Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Brontë piano to be heard again

For the first time in over 160 years the Brontë family’s cabinet piano is to be heard again at their former home in Haworth. This historic occasion will take place at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in June following months of complex conservation work, which were made possible through the generosity of Florida member Virginia Esson. The piano was originally made by John Green of Soho Square.
It is not known for certain when the Brontës acquired their piano. Branwell Brontë developed a talent for both piano and church organ and it was possibly at his instigation that the instrument was acquired. Emily was described as playing ‘with precision and brilliancy’, and during her time as a student in Brussels, her ability warranted the services of the best available professor of music. Anne preferred to sing, though she was able to accompany herself on the piano. The family exception was Charlotte, whose poor eyesight proved an impediment to sight reading.

The piano has an interesting history: it was lent to Mr Grant, the curate of Oxenhope by Patrick Brontë after his children’s deaths, and then sold at an auction of Brontë items in 1861. It then passed through numerous hands before being put up for sale at Sothebys in 1916 as part of the collection of J.H. Dixon. Dixon’s wife was not satisfied with the price offered and withdrew the piano from the sale, presenting it instead to the Brontë Museum in memory of her husband.

The piano was valued by many of these former owners as a relic of the remarkable Brontë family. Over the years little interest has been taken in it as a musical instrument and it was no longer in playable condition. Recently the piano has undergone a lengthy and complex restoration process carried out by a specialist conservator and made possible by the generosity of an American Brontë Society member. Many of the internal workings were either damaged or missing and the restoration was further complicated by the piano’s rarity and the lack of similar instruments available for comparison.

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.

The piano will be back on display at the museum from Thursday 3 June. It will be played on the evening of Friday 4 June 2010, at a special event for Brontë Society members. Music has been carefully selected from the archive at the museum and will be played by Maya Irgalina from the Royal Northern College of Music. Further events are now being planned to allow the public to hear the piano played on a regular basis.

Contacts & Further Information:   
Ann Dinsdale (Collections Manager) – 01535 640198 – a.dinsdale@bronte.org.uk
Andrew McCarthy (Director) – 01535 640194 – andrew.mccarthy @bronte.org.uk

Below - the piano before restoration:

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