Pohlman 1777 

The story of the square piano in England starts when Johannes Zumpe launched his first square pianos in 1766.  With encouragment from the young Queen Charlotte (of Mecklenberg Strelitz) and another of her countrymen Johann Christian Bach, the new instrument was an immediate success.  Zumpe could not keep up with the demand, and as early as 1767 there are records of a piano made by Johannes Pohlman. Three of Pohlman's pianos dated 1969 are known to survive today.

Pohlman's pianos were very similar in design to those from Zumpe's workshop, but at least one eminent restorer today suggests that they were rather better-made.

This example is dated 1777.

The lowest hammer exhibits an interesting detail.  It is evident that the hammers were made over-length, including the wrapped leather coverings, and then trimmed to register accurately with the strings.  Anyone who has made or restored a square piano will understand how tricky this can be.  On this example, uniquely in my experience, the lowest hammer has not been trimmed on the front edge.  Obviously as these are the lowest strings, there is no neighbour to make this necessary, but I have never seen it before. 

 

The red felt dampers are not original, and are one of several items that need attention - they should be pads of soft deerskin.

 

The hammer-coverings appear to be original, and their un-worn conditon, and also that of the ivories, suggest that this piano has had relatively little use throughout its life. 

The three handstops control the divided damper-lift and buff stop.

The piano was re-strung a long time ago, and although the present strings are not too heavy, they are not correct - there are no covered strings for example.  It deserves an authentic re-string.

The case is in good condition, although there is some bowing to the main lid which should be corected.

The delicate wrestpins appear to be original.

The dampers have received attention at some time, and whoever did the work suffered terribly trying to get the screws out.  Planing a millimetre or so off the top, and replacing with a strip of mahogany would be a simple job, and make a dramatic improvement to the appearance!  

 

This piano has not been played for thirty years and more, and it is now time for it to have a thorough overhaul.  It then has the potential to be a lovely little piano from one of the very first makers.

 

It is near Cambridge; the price is £1,950.  

 

Please contact Steve West  stevewest81@yahoo.co.uk

 

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© David Hackett