Please remember that, as with 'Pianos for Sale', I have not usually seen these pianos, and any comments I make may be based entirely on information supplied by the auctioneers, or what we can see from the pictures.
Piano Auctions - April 27th
A truly spectacular line-up is promised for the first 2021 sale by Piano Auctions, with nine lots of particular interest. Something for everybody, with a wide range of estimates from £600 to £30,000. As before, the sale will be at the premises of G&R Removals at Langley, with viewing by appointment, and the sale on-line only.
Pictures by courtesy of Piano Auctions Limited
1 -LOT 30 - HARPSICHORD INSCRIBED NICCOLI CAMPI, FLORENCE, 1632
So much to say about this one - please look at Piano Auctions' website for more.
But briefly, we see an Italian harpsichord of true inner-outer construction, with a lightly-built instrument in a separate case.
It has two 8' stops, with evidence that it previously had a 4' stop. Unusually, the registers are controlled from the spine.
The compass is now C/E - f3, possibly altered from the original.
Nicely arcaded key-fronts.
The painted lid carries the inscription (on the scroll at right) Niccolo Campi - Fece - Ano (sic) - 1632 - in Fiorenza.
It has a full set of jacks as seen, but it comes with a useful tray of spare parts from a restoration.
This one has provenance including an entry in Boalch III, which refers to lists by Franciolini. The estimate for this unique harpsichord is £20,000 - £30,000.
2 - LOT 35, A SPECIAL MORLEY HARPSICHORD, 1980
As we see from the inscription on the jackrail, this splendid harpsichord was made specially for the 1980 Bruges Exhibition.
It is built in the style of a Kirckman harpsichord, with a beautiful veneered and cross-banded case.
The handstops control the traditional 2 x 8', 4', lute, and buff.
The keyboards have ivory covers, and therefore this harpsichord comes with an Article 10 certificate. This confirms that the ivory was pre-convention, and therefore the sale is legal. The estimate for this splendid instrument is a modest £2,000 - £3,000. Surely it is worth more!
3 - MORLEY SPINET, 1964
A more conventional Morley, a spinet this time. This one also has ivory on the keyboard for the sharp tops, and comes with an Article 10 certificate.
Seems to be in very good condition, a practical and affordable instrument with an estimate of just £600 - £800.
4 - A 'VIENNESE' PIANOFORTE BY DEREK ADLAM
Derek's instruments are beautifully made, and this is a rare opportunity to buy one of his pianos - I think it was about ten years ago when the last one came up at a UK auction. This is the third-from-last of all those he made, and is based on the Rosenberger which was my favourite piano at Finchcocks.
The estimate for this fine piano is £12,000 - £18,000.
5 - SQUARE PIANO BY THOMAS TOMKISON
Many makers of square pianos claimed Royal patronage, but Thomas Tomkison really was the favourite maker to George, Prince of Wales, then Prince Regent, and finally King George IV. The inscription on this one tells us that he was maker to 'His Majesty', and therefore dates from after 1820.
It is a handsome piano, with brass inlay and a six-octave compass.
It has evidently been carefully restored relatively recently. The estimate is £1,000 - £1,500.
6 - BROADWOOD 1787
Surely everybody knows by now that these early Broadwoods are my favourite pianos, and this one is just like mine, from the same year.
This example, N° 773, formerly belonged to Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav Holst, and was restored by Don Adcock some years ago. Please ignore that improvised music-desk: these pianos did not have one, and they were usually played with the lid down anyway.
The soundboard now shows some joint separations: these should be repaired, but in the meantime they often do not seem to affect the sound. The estimate for this one is £1,000 - £1,500.
7 - COMPACT HARPSICHORD BY SPERRHAKE, C. 1960s
This 'revival' harpsichord by Sperrhake is just 4'9" long.
The estimate is £800 - £1,200.
8 - 'MYSTERY' CLAVICHORD'
We believe this to be a Thomas and Rhodes downstriking clavichord, with the bass strings towards the back and the treble strings to the front. The tangents are attached to the underside of the levers, which strike the strings from above.
As far as we know, only Thomas and Rhodes made instruments like this. Thanks to Peter Bavington for these notes.
It did occur to me many years ago that this layout offered the possibility of a compact instrument with a full soundboard, but I never got around to making one! Obviously the question of key-return needs to be addressed.
Like some other instruments, it is being sold on behalf of Lady Alexandra Scholey. Estimate £600 - £800
9 - STEPHEN WESSEL HARPSICHORD 1976
More information awaited on this one as well, but for now we see a nice-looking harpsichord in a pretty 'malachite' green case.
The rig is evidently the usual 2 x 8' + 4'. Everything looks very tidy.
I'm sure that I know more about Stephen Wessel, but, as they say, I need to refresh my memory. In other words find my notes. Or ask a friend. But if anyone can help, please email.
This looks like a very useful harpsichord, and at an estimate of £600 - £800 could be a real bargain. Watch this space.
Gardiner Houlgate - March 12th - Results
The Piano Auctions Spring Sale has been postponed until April 27th, so the first sale of this year was at Gardiner Houlgate on March 12th.
There was be the usual wide selection of all kinds of instruments, common and rare, and three pianos.
It is remarkable in having 'Dolly' dampers, three years or so before the Southwell patent expired, and Broadwoods adopted them for all their pianos. Note also that at one time it had a pedal, as shown by the hole just visible in the shelf.
A new photograph does indicate that quite a few hammers are mising.
Against an estimate of £500 - £800, it achieved a hammer-price of £440, and the website now records it as 'unsold' again.
The other square piano in this sale was Lot 1269, an attractive 1776 Beck.
This piano has three handstops for divided damper-lift and buff stop, and the keyboard omits the rarely-needed FF#.
It has been carefully restored and needed a new soundboard, but the restorer has incorporated the piece from the original board with Beck's signature. This was written parallel to the straight section of the bridge, hence the grain is now at an angle.
It is a rather common problem for the structure on the front right corner of the case to separate, and this appears to be happening here (presumably post-restoration).
The estimate for this one was £1,500 - £2,500: hammer price £1,600.
The other piano in this sale was a handsome 'cabinet' upright in rosewood by George Peachy.
Estimate £200 - £400, but it did not sell.
All pictures by, and by courtesy of, Gardiner Houlgate Limited
Gardiner Houlgate - December 11th
There was the usual amazing array of musical instruments and memorabilia at Corsham on December 11th, including Arnold Dolmetsch's workbench; this sold for £3,400 hammer price - (£4,200 including costs). A truly historic piece. In my fantasy-world, it would ghave been saved for our National Musical Instrument Museum...
There were two square pianos in the sale. Lot 1340 was an 1803 Broadwood, N° 7657.
This one does need some attention to the action - there are some detached hammers. It is interesting in having Southwell-type 'Dolly' dampers rather than the brass under-dampers characteristic of Broadwoods from 1780 until 1806. Several examples of this variation have now been seen.
The estimate for this one was £700 - £1,000; it just achieved the low estimate of £700.
Also from the same year, lot 1341 was a lovely-looking Clementi, number 3369 (stamped). The hand-painted flowers are the 'Sweet Pea' design, hopefully familiar to all readers of this website as the frame for the header to each page.
This one has been carefully restored; against an estimate of £1,000 - £1,500, it sold for an encouraging £2,100 hammer (£2,600 total). Surely good value if it was as good as it looked: we really should take inot account the value of work that does not need to be done.
All pictures by and by courtesy of Gardiner Houlgate.