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, 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 14th December
Results of December Auctions
An Early Adam Beyer For Sale
William Rolfe & Sons c. 1810 For Sale
Auctions December 2018
You never can tell with auctions. Both Piano Auctions (Thursday 13th) and Gardiner Houlgate (Friday 14th) were well-known and widely-publicised, including on this website. By co-incidence, both sales offered a two-manual Morley harpsichord, dating from c.1980. They were practically indentical as far as I could see, and apparently in good condition. We have learnt not to expect dramatic results from the sale of these 'revival' harpsichords, which are often beautifully made, but very much out of fashion. The results were somewhat surprising, however. Against an estimate of £200 - £400, the example at Gardiner Houlgate (above) made £460 hammer-price.
But against an estimate of £600 - £800, the instrument at Piano Auctions (above) sold for a more encouraging £2,600 hammer-price.
Details of the instruments sold are on the Auction Page now.
Adam Beyer 1774 For Sale
William Rolfe & Sons c. 1810 For Sale
Please see the Instruments for Sale Page for details of this handsome piano.
Southwell Upright Square c. 1798 For Sale
This is perhaps the most challenging project ever to be offered on these pages, with the possibility of an outstanding result. It is one of the very few survivors of one of the most interesting of all pianos, by the great innovator William Southwell of Dublin. As with many Southwell pianos, the quality of the cabinet making is outstanding. Nothing of the interior mechanism has survived, so this will need to be reconstructed from scratch, but full data are available. This will in fact be a replica piano in an original case, but no musical compromises will be necessary in the struggle to re-use parts which are past their best.
Please see the Sale Page for details of this rare opportunity.
A New Discovery - a Piano by Baker Harris
The name of Baker Harris is well-known, but as a maker of spinets. There were several spinet-makers called Harris active in the mid eighteenth century, of whom probably more than one was called John, but whether Baker Harris was related to them or not, I don't know.
Twenty-one spinets and three harpsichords by Baker Harris are known to have survived, and we can establish from dates on them that he was active from 1740 until 1780 at least. But there has been no record of a piano by him, until now!
There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the calligraphy, and in any case, why fake it? The date is given as 1785, which is exactly right for the style of the piano. All of the known spinets (and the 1780 harpsichord name-batten, formerly in the Colt Collection) have the presentation of the name in a Latinised form - 'Baker Harris Londini Fecit 17xx' - but this piano extends the maker's known dates by five years, and we remember that Christopher Ganer changed from Latin to English in 1786, and John Broadwood in 1793.
Internally, the piano is entirely conventional, with three handstops, single action, and lever overhead dampers. The case is perhaps a little smarter than ususal, with handsome veneer and cross-banding outside, and attractive marquetry panels on the nameboard. It is in private ownership in Sussex, England.
This interesting discovery does add a new aspect to the career of Baker Harris, as well as establishing that he was still active in 1785.
We enjoyed a successful Friends of Square Pianos party in my home village of Chelveston earlier this year, and planning is well under way for Saturday April 13th 2019.
As before, there will be at least a dozen pianos, spinets, and harpsichords there, and the theme will be 'Owners, Restorers, and Makers'. The picture above shows about half of the instruments that we brought together in the hall in 2018.
Details are on the Chelveston 2019 page of the website. Numbers will be limited to about 40 to ensure a good social occasion, and we now provisionally have a Full House. But please get in touch if you would like to join the reserve list.
Duwaer in Concert
We are so used to seeing grand pianos on the concert platform, that it makes a welcome change to see and hear a square piano on the stage. Here we see Olaf van Hees' splendid Duwaer (c 1830) played by Anders Muskens in a performance of Beethoven's 3rd piano concerto. The orchestra is of a size that would have been familar to Beethoven; it is the Neue Mannheimer Orchester playing on original instruments.
Please folow the link, and notice not only how the piano and the orchestra are in balance, but how clearly we can hear the sound of the individual instruments of the orchestra.
The piano itself will be familiar to some of us - Olaf very kindly brought it to our Friends of Square Pianos party in April this year. Here we see it in company with about half of the fifteen early keyboard instruments that we assembled for the occasion.
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.
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..
A Happy Christmas to All Our Readers!