Until 1785, Christopher Ganer's pianos carried the maker's name in a Latinised form, with the date, enclosed in a long narrow oval cartouche: "Christopher Ganer Londini Fecit 17xx" Usually, the cartouche was surrounded with beautiful inlaid garlands. Then in 1786 (presumably) the inscription was changed to English, and there was no date: "Christopher Ganer Musical Instrument Maker". For perhaps a couple of years, the pianos and their decoration looked very similar, but the pattern was soon to change. Ganer's pianos were never numbered, so what follows of the reconstructed history can only be educated guesses, based partly on the technical and decorative detail.
Towards the end of the 1780s, Ganer began to make pianos with noticeably varied characteristics, and of the hundred or so that have been studied, no two are identical, although certain details (e.g. enamel plaques) recur.
This example is particularly handsome, with beautiful 'wave-pattern' satinwood edge-banding, reflected on the French stand, where it is contrasted with vibrant purpleheart. The original purpleheart has now faded to a warm brown, but some restoration shows the original contrast.
The quality of the inlay on the nameboard is simply stunning
- enlarged detail below.
The action is the double non-escapement type, introduced by Schoene, in about 1788. Although not often seen in English pianos, it was used by Érard in Paris until well into the nineteenth century.
As with the old single action, the repetition is unbeatable, as there is no escapement to re-engage. The intermediate lever reverses the arcs of rotation, and for reasons that are not immediately obvious make the action easier to regulate for sensitive playing, at the same time minimising the risk of bounce and blocking. The choice of this action, and other features compared with the other Ganers, leads us to suggest a date for this piano of about 1795.
As found, the piano did not have its orginal soundboard, and there was evidence that this might have been lost in the early 1800s. The rather poor replacement has now been in turn replaced by one to the authentic pattern, and hand-made wrestpins replace the heavy nineteenth-century pins.
There were never any handstops, but there is clear evidence from remaining traces that this piano originally had four pedals: Damper-lift, buff, lid-swell, and what was almost certainly a comb-mute similar to the design on the Southwell patent (operating at the left-hand edge of the soundboard). Whether this was intended as an 'una corda', or as a tuning-aid to mute one string of each pair, we do not know. It was perhaps not the brightest of ideas, but it would be interesting to see it restored!
A lot of work has been done on this piano, and it now has a voice again. But work is still required to re-instate the pedals (the mechanisms inside the piano for buff and damper are still there).