Michael's Blog

21 December 2016

Such a splendid sight! The Palace of Pavlovsk, showing the restored Zumpe & Buntebart piano. This is believed to be one of several such pianos sent to Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great. More on this to follow in 2017.

My thanks to David Hackett and Pavel Akhanov for this picture.

May I wish all readers a Happy Christmas, and a harmonious New Year!

17 December 2016

In Pennsylvania in 2002 Malcolm Bilson amused me, and everyone else present, when he opened his lecture with his startling claim about replica pianos. On stage he had his own Walter-type Viennese fortepiano made, if I remember correctly, by Margaret Hood in the USA, and alongside it a gleaming black Steinway grand. Gesturing towards them, he described them both as replica or reproduction instruments. Well, as an opening gambit it got everyone's attention, and I recently saw that he developed this theme in a lecture uploaded to Youtube by Cornell University: 'A Piano is not a piano' is its title if you care to watch. (He hasn't lost his sense of fun.) His justification was that OK, everyone recognised the 'Viennese' fortepiano as a replica but, he argues, the Steinway company perfected their concert grand piano in 1890, and they've been doing their best to recapture the succesful recipe ever since.

This all came back into my thoughts when a friend in England paid a large amount of money for an untouched Steinway grand c.1890 – the most authentic kind with elephantine legs – which I thought sounded really pleasant, but he then brought in a Steinway specialist who not only replaced all of the strings [to the latest specification of course!] but also persuaded the new owner that it would be a much better piano if it had a new action! Yes, new hammers, new keys, the lot! So what's left of the vintage piano? Not much. The worst of it is that my erstwhile friend chose this piano specifically because he'd been told, and believed, that 1890 was the best period for Steinway.

So it's still happening. There are two utterly different classes of piano enthusiast, equally active. Those who cherish vintage instruments and delight in their original charm, and those whose whole training and outlook is geared to a specific aural and mechanical concept – everything else being inferior.

6 December 2016

InThe Pianoforte in the Classical EraI devoted a whole chapter to the complex subject of 'Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries'. As I pointed out, there are four categories of misattributed instruments, the least sinister being those misleadingly inscribed and sold under a perfectly valid contemporary name. Of these the most obvious example is 'Longman & Broderip'. Whereas a legitimate firm like Stodart sold instruments made by their own craftsmen, Longman & Broderip's pianos were supplied by a number of workshops. No one need have been deceived by this. This is nowhere near as misleading as the spurious Backers pianos sold when he was active, or the counterfeit harpsichords which annoyed Jacob Kirckman so much, many of which are still around today, but rarely acknowedged as fakes. (Private collectors are uncomfortable if you mention this subject.) There are too, numerous counterfeit square pianos, made in the eighteenth century, that purport to be made by Broadwood or Zumpe, and at least one each supposedly by Adam Beyer and 'Johannes Pohlman'. But what are we to say of the piano by Faveryear, to be sold this week at Gardiner Houlgate in Corsham?

For anyone familiar with the pianos of Broderip & Wilkinson the external appearance is instantly recognisable. The serial number inside also indicates its origins in the workshops on Tottenham Court Road. This particular design indicates a date of manufacture in the period 1800-1806. I doubt there was any serious intention of fraud in this case. It is simply a ready-made piano, bought through the trade, and sold by a trader whose reputation is not in the least suspect.

1 December 2016

When I wrote Broadwood Square Pianos pages 103-5 were devoted to 'The decline of the square piano'. The last examples that I then knew were made in the USA about 1905. These were the massive 'square grand pianos' with very heavy iron framing, and monstrous legs. So it was surprising to see in the sale catalogue of Bishop & Miller of Stowmarket this elegant-looking twentieth-century piano by George Rogers of London.

It has everything that you would want in a modern piano — seven-octave keyboard, two pedals and a compact space-saving shape. How did they do it? Can there really be a piano action inside? Well, yes.

An extraordinary, complex, cleverly designed down-striking mechanism. A fantastic effort has been made to resurrect the elegance of Georgian furniture (never completely out of fashion) and design for it a new action, yet retaining all the sophistication that modern musicians require. The set-off screws are in the wooden rail nearest the camera, the tape-check mechanism has steel springs, clearly visible, and the hammers point away from the player. You can see the hammer heads just in front of the wrestpins and the iron framing (top of picture). What a prodigious achievement! Underneath the piano you see that it has no bottom boards: the buttons securing the bridge can be seen and its simple parallel ribbing system as in modern upright pianos. Such enterprise deserves a better fate than it received. There are very few of these pianos around. This one is to be included in Bishop & Miller's auction sale at Stowmarket on 3 December. The estimate is £200-300. [Apparently not sold!]

16 November 2016

A few months ago [May 2016] I showed a harpsichord made in 1976, which came back to me after a long absence. It was good to hear this week that a very different instrument I made in 1985 is still in use. It was made entirely from one log of Lebanon Cedar, from a tree that grew in Gloucestershire. Its charm was greatly enhanced by the sweet fragrance that emerged whenever the lid was lifted. The stool was made some years later, again in Cedar, but not from the same tree. The keys are of butter-coloured box wood from my garden in Prestbury.


