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 25th February 

 

Gardiner Houlgate Auction

Friday 13th March

 

Irmler (Leipzig) c. 1830 For Sale

 

Broadwood 1841 For Sale

 

Broadwood 1791 For Sale

 

Broadwood 1803 For Sale

 

Gardiner Houlgate Auction

Friday 13th March

Well, it is square, and it is (sort of) a piano - one of Chappell's little 'Pianini' or conductors' pianos.  Instead of strings, the hammers struck tuned glass bars.  Gardiner Houlgate's fascinating array of musical instruments of all kinds includes three miniature keyboard instruments, as well as two more conventional square pianos. 

Please see the Auction Page for details.

Irmler (Leipzig) c. 1830 For Sale

Johann Christian Gottlieb Irmler was born in Dresden in 1790.  After studying piano making in Vienna, he founded his famous firm in Leipzig in 1818.  The firm continued to make pianos until the 1950s.  This early example of his work is now offered for sale in Germany.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

Broadwood 1841 For Sale

This handsome piano from the time of Mendelssohn seems to be in very good condition, and is offered for a modest price. 

Please see the Sale Page for details.

Broadwood 1791 For Sale

A restoration project: the owner has done substantial work on this early Broadwood, but has realised that he has too many projects in hand, and would like to hand this one over.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

Broadwood 1803 For Sale

Another restoration project.  This 1803 Broadwood has a good case and stand, complete with music-shelf, and also still has its green silk-covered 'shield'.  Unusually for Broadwoods of this date, it was fitted with a damper-pedal, and even more ususually, this has survived.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

A Beautiful Regency Clementi - Sold

This is surely one of the very best pianos to have appeared on these pages, both as a musical instrument and a showpiece of Regency elegance.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

A Light Piano - and a Puzzle

This piano, which recently found a new home through this website,  presents something of a puzzle - I am tempted to ask if anyone can cast any light on the mystery...

 

Please see the special Light Piano page for pictures and details, and send in your thoughts.

Discovering the Piano - Cristofori Style

OK, so this is not a square piano, but as I said, I make the rules, and this is a recording that every early piano enthusiast should have.  It features spirited playing by Linda Nicholson on a beautiful replica of a 1730 Cristofori-Ferrini piano made by Denzil Wraight.  None of the few surviving Cristofori pianos is in a condition to give us any idea of how they sounded originally, so rather than copy an original, Denzil has based his instrument on all known sources of information.  The result is a truly delightful and expressive sound, very far removed from what I was expecting.  Comparison with Zumpe's diminutive squares is hardly fair, so let's just say that this is a lovely sound, which we all should enjoy.  The recording is Passacaille 1024, which deservedly received the Diapason d'or award in 2017

 

Denzil has very kindly provided a download of the English part of the CD booklet.

CD booklet Passacaille 1024 English.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.4 MB]

These notes will remain on the Friends' Recordings page.

Longman &Broderip Name Plaque Sold

The beautiful enamel plaques found on pianos by Longman & Broderip from the late 1780s until the turn of the century are unfortunately prone to chipping, and are somewhat unsightly when damaged.  We were happy to be able to offer an original, including the gilt-brass bezel,  as a replacement.

 

The 'Original Parts For Sale'  page is proving to be popular; do you have any parts that could benefit other restorers and pianos?  Please let me know.  

Original Spinet by Longman & Broderip

For Sale

We are happy to present a rare opportunity to buy an original English spinet, recently restored and re-quilled, and in full playing order.

This is one is bears the name of Longman & Broderip, and dates from probably about 1785.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

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/

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?

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