18 · Grand Piano

Full Description

English, 19th century
By John Broadwood & Sons, London, 1842

Compass: six and two-thirds octaves: CC to f’’’’
Length 245.0 cm; width 131.0 cm; depth of case 32.2; octave span 16.5 cm
String scale: c’’ = 29.8

A plaque in the center of the fallboard is inscribed: “Repetition Grand Pianoforte / John Broadwood & Sons / Manufacturer to Her Majesty / Great Pultney Street Golden Square / London”. This piano certainly qualifies as an early Victorian English grand piano de luxe. Its case and lid are veneered with richly patterned amboyna wood ornamented with heavily carved and gilt mouldings. The  case is supported by three massive tapering octagonal legs veneered and fitted with carved and gilt extremities to match the case. The piano has a composite iron frame with straight stringing; it is duple strung (close-wound with copper) from cc to GG#; treble strung (close-wound with nickel) from AA to D# ; and treble strung with open strings from E to f’’’’.  The mechanism is an Erard-type repetition action. The hammers are covered with felt. The natural keys are covered with ivory, the sharps with ebony.  There are two pedals supported by a lyre with carved gilt ornamentation: the left pedal moves the action to the right (una corda); the right pedal raises the dampers. [restored to playing condition]

As a youth John Broadwood worked for the venerable naturalized Swiss harpsichord maker Burkat Shudi. After Shudi’s death in 1773, Broadwood went into partnership with his son and later inherited the business, by which time he was specializing in making pianos.  Thus was established the oldest piano-making firm still in existence.  The young John Broadwood, along with the Dutch-born Americus Backers, is credited with developing the mechanism known as the “English grand action.”  This mechanism, like its rival “German” or “Viennese” action, was a simplification of the Cristofori action; it was more powerful, offering a bigger, richer sound than the German action, but it was heavier and less responsive to the touch. By the time this instrument was made, the Broadwood firm had incorporated Erard’s revolutionary repetition action into its instruments as the label proudly proclaims.  Chopin is known to have played Broadwood pianos similar to this one during his sojurn in England near the end of his life.

Gift of Anna Rosario Kennedy                                  
Accession No. 4959.1998