Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Restoration work begins on Brontë piano

Sarah Laycock from the Parsonage writes:

After over a hundred years build-up of dust, dirt and strands of Emily’s hair, the Brontë family piano is finally going to be restored to full working order. The only problem we have now is - who’s going to play it?

Up until now, the cabinet piano, presented to the museum in 1916, has been displayed and admired as a piece of authentic Brontë furniture but with the help of private funding, we are now able to restore the inside mechanism so that it can be appreciated by all as a musical instrument.

The piano was mainly used by Emily, although Branwell and Anne would have also used it to a lesser extent. Ellen Nussey once described Emily playing ‘with precision and brilliancy’ and by the time Emily went to Brussels in 1842, her playing was of such a high standard that she was taught by one of the best music professors in Belgium.

The piano was probably made in London between 1810 and 1815. It bears the inscription John Green, music agent of 33 Soho Square, London. It has a fairly short five octave keyboard of ivory keys which will be kept intact, and the broken hammers and strings which are hidden behind a screen of maroon-coloured pleated silk will be replaced so that the piano will play for the first time in over one hundred years.

Piano restorer Ken Forrest (pictured below) has examined the piano and informed us that there are parts missing which will need to be replaced and it will need to be completely restrung. He also said that the ivory keys are going to be kept but are in need of some renovation. He is going to be researching similar pianos in order to gather together more information before restoration can take place. Cabinet pianos were popular in the 1830s and 1840s but today are rather unusual when compared to the more valuable pianos such as the Grand.

Our cabinet piano is one of many items that were auctioned off in the 1861 sale of Brontë objects. It was bought by a Mr Booth of Oxenhope and sold many times before it was donated to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in 1916.


Anonymous said...

Why not have it played by Alan Cuckston who has recorded some of the Bronte music on a similar Cabinet Piano ?

Anonymous said...

I I think it should be mentioned that it (the piano restoration) was initiated and totally funded by Virginia Esson. Why has this recignition been almost totally ignored?

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the feature on BBC radio 4's Piano pilgrimage. Pass on my regards to Ken Forrest. A hard job well done and a most informative interview.

Ben Nolan

Colin Nicholson said...

I saw and listened to this piano being played in June 2011 by a young lady studying at The Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester; she played beautifully Baroque & Early Classical music. However, since I am also a pianist and piano restorer, I was rather surprised that there was no literature about the piano; for example, showing photos of the restoration procedures, and I am amazed that no one knows the manufacturers name? .... (or at least it has not been mentioned, only the retailer). I was thinking of John Broadwood & Sons, who were prolific piano cabinet makers up to 1854, when they had made 8,962 cabinet pianos. Two-tone fallboards were a feature of Broadwood, sometimes ebony & mahogany. I certainly enjoyed listening to this restored piano!