9 November 2016

Huge crowds at the Coffee Concert last Saturday. It was good to hear one of my harpsichords, now twenty-five years old, given a good workout in Brandenburg 5, for which Warwick received very enthusiastic and well-deserved applause. The next concert is his Mini Messiah, on December 3rd, taking the favourite items from Handel's masterwork to fit them into an hour's music. By then we expect the return from Lübeck of my grand-daughter Lois, so, when she takes charge, we may be able to keep pace with the demand for coffee and homemade cakes.

5 November 2016

Lively bidding is certainly what happened. The spinet at the auction in Macclesfield predictably went almost ten times over the estimate, selling at £8000, nearly 10K when 'buyer's premium' is added. But that was not nearly as ridiculous as the French violin, lot 259, labelled Gand & Bernardel, 1889, estimated at a ludicrously low £100 to £200 (with bow and case). On this lot the hammer price was £9800 – about fifty times the estimate. Why was this done? No one who cares about violins would have been misled.

This morning the Cheltenham Coffee Concerts resume with Bach, Brandenburg 5 and the 'Coffee Cantata'.

1 November 2016

An intriguing spinet is to be sold this week at Adam Partridge's auction room in Macclesfield. Catalogued as an 18th-century instrument by 'Johannes Kirkham' it might be a fascinating rarity. The inscription actually reads: 'Johannes Kirshaw' but the style of calligraphy is puzzling. The letter forms are exactly what one would expect from the Victorian era or later and I note their near perfect condition. The script has a certain style but is not an 18th-century one. Nevertheless, an interesting spinet. [Note added 2-November: the auction house has now released more photographs, showing the keys, lid and baseboard, all of which look credible and interesting, indicating that, even with a proviso about the inscription, this truly is a provincial 18th century spinet.]

In the standard reference work (Boalch III) there are seven wing spinets listed for John [Johannes] Kirshaw of Manchester. In a local directory of 1773 John & Joseph Kirshaw are listed as harpsichord makers in Tib Lane. With an auctioneer's estimate of £800 - £1200, this is sure to spark some lively bidding.

26 October 2016

It was good to receive news yesterday that the restoration of the Zumpe & Buntebart square piano (dated 1776) in Museu de la Música in Barcelona has been completed — good also to know that the information I had published about the action of these instruments proved so useful. It now plays very easily, the touch is light and prompt, repetition is excellent, and the sound is very beautiful. I am keen to hear it — there are so many terrible travesties in circulation, making it difficult, if not impossible, to understand why these pianos were once so popular. Below you see it before restoration (Dubious legs, anachronistic prop sticks, no cover over the dampers etc. The keyboard has also been modified or replaced.) This is one of Zumpe's low cost pianos, selling at less than £20, with plain exterior, having no inlay, and with an applied nameboard cartouche – so basic, but functional.

I hope to have more information on it soon, as I was told some time ago that a recording would be made. Meanwhile let me say for the benefit of anyone else who is contemplating the restoration of such a piano, the following set up should be observed. The key dip [front of the naturals] is about 7mm; the hammer stroke is about 25mm in the bass, 23mm in the treble; lost motion [before the 'pilot' strikes the hammer butt] is about 4.5mm. The hammer hinges were intended to be as near friction-free as possible, so use the thinnest possible skiver.

14 October 2016

Regarding adhesives used in old-style keyboard instruments — I remarked on 2 July how important it is to use traditional 'Scotch glue' wherever possible, and showed the benefit as I was able to take out the damaged soundboard of a harpsichord I had made in 1990. The continuation is shown above. When the soundboard was finally out (in 4 pieces, owing to the damage when the instrument was dropped) I decided to take off the bridge and all of the ribs on the underside to facilitate joining the pieces together again. I let them rest, under weights, for several weeks so that they would dry thoroughly, then glued them back together (with Scotch glue of course). The bridge (of pink pearwood) though originally bent by steaming, went back in place without much resistance, and then I made new ribs as I had decided to change the ribbing pattern. For these I used antique yellow pine, from a salvaged organ pipe of early 19th century: it is so easy to work, is very stable, is completely non-resinous, and has a very lively resonance. You can hear it talking to you while you are handling it! The ribs are glued on as plain strips of wood, in their primary rectangular form, so after 48 hours when the glue has hardened, you can then shape each rib, tapering it in all directions. The nearest one had not been shaped when the photograph was taken. How difficult these tasks would have been if I had used modern adhesives!

9 October 2016

Further news of the auction rooms: last week the Southwell piano in the Salisbury attracted a gratifying buzz of interest. At the time of the sale I was visiting Dr Margaret Debenham at her new home in Cambridge. Despite our long co-operaton in early piano research and joint authorship on several topics this was our first meeting in person. Among the subjects we talked about, prior to my long journey home, was the sale at Woolley & Wallis. £15000 was the hammer price, that's to say £18600 when the bill is paid, which is a lot to pay for a musical instrument that has little chance of ever playing again in a reliable way. Nevertheless, it is a stunning piece of Irish cabinet work and deserves to be cherished.

