Piano Auctions September Sale, and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos
Well, the weather was OK earlier on, but by luchtime it really did rain. But undeterred, we enjoyed what I think was a record turnout of Friends. Thank you all for coming, and making it such a good party.
The pianos were fun as well - three very different instruments of particular interest to us:
The earliest pianos always attact the most interest, and Frederick Beck was one of the original group of London makers.
This one has all the most attractive features: small size, a 'short' keyboard from GG, beautiful nameboard with stepped ogival ends to the name panel, and three handstops.
We see the cloth strip on top of the damper-cover, in the style of the early Zumpes, and the Beck characteristic of no dampers for the top few notes. Evidently some work is needed - a few of the hammers are detached - but this is routine.
The soundboard was indeed very tidy, and we spent some time discussing whether it was original or not. It did not have note-letters in the old style, and no signature: Frederick Beck was unique (?) amongst the London makers in that he often placed his signature on soundboards, just by the bridge.
The picture above is of the soundboard from another piano; the row of holes show the position of the bridge.
After much debate, we concluded that the soundboard was not the original, but had been there for some time. The boards were wide, the joints immaculate, and the replacement of the bridge and wedge mouldings the neatest we have seen on an 'old restoration.
This one appeared to be structurally sound, and the case was in good condition. It did need a lot of work to the strings, hammers and dampers, but then it will be a lovely little piano by this pioneer maker.
The stand was contemporary, but a bit too big for this piano - we could see that the expected locating holes in the underside were somewhat further in from the ends. Easy enough to make the stand a bit smaller, though.
It sold for £1,250 (estimate £700 - £1,000) - good value in my opinion.
An interesting piano. Charles Lemme was the son of Friedrich Carl Wilhelm, both born in Brunswick, but Charles at least worked in Paris from 1799. Only five pianos are listed in the Clinkscale database; a grand by FCW, and four squares by Charles. Five pedals! Very much the fashion in Continental Europe around 1820. This piano makes a very interesting contrast with contemporary English instruments.
This was a splendid piano, showing beautiful workmanship. Quite large and impressive, and all trichord. It will need a major restoration job, though. The only thing that actually worked was pedal number five, on the right of the group, which operated the drum. This made magnificent sound, and was a lot of fun. (It works by thumping the underneath of the soundboard with a normal padded drumstick). The other pedals are divivded damper-lift, moderator, and bassoon. This last device is a tube of rolled parchment which touches the strings of the lower part of the compass quite near to the strike position of the hammers, to make a sort of buzzing noise.
Against an estimate of £1,200 - £1,500 it sold for £1,700.
And finally, a truly splendid 5½-octave grand by John Broadwood & Son, dated 1798. Could there possibly be a finer piano? This one was restored by our dear friend, the late Don Adcock, and was the property of the late Mary, Lady Verney.
As expected, this was very much the star of the show. Obviously a very important instrument in terms of piano history, and with a distinguished provenance of its own, it was difficult to find any fault at all. The soundboard was original and immaculate, and the restoration work first class. It was presented in tune, and in good regulation. It is very rare indeed to find such a piano in perfect playing order.
So it was not entirely unexpected that several of us had 'interests' which we tried (not very successfully) to keep to ourselves. Let's just say that we are happy that this one has gone to a good home - sadly, not to me.
It's difficult to put a price on such a lovely piano, but the the price realized must be considered as something of a marker in the current climate, bearing in mind that exports to countries outside the EC are somewhat problematical because of the ivory situation. As we expected, it sold for rather more than the estimate of £7,000 - £10,000 at £12,500.
As ever, our thanks are due to Richard, Sean, Terry, and all at Piano Auctions for making us so welcome.
We look forward to the next auction on 17th December, and our Friends' Christmas Party on the viewing day, Wednesday 16th December.
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