The Yaniewicz and Green square piano c, 1810 - a unique instrument with a historic provenance.
Every instrument tells a story. Two decades ago, a square piano dating from around 1810 came to light in a private house in Snowdonia. Despite its dilapidated condition, it was recognised as an instrument of historical interest by Douglas Hollick, who bought it for restoration and embarked on a research project to discover more about its provenance. Above the keyboard, a cartouche with painted flowers and musical instruments bears the label ‘Yaniewicz and Green’ with the addresses of premises in fashionable areas of London and Liverpool. Inside the piano, a signature in Indian ink has been matched with those on the marriage certificate and surviving letters of Felix Yaniewicz (1762-1848), a Polish-Lithuanian violin virtuoso and composer who came to Britain and founded the first Edinburgh music festival in 1815.
Several design features suggest that it came from the London workshop of Clementi, which supplied pianos to dealers such as Yaniewicz & Green, who then customised the case for their fashionable clients. The ornamentation may have been chosen by the original purchaser (perhaps from pattern books of the time) and has been identified by Derek Adlam, as characteristic of ‘Liverpool bling’! Features individual to this piano include the unusual pattern of the turned legs, and the brass rosettes (of a design rarely seen on English pianos); along with the lion ring drawer-pulls, these are all original.
Some of the decoration such as the wooden fretwork had been badly damaged; this has been painstakingly renewed as part of the piano’s restoration. The piano is now returned to its original handsome appearance, and is in exceptionally good working order with a lovely tone, since the sound-board is in very fine condition.
In 2021, after a successful crowdfunding campaign by The Friends of Felix Yaniewicz in collaboration with the Scottish Polish Cultural Association, the piano was moved to its new home in Edinburgh, in the Polish House on Drummond Place, just around the corner from where Yaniewicz lived on Great King Street. A short film has been released telling its story, which can be seen at www.yaniewicz.org/piano
From June 25th to October 22nd 2022, it will be on display at The Georgian House in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, as part of the exhibition Music & Migration in Georgian Edinburgh: The Story of Felix Yaniewicz www.yaniewicz.org/exhibition and played in lecture recitals and musical performances as part of the exhibition events programme.
The publicity flyer for the events may be seen below:
Click on the image above for a short video of Steven Devine playing the piano.