My year-long research (in 2015) into the life and work of John Pohlman naturally led me to take interest in another instrument at auction, this time in North Yorkshire. Offered for sale yesterday at Leyburn was an early square piano catalogued as by 'Johannes Bohlman of London'. I would have been delighted to restore this, or at least tidy it up, so as to obtain good photographs with no copyright problems – to illustrate my intended monograph, but it was not to be. There was a three-way tussle between a bidder in the room, myself on the internet, and a telephone bidder — a contest which I lost. It sold for £2400, plus commission etc. (so almost £2900), evidently to someone who is even keener than I am. It was, by the way, one of the early vintage, with the first type of soundboard, with zig-zig straight-edged shape at the left, and the extravagant calligraphy that one sees on Pohlman pianos made before 1775. It has only two stop levers, so no buff stop. That makes it something of an anomaly in any strict evolutionary sequence, since others made as early as 1769 have the full complement of 3 handstops.


28 September 2016

On this blog for 14 July there's a description of a lovely day in Oxford that included a recital at the Ashmolean Museum — given by Arne Richards on the splendid harpsichord there made by Jacob Kirckman. It was therefore specially interesting to see it featured in a new book, edited and adapted from Charles Mould's doctoral thesis of 1976 by Dr Peter Mole. It also contains some contributions from Tom Strange.

The 1772 harpsichord in Oxford is the main subject of the longest chapter, pages 90-140, titled 'A Typical Kirkman Harpsichord' [actually in many ways not so typical] with copious pictures, schematic drawings and technical data. With text and illustrations extending to 181 pages this book offers plenty to study, and a few surprises, notably the existence of as many as 8 spinets inscribed as by 'Jacobus Kirckman', but it is disappointing that so little critical analysis or even gathering of data has been applied to them, research which might hopefully lead to the identification of the real makers. Most experts suspect they may not have originated in Kirckman's workshop. These doubts regarding their origins are mentioned on Page 155, but not really investigated. Three of them are shown in colour photos, illustrating a diversity of designs. There is unhappily no discussion at all of the square pianos that likewise bear Kirckman's name, with similar doubts about their true origins, so unless you are specifically interested in English harpsichords this may not be the comprehensive overview of the Kirckman output that you hoped for. However, there is a lengthy text (appearing as Part 1) in which may be found Dr Mould's detailed account of the life of 'Jacob Kirkman' [sic] the instrument maker, with a little about his nephews Abraham and Jacob (who was an organist of some reputation). The book is available only from www.lulu.com at £38 for the soft cover version, about ten pounds more in hard covers. Visit the site to see the price in other currencies.

7 September 2016

The arrival of a good-looking, previously unreported piano by William Southwell of Dublin is a notable event. Wooley & Wallis in Salisbury have such an instrument, of a particularly interesting type, scheduled to appear in their auction in the first week of October. It presents a good external appearance, and is more or less complete internally, with no woodworm that I could see, and not much evidence of amateur interference. So it is a good item for study, for that small circle of people who are interested in these things, and a very attractive decorator's item for the vast majority who are not.

Southwell's concept is a seemingly brilliant innovation. Turn the square piano on its spine so, with the soundboard vertical, the sound is projected towards the listeners, enhancing the perceived tone to a very considerable degree. With this 90° re-orientation there are also mechanical benefits. As students of this matter may know, it has a front-striking action, which means, as Southwell's handwritten note inside the piano says, 'This intire Movement drops down on hinges'. Consequently, it is very easy to fit a new string if one should break, and equally easy to attend to the hammers — no need to extract the action and no tools needed. Just lift off the decorative front board, turn two hooks and the whole mechanism comes away from the strings and lies open for your inspection. And of course, since the action is placed in front of the strings – in effect a down-striking action in vertical form – there is no reason why the soundboard cannot be as big as you want it to be. Even the slot at the back of Southwell's patented square pianos is not needed.

Having said that, the soundboard in this piano is very similar to those in Southwell's ordinary squares. The bridge is of the same characteristic profile, 16 mm high at the bass end, and about 22mm wide. The wrestplank layout is standard, and to the right of it, and above, we see Southwell's usual fretwork triangular panel with the harp symbol for Ireland. Note also the continuance of his scheme for the fall board, divided into five graduated panels, preserving symmetry. Amazingly, considering Southwell's exuberant use of inlay, this piano does not appear to have any pieces missing, not even where he glued complex veneer onto end grain — usually a recipe for trouble.

What about its musical qualities? Well, I found the touch surprisingly light and reliable on the few notes that function as they should. But the endemic problem with uprights (without a check and escapement) is evident in that, with the best will in the world, the hammers do tend to bounce, or double hit. [This problem wasn't solved completely until Robert Wornum's perfection of a tape-check action circa 1840.] It is clear that Southwell had hopes that by attaching the 'sticker' to the hammer butt with a flexible hinge that this would restrain the hammer sufficiently to overcome this problem, but it is not quite eliminated. Odd notes are likely to have an unwanted repeat if struck too vigorously.

The other problem is tuning stability. You would think that Southwell would understand that the structural stability of a square piano depends principally on its sturdy, planked bottom boards, joined to the oak spine. Turn it vertically and that has to be translated into an equivalent structure. But no, these Dublin-made pianos have a removable panel at the back (for access to the dampers if need should arise). No strength there. The substitute structure, comprised chiefly of a diagonal brace behind the strings, is probably not as robust as required.

