Piano Auctions Thursday 7th April

and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos Wednesday 6th April

     On a very typical English April day (sunshine and showers) we enjoyed a record turnout of Friends at Conway Hall.  We spent most of our time chatting and drinking coffee, but we did manage to have a look at the pianos as well.  

   There were no square pianos in the sale this time, but several items of interest.  I must confess to a secret love for the Imperial Grands made by Bösendorfer of Vienna, and there was a magnificent example of the full eight-octave model in the sale.  Amazing sound!  The colours of the keys below AAA are reversed to avoid confusing pianists.  The lowest note is equivalent to the largest 32-foot pipe on an organ.  The hammer-price for this lovely piano was £21,000

   It was in Vienna in 1817 that Thomas Broadwood met Ludwig van Beethoven, and on December 27th of that year he sent one of the finest of the company's grand pianos to Beethoven as a gift.  Inevitably, there was a problem with customs and import duty, but the Imperial and Royal Court Chamber overruled the beurocrats.  

  That famous piano is now in the Hungarian National Museum, but Lot 95 in the sale was a very similar piano.

  The estimate for this one was £6,000 - £8,000; the hammer fell at £4,500.



Staying in Vienna, we next had a very fine-looking 'Viennese' grand.

The maker's name is a new one for me; it looks like Mathias Mesenliches.   Definitely Vienna, but can anybody read the middle line?

This one has the features for 'Janissary Music'.  Here we see the bell and the cymbal-crash;  I've not seen one of these before.  We are told that there is also a drum.  

This one has been reconditioned at some time in the past.  The estimate was £10,000 - £15.000, but it did nit reach the reserve



  'Modern' spinets are not fashionable these days, but they are usually well-made and reliable, even if they often need some adjustment as found.  Prices realised are usually modest, and they can offer a lot of enjoyment.  In the April sale we have an example by the well-known maker Sperrhake of Passau.  

The estimate was £400 - £600 for this one.  In an unusal twist, it was withdrawn because it had ivory keys but no certificate: it can be problematical selling a post-1947 instrument.



Alec Hodsdon of Lavenham, Suffolk, was an important figure in the early keybaord revival before and after the second world war, and I think that his instruments deserve recognition for their own place in history.  

 This example is a 4½-octave clavichord made in 1955.  As is usual for this maker, the case is made from beautiful walnut; this example has cross-banding and ebony and box inlay.  It was placed next to the Bösendorfer Imperial Grand, which made an appraisal of its sound difficult (it's very difficult in an auction-room anyway) but it seemed to be good.  Against an estimate of £400 - £600, the hammer fell at just £220.  If indeed this was enough to clear any reserve, the new owner has a real bargain.


  Finally, a barrel pipe-organ from about 1805, attributed to O Meyer of Frith Street, Soho.  These are a lot of fun, especially for people like myself whose keyboard skills are, to put it politely, limited.

  It has 84 pipes, plus a triangle and drum, eight tunes and four stops. The bellows have been re-leathered relatively recently.  The estimate was £1,500 - £2,000, but it was not sold.  I do hope that it returns for the June sale - I didn't have time to play with it...  By the way, I know a man who can make extra barrels for these.


All pictures by, and by courtesy of, Piano Auctions Ltd., to whom we offer our thanks for the generous welcome that we always receive.  This was the last sale for Terry, and we offer our very best wishes for her retirement.  


Next Piano Auctions sale on June 23rd - There will be the usual meeting of Friends on Wednesday 22nd.

1827 Broadwood

at Gilding's Auction 5th April

Sold for £150

Gardiner Houlgate

Specialist Musical Instrument Auction

Thursday 10th March

There were three square pianos in this auction, and the big Kirckman harpsichord made a return appearance.

First of the squares is Broadwood N° 31379, c. 1825/6.  

Generally quite good condition, a few detached hammers, and needs a re-string.

Against the estimate of £100 - £150, the hammer fell at just £75.

Next was a Ganer, c. 1790.  

Case and nameboard look good.

Internally, this piano needs a major rebuild.  The damper-cover is there, but it needs a good few dampers, and at least a couple of hammers.  

The soundboard and bridge look OK, but it seems as if the wrestplank has come loose.

There is evidence that there was a lid-swell, and presumably a damper-lift and buff.  There is no sign that there ever were hand-stops, so all three would have been operated by pedals.  


Against an estimate of £100 - £200, the hammer fell at £80 for this one.

My favourite of the three was the 1797 Broadwood - details of this one have been removed at the request of the buyer.

1775 Kirckman Harpsichord

This was the second outing for this fine harpsichord - it failed to reach reserve at the previous sale.

 A two-manual harpsichord by Jacob and Abraham Kirckman, London 1775
The case of mahogany, the sides with slab-cut panels with stained fruitwood, holly stringing and quarter-cut mahogany crossbanding, the lid with shaped brass strap hinges,  the keywell with burr walnut facia and cheeks, the soundboard with inset gilt rose pierced and carved with King David playing the harp flanked by the maker's initials,  the five octave keyboard, FF to f3, with ivory naturals and ebony accidentals, four brass hand levers controlling two 8ft. stops one 4ft. stop and a lute stop. One pedal controlling simple machine stop, with music desk and on trestle stand. Inscribed on a boxwood plaque on the name batten Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman Londini Fecerunt 1775, also inscribed on the reverse of this batten, Restored by C. L. C. Ward, FRSA, MSIA, of Arnold Dolmetsch Ltd., Haslemere 1956

Length 7ft 9 1/2", width 3ft 1"

Recorded by Donald Boalch in Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord, 1440-1840, 3rd edition, edited by Charles Mould, p.446 (listed as No. 57a in the 1st and 2nd editions). Purchased by the Hon. Wayland H. Young (later Lord Kennet) at Sotheby's on 27th April 1956 and then by descent. Always known as the Kennett Kirckman.

We know that this one is in need of some major structural work, but it will surely be a magnificent instrument.  The estimate was a very modest £20,000 - £30,000, but even so the bidding only reached £16,000 before the hammer fell.  Did it actually sell, or was it (again) protected by a reserve.  If it did indeed sell, this must be a record bargain for such a fine harpsichord.  We remember what these sold for in the 1990s...

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© David Hackett