pianos'. But very few have survived, and even fewer - perhaps one or two - have been restored to working condition.  

 

  This splendid instrument is unusual in being a combination of an upright grand piano with an organ.  It was made by Longman, Clementi & Co in 1799, and was sent to the United States of America, where it was first owned by the Tucker Family of Williamsburg, Virginia.  

For full details of this restoration, including a wealth of pictures and sound-clips, see 

Southwell Upright Square

William Southwell's pianos are famous not only for their technical innovation, but also the exquisite quality of their cabinet-work.  This magnificent example of a Upright Square will be in the auction sale at Woolley & Wallis on October 5th.  There are now more pictures on the Auction Page.

 

 

These pianos are very rare, but it is remarkable that a very similar example appeared in the Finchcocks sale in May - that one achieved a hammer-price of £16,000.

Making a Spinet - The 1704 Blunt Replica 

  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..

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.

 

www.cats.org.uk/wellingborough

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© David Hackett