The Finchcocks Sale in May 2016 had a very similar instrument, likewise not a playable specimen. Bidders at that sale could not forsee that another would appear so soon, so the hammer price this time around is hard to judge. The auctioneers suggest £3000 to £5000. [£15000 hammer price + 'commission' -- see above]

31 August 2016

As a footnote to my research on John Broadwood and his inheritance of the business of his father-in-law Burkat Shudi it was fascinating to receive feedback from Dr Alastair Laurence, MD of John Broadwood & Sons. [For anyone who wishes to contact them directly let me say that Alastair does not do email. You must write or phone.]

The interesting discovery is that Burkat Shudi junior, the only surviving member of the family — the young boy shown in the family portrait of 1742 — appears to have married, in London, not long after John Broadwood was widowed by the loss of Burkat's sister Barbara. Alastair reports: 'on 12 February 1779 a certain Burkat Shudi was married to Christiana Dorothy Wild. She was the daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth Wild, and was born in London in 1762. She would have been about 17 at the time of her marriage.' If this is indeed Burkat junior he would be over 40 years old. Granted that we have the right man, it is highly likely, as Alastair observes, that she was some relative/kinswoman of Burkat's. His mother, seen with a protective arm around the young Burkat, was born Catherine Wild. So, some interesting new light on this history! [Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London]

27 August 2016

I always greatly admired the playing of Andras Schiff. His sensitive performances of Schubert were my special pleasure. So I thought — when he plays a concert that I can get to I really would like to hear him. Sadly when the opportunity came I did not go, for the simple reason that the whole programme consisted of three Beethoven sonatas — one after the other. How entertaining is that!

The reason that I think of this is that concerts are not what they were. It is good that we are now seeing many more recitals featuring early pianos, among which I rejoice to see some performances on decent square pianos in good condition, but most of these events are restricted to a small repertoire of mostly familiar music. Lots of them are appearing on Youtube too. But what we are not seeing is an evening's entertainment where early pianos are used in a context that replicates their original use. In 1780 no one would think of having a concert that consisted exclusively of piano solos. Surely our musical pleasure needs some variety, some songs perhaps, preferably from a light soprano. And also, if possible, some ensemble music. But at the very least we ought to have solos and songs in alternation – that's what they were expected to do.

Having just read through the whole of John Marsh's Journals up to 1804 I can only yearn for the kind of music-making that they then enjoyed. Be it a professional concert in London, or a private musical evening in Winchester, the menu always had vocal as well as instrumental items, in which it was normal to have a lady singer accompanied by a pianoforte, and of course, yet more variety was provided by the music not all being from one composer!

14 August 2016

Phenomenal applause in the concert hall — three million hits on Youtube for a clasical music video! Comments like 'awesome' and 'amazing' — I am of course talking about Slawomir Zubrychi's performance on the 'Viola Organista', otherwise known as a Geigenwerk, showing on this blog under 9 August. Hans Heiden of Nuremberg made almost identical instruments around 1600, and there's a surviving example by Raymundo Truchado in Brussels (showing here). It is said to date from 1625 when it was apparently used in a convent in Toledo.

Evidently the sound of this instrument has surprised and delighted a lot of people, but whether many of them are regular listeners to classical music is doubtful. My interest was chiefly to gain some hint as to the quality of sound that one might have heard from Roger Plenius' Lyrichord, from the 1740s, which differs from Zubrycki's chiefly in having a system for keeping the strings in tune by weights. I must admit that the tone, as heard in the numerous Youtube videos, is not inspiring. It soon becomes tiring. To speak plainly, it sounds like an ensemble of hurdy-gurdys. And it's not helped by Zubrycki's choice of music. Abel's viola da gamba sonatas can sound so much better than this when played on the bass viol.

And then he plays Marin Marais — more viol music. All of this is slow and rather mournful repertoire, and not well chosen to show what this novel keyboard instrument can do, if it is to be taken seriously as a rival to the harpsichord and fortepiano. Why does Slawomir not play anything in quick tempo? And why does he not venture into the top octave? In most of the clips we see his hands close together in the tenor octave! This suggests that there are severe limitations as to what this 'viola organista' can do. He is credited as a concert pianist, so we take it for granted that he can play proper keyboard music.

So my overall conclusion is that the amazing innovator Roger Plenius was wasting his time on his Lyrichord. The application of rosinned wheels to the strings of these experimental instruments was a poor judgement to say the least. True musical expression is never going to come from something so mechanical. This reminds me of the pain that so many parents have to endure when a child is learning the violin. Scraping the bow over the strings won't do. But eventually, if the child progresses and learns some bow control, some subtlety of attack, and grasps the idea that silences between the notes are just as important as the notes themselves — then we have music!

Truchado's Geigenwerk was probably put to a use for which it was well suited — to accompany psalms and hymns in a church or convent it could have been very useful. This reminds me of the Moravian settlers in Pennsylvania in the 1740s when they had established a pioneering community at Nazareth but had to wait for a couple of years while their organ builder worked to finish an instrument to accompany their worship. I have a strong feeling that their pantalon-pianoforte in upright form [Pianoforte in the Clasical Era, plate 19] could have been their interim solution. Open the front door, dispense with dampers, it could have made sufficient noise to help them in their hymns, and having seen the original meeting room with its low ceiling, it all makes sense to me.

9 August 2016

When writing about Pioneer Piano Makers in England Margaret Debenham and I gave a lot of space to Roger Plenius — not unreasonably. He was the first to build a fortepiano in England (probably in 1747). But his most enduring claim to fame was for another type of keyboard instrument, the Lyrichord, as he called it. It never really caught on, and the prodigious number of hours he lavished on it contributed to his ultimate bankruptcy, and imprisonment for debt.

The principle of Plenius' lyrichord was the beguiling prospect of being able to play a stringed keyboard instrument that would sustain the tone, prolonging the sound for as long as one held down the key, just as on the organ, and moreover because the strings were to be sounded by a mechanism that imitated the violin bow, it should be possible to play loud and soft. The dream was that one might gain the expression inherent in the violin and cello. But we have no idea what Plenius' instrument sounded like. We don't have a surviving example of his work — in fact we don't really know where his two completed lyrichord's went. But strange to say, modern enthusiasts are trying to keep the dream alive, one of them building a five-octave keyboard in Krakow in 2012 with strong resemblance to the lyrichord. It clearly works on the same principle, and has been demonstrated in concerts

It really is incredible. Slawomir Zubrycki sits down to play what looks like an ordinary harpsichord but the sound he makes seems at first like an organ, then like a bass viol. He calls it a 'viola organista' and introduced it to the prestigious Copernicus Festival audience as his own initiative to realise the concept shown in one of Leonardo da Vinci's sketchbooks.

Somewhat misleading really! His 'viola organista' is actually a replica of the Geigenwerk made by Hans Heiden of Nuremberg before 1620. There is in fact one surviving historic Geigenwerk, inscribed as the work of Raymundo Truchado from Toledo, c.1625, now in Brussels (in unplayable condition). Click the link [in concerts] to hear the Copernicus Festival performance and see what you think. I will hold over my comments for another day.

5 August 2016

Everyone likes to hear good news. And if you are a frequent reader on this site I'm sure you will like this.

At a recent concert in Italy you see Michele Benuzzi playing to a very attentive and fascinated audience, many hearing for the first time the lovely musical sounds that can be produced by a good musician from a well-preserved square piano. 'I could feel that kind of silence that doesn't happen every concert,' says Michele. The piano is the 1798 John Broadwood with satinwood-borders, formerly listed on the Sale page of this website in very original condition. After the concert the people were evidently fascinated and crowded round to examine the piano. So, hopefully, we are going to hear it on CD later this year.

1 August 2016

Sunday afternoon's walk involved a long climb from the Thames & Severn Canal up to Rodborough Fort. You can see both in this painting which currently hangs in 'Museum in the Park' in Stroud. Rodborough is on the extreme right so you can see that to get there it is necessary to pass through the tenter field — that's where you see red and white stripes in the picture. These are woollen cloths, woven in the mill in the foreground at Wallbridge, then dyed, washed, shrunk, and hammered [fulling] and finally hung out to dry on tenter racks where you see them. So when you see Broadwood pianos with those finely woven red cloths inside think also of the Stroud valleys in Gloucestershire where they were produced. Dampers in Broadwood square pianos from 1780 to 1805 have this red cloth pinched in the jaws of the brass under dampers. After 1805 the 'dolly dampers' are furnished with scarlet cloth on the outside, and white cloth underneath — and here you see the connection with Stroud. No surprise either that British soldiers wore uniforms with those same two colours.

If you have a look at Museum in the Park's website you will possibly recognise the front of the mansion because it features in the opening credits of our video of Haydn played on a Longman & Broderip piano. (By the way, it is quite a strenuous climb to the fort! But the views are wonderful! To the west the mighty River Severn, and far beyond the unmistakable cone shape of Sugar Loaf Mountain near Abergavenny, 46 miles as the crow flies.)

14 July 2016

A rare opportunity today to hear the magnificent Kirckman harpsichord at the Ashmolean Museum – for free. So, with the sun shining brightly (a rare event in recent weeks!) there could not be a better time to walk again beside the River Thames from the rural hamlet of Binsey, along the Thames Path to the city of 'dreaming spires'. There may be huge crowds milling around in the shopping streets, and in many tourist destinations, but here on the Thames Path near Port Meadow there was peace, beauty and tranquility. It was heartening to see again the purple spikes of loosestrife on the riverbank, and sky blue chicory flowers beside the sandy track. Why they should be so abundant around Oxford I still do not know.

At the museum the harpsichord was ideally located. The gallery in which it is exhibited is a good approximation to the size of a large gentleman's salon, with a broad staircase leading off, fine pictures on the walls with ornate gilt frames, and a ceiling height that does not allow the sound to be lost as it does in so many churches where concerts are often held nowadays. This harpsichord is one of Jacob Kirckman's finest, made in 1772, with two keyboards, around which there is the well-known marquetry work seen only in his most expensive intruments. The player, Arne Richards, whom I have never heard before, arrived in due time at quarter to two, for a two o'clock start, and proceeded to uncover the keys and open the lid, or two lids, as he said, the inner one being a 'Venetian Swell' of the type patented by Burkat Shudi. Something of a mystery that inside the harpsichord from his arch-rival! But Mr Richards never used it. He simply ignored the pedals. There were about fifty auditors, so I would say we had a good approximation to the sort of gathering that might have heard such an instrument, in the right sort of ambience. Inevitably there were quite a few visitors wandering innocently around the galleries who were startled by the music, mostly Japanese, and mostly female. They paused, got out their mobile phones, listened a short while, and then moved off quietly.

Kirckman's harpsichord is a splendid thing, and its tone was adequate for the space. We heard all three registers being used, and the tenor I thought especially pleasing. Overall, if it seemed a little quieter than I expect of this maker, it was never strident or jarring. And it was decently in tune too. We heard a great variety of music, none of it played flawlessly, but that too could be regarded as an authentic experience. None of the wrong notes or erratic tempi spoiled the effect. And all this was free.

I mentioned Worcester College Gardens on 17 June. I saw them from the canal towpath many a time, but today, walking back to Binsey, it seemed like a good moment to go inside and look. If you are ever passing this way on a weekday afternoon in July be sure to enter. There's no charge, yet it is the best show in Oxford, but the tour guides don't bring their crowds here. There's a WOW! factor from the moment you pass the porters' lodge. You see first a dark arcade with a beautiful and rather clever tub of purple and pink flowers at its focal point. Beyond, in the sunlight is the most astonishing quad, with a very elegant Georgian facade to the right. In the centre is a lawn that surpasses anything I have ever seen in all the English gardens of my memory. The flower borders are full of interesting and surprising beauty. You pass through a portal to the outer gardens and may freely wander the 28 acres (14 hectares for some folk), with a beautiful lake, a sports ground, and more flowers and lawns than you can ever take in at one visit. I've looked at photos on the internet and have to say that none of them give an adequate idea of what you will experience.

Towards the end of our perambulation I saw an immensely tall tree covered in white blossom, the flowers on close inspection resembling Himalayan Balsam. The gardener assured me it was a Catalpa – but of a size that's truly astonishing. An American lady was admiring it too. 'Do you know about birds?' she asked. 'There's a little brown bird singing over there', she said. I could hear it too, and knew it immediately, but I couldn't see it. 'It's a goldfinch' I said, 'it's such a pretty song isn't it? It always makes me think of fairy bells.' And there he was, perched on the highest chimney top, singing in the sunshine. 'Oh' she said, 'it's so beautiful here. And tomorrow I have to fly back to LA, smoggy LA.' 'You must come again' I said. 'I will' she said with evident resolve.

12 July 2016

Balance: that's often a major concern to concert musicians, especially when playing in a new or unfamiliar venue. How often have I been asked!

'How's the balance?' the leader will say, when they've played for half an hour or so. You have hired a harpsichord or fortepiano for a concert, and lingered in the hall. 'How does it sound?'

The usual concern is whether the keyboard instrument is too loud or too soft. And, of course it's very hard to tell when you are on stage and playing. Harpsichords always sound quite clear and audible to the musicians but half way back in the hall it can be almost inaudible. Then also there is doubt about the unusual combinations found in eighteenth-century compositions. Harp and pianoforte is a very difficult one on modern instruments. A concert grand by Steinway does not work well with a harp, but the balance is totally different when you replace the harp with a genuine period instrument, accompanied by a square piano, or an early grand piano. Cramer and Madame Dussek often appeared in concerts with this combination.

I was reminded of this yesterday when reading John Marsh's Journal. In 1796 he bought himself a new violin - not to replace the one he had been using in concerts for many years. That was excellent when leading an orchestra, which he did often. What he wanted was a good quality violin with a sweeter, softer tone that would blend with his piano, or that of his sister, in a domestic setting. They both enjoyed playing in ensemble. Mary had recently exchanged her Zumpe piano for a Broadwood square, while her brother owned one made by Longman & Broderip. The violin he chose was by Betts.

8 July 2016

Rose Ann Shudi disappears from the pages of history, as I knew it ten years ago. She was the daughter of Joshua Shudi, the nephew and expectant inheritor of the prestigious harpsichord workshop in Great Pulteney Street until his uncle disowned him in a furious public dispute. Ultimately the one who gained by this dispute was John Broadwood who married into the Shudi family in 1769. But Joshua Shudi continued in business, apparently selling well-made harpsichords until 1774 when his untimely death left his wife Mary and their little daughter to fend for themselves as best they could.

Rose Ann we now know was seemingly given a secure future in the world of music and instruments when she was married as a teenager, with her mother's consent, to Frederick Beck the then prosperous piano maker. So it was good that Margaret Debenham's recent paper (given at the conference organised by Marie Kent in London) shed new light on this story. The newly discovered documents featured in Margaret's paper reveal that, as Mrs Beck, Rose Ann was in Edinburgh when her husband died in London in 1807. The circumstances suggest that she was working at a girl's school there. I wonder if she was teaching 'Piano forte & Singing', a lifestyle more or less imposed on so many women as the only viable way for a musical female with limited financial resources.

Frederick Beck's will eluded my searches in the early 1990s but Margaret Debenham's paper has revealed that he left very little wordly wealth to his wife. While some people made a great fortune in the London piano trade others, like Beck and Pohlman, declined alarmingly as the business empires of James Longman and John Broadwood took an ever increasing share of the business. John Pohlman's widow was reduced to writing pleading letters to her landlord, and selling off everything she owned.

The paper feauturing Beck and the cabinet maker Christopher Furlohg (with an appendix by Michael Cole) is now on file at London Metropolitan University for future researchers.


2 July 2016

I am on record as saying that the only adhesive that should be used on antique instruments is hide glue. It comes as brown translucent pearls, like little peas, which you soak in water. To use it you must heat it in a metal cup in a water bath. But this is too much trouble for many. It is so much easier to use proprietory glues that can be bought at the local hardware store and used straight from the bottle. But these are neither reversible, nor strong enough.

The virtues of traditional hide glue, Scotch glue as it is usually known in the UK, was clearly demonstrated for me again this week. In the photo you see the disassembly of a harpsichord I made in 1990 - 26 years ago now. It was commissioned by David Walters who lived in Kenilworth and hired by him for concerts and recordings. There are in fact many commercial recordings in which it is heard. But since then it has been dropped down a flight of stone steps which, needless to say, did serious damage. The soundboard has to come out. There's no other way to repair the resultant structural problems. So here you see that I have been soaking out the delicate cedar mouldings. This makes me hopeful that soon I shall have the whole soundboard out in one piece so that I can repair it.

Contrast this with the virginal that was recently in my workshop. Its soundboard was buckled. One would like to take it out to flatten it. But that is impossible. It's a good soundboard - lovely timber - but it was glued in with a proprietory adhesive – Cascamite I believe – a very strong casein glue that is highly resistant to any solvent you can think of. The maker, who lavished so much care on the appearance of his work, has made it impossible to repair. What is even more unfortunate is the discovery of such irreversible adhesives used on two-hundred year old square pianos. I do wish people would think ahead.

17 June 2016

For Sale, on David Hackett's website, is a square piano by Longman, Clementi & Company that I remember well, and fondly. It has an interesting history.

In 2001 I had a phone call from Stephen Wall, a university lecturer who lived in north Oxford. He had visited the music shop of a friend Alan Crumpler in Leominster when they discussed the square piano Stephen had bought. As a result he got in touch with me. When I saw it, in Oxford, I was astonished to hear that he had bought this historic piano from a man who lived on a boat. It was moored in Oxford, on the Oxford Canal as I recall, behind Worcester College gardens – an enchanting place as I tried to convey in my book on the River Thames – right in the heart of the university city yet surrounded by trees, and hidden from passing traffic. Each boat has a charming little towpath garden only three feet wide, bright with summer flowers. Apparently the man was selling not one but two square pianos, the other being a little Broadwood square from the 1790s. So Stephen Wall and his next door neighbour in Summertown had one each. I forget the year of the Broadwood, but it was one of those with a pedal for the dampers c.1790-5, [missing of course] which one meets with occasionally.

Unhappily, the piano showing above had been got at. Some well meaning but ill-informed person had replaced the soundboard (which may have been cracked or buckled, as they often are) with a really robust one, of coarse grained spruce – 7 mm thick! He obviously didn't like the original tuning pins either, so they were replaced with chrome-plated, square-headed pins. The attraction was probably that these benefit from having anchor holes drilled through them. However, the original hammers and dampers were present, but recovered with modern felt. The case though rather pale, due to a modern French polishing job, was more or less intact except that it was resting on four disheartening screw-in, lathe-turned legs probably salvaged from a Broadwood piano of c.1814. What a challenge!

Stephen and his wife, Yvonne, a very good pianist, really loved this piano and intended to have it put in good order, after which they planned to keep it at their weekend cottage in a remote village on the Welsh border. Clearly no good could come from retaining the 7mm thick soundboard and luckily I had a well matured one ready, only 3.2mm thick. We had a discussion about the tuning pins and decided they might as well stay. The big problem was the stand. I should explain that Stephen Wall was struck down by polio as a youngster, and as a result was confined to a wheelchair in adult life. Consequently, he needed to have extra clearance for his knees which we measured, and I made a copy of the authentic type, using Brazillian mahogany whose pale colour was a near match for the case. The hammer covering was a problem too. Elkskin, the nearest material to that used historically, is too softly fibred. We needed something denser and firmer. And this was the first piano on which I developed my experiments, to compress and harden the selected pieces. The result was very satisfactory.

Obviously Stephen could not help me carry the piano, so my wife Ann came with me to Grosmont. We set it up in their recently refurbished cottage, I tuned it, and they played, and played, and played. Stephen commented: 'this sounds so much better than any of the fortepianos I've ever heard.' He was right.

As we left they told us again how much they loved it, and how much pleasure they expected, taking it in turns to play Mozart. But that was 14 years ago. I wonder how it is doing now?

15 June 2016

Gardiner Houlgate's auction sale this week includes three square pianos from the 1790s. The instrument by Christopher Ganer is unfortunately a basket case. Missing so many hammers and dampers; the wrestplank worm eaten and heaving; the fretwork triangle gone; and the H-frame that should have pedals attached also absent. Truly a dreadful sight. It dates from c.1795-8 and has single action with lever overdampers.

Nearby there is something that looks more promising.

From across the room the 5-octave Broadwood of 1792 looks much more encouraging, but open the lid and you'll see disheartening sights. [The photo above shows some of the problems.] It is, unhappily, the result of one of those amateur restorations that make your heart sink. The soundboard looks pretty good; the hitchpin block hasn't bowed away from the case. The bridge hasn't broken. The ivory keys look superb. That is the end of the good news. What induced the 'restorer' to cover the hammers with red cloth and white sheepskin is hard to imagine. The nut was clearly giving trouble, as they sometimes do, so what we see now is a replacement relying on steel woodscrews to hold it down. The case is twisted quite badly, which is rare in this model, so cautiously the tenor and bass have only one string for each note where there ought to be two. Underneath, the bottom boards look good, until you see a row of steel screws holding the case together. So sad: the case and the lid have been treated well, and the keys and inscription look lovely.

One curiosity: the serial number written in the usual place, in the usual style, reads: No. 17885. This is plain nonsense. Looking at my list in Broadwood Square Pianos [p.180] I see that for the year 1792 it should be a four-digit number beginning 17... How strange that it has been doctored!

14 June 2016

So many years ago now, I remember Alan Legg showing me his stock of pianos, some of which I bought. Others I finished for him, when he had found a buyer. Sometimes he asked me to go and tune for the owners when he felt no longer well enough to do it himself. One of those was Miss Purvis, in Coxwell Street, Cirencester, who owned a piano very like the one showing above.

Today it was good to see again another of Alan Legg's favourite square pianos, by Schoene & Co. on display at Corsham where Gardiner Houlgate hold their auctions. The piano looks good, and when I lifted the lid there was Alan Legg's typical work – neat, clean, with some of his characteristic workmanship. He replaced the damper pads on this piano (and many others) with wedges cut from standard piano damper felts. Amazingly they still work very well, almost 50 years later. Another characteristic was his use of phosphor bronze wire throughout the tenor and bass – not very authentic, but I have to confess they don't sound bad. Alan Legg was of course working in an era when very few square pianos were treated with proper respect, so he had to find his own ways of working with them, and sourcing materials.

He moved out of Cirencester in his last years and suffered a slow decline with Parkinson's desease – always sad. In my last memory of him, at his home in Somerford Keynes, his hands were shaking quite badly, which was so frustrating for him. Like other sufferers he'd wish he could stop these shakes but he couldn't. One of the last instruments he showed me was a charming little clavichord he had made some years earlier, with neat and tasteful inlaid lines, much superior to the mass-produced contemporary instruments by Morley. At my request he played Bach's Prelude in C on it, passably well. It was good to hear it, and better still to see his pleasure in playing it to someone who sincerely liked it.

4 June 2016

Faithful readers will recall that Warwick was practicing the wonderful E flat minor sonata by Pinto back in April. Today was the big day – a coffee concert in Cheltenham when about 140 people sat down to hear the music. It was the first item on the programme.

Someone said, 'Isn't that a harpsichord?' Warwick patiently explained – 'it's a piano from 1804. It's true, it looks more like an English harpsichord than a modern concert grand. But it has hammers to strike the strings. So it sounds very different from the plucking action of a harpsichord – but not much like a Steinway either.' Of its performance he said, 'It's so much easier to develop a legato melody on a modern piano, so why play these old instruments? You can make up your own mind. I often think its like driving a vintage motor car: you take the same road, to the same destination, but the journey is so much more interesting!'

Interesting it was. I have often heard Kenneth Mobbs play Pinto's sonata, but how much more compelling it was today, under Warwick's fingers, aided by the distinctive sonorities of the Clementi grand piano. The player himself said so. He practiced this piece mostly on his modern piano at home, but as he said, when he transferred to the vintage piano it sounded so different – especially in the tenor and bass where the clarity of speech is so telling. And for those who came prepared for the sound of a fortepiano, having heard one of those clattering Viennese instruments so prevalent today, how refined and expressive is the voice of the Clementi– how pleasing the softness of the una corda, how powerful the tone when needed.

20 May 2016

One of the happier results of advancing years is that you sometimes get to meet with someone, or something, from the distant past and get a pleasant surprise.

Harpsichords made in the 1970s can be a bit of a problem today. You often find that the soundboard is cracked or heaving, that the action is in poor condition etc. And some of the designs, supposedly based on antique originals, leave much to be desired. So it was a pleasant encounter this week. A 'Kirckman-style' harpsicord I made forty years ago is wearing her age very well!

No problems with the soundboard, keys very good, very credible appearance. Of course I have learnt a lot in forty years, so there are things I would like to change, but if it continues to play well and look good, this is good news.


12 May 2016

Good news from the Finchcocks sale is that almost every keyboard instrument was sold above its estimate. Often this was no surprise. Lot 1, the Adam Beyer square piano of 1777, in good condition, and barely touched in recent times, sold at £5500 on the hammer – which equates to £7100, as a take-home price when the auctioneer's fees and tax are paid. For such a well crafted and well preserved item that is still a modest price. Eight years older, and of lower quality, a piano by Zumpe & Buntebart cost someone almost £11,000, though it has an alarming twist, and a stand that is overwhelmed with woodworm – more air than wood I thought. Both results were well beyond the top of the estimate.

But what can one say about the pianos of Collard & Collard? Usually these robustly made early Victorian instruments attract very few buyers. An experienced auctioneer would expect to sell an 1835 square piano of Collards' make for £250. Very few people love them. So against a prudent estimate of £80-120 Lot 10 did well at £320 plus buyer's premium. But surprisingly, a very similar piano from the same makers, Lot 31, with the same estimate, made £2600 [£3360 inclusive] – which is very hard to understand as the selling price was 22 times the top estimate! Equally surprising, Lot 27, a very ordinary square piano by Clementi & Co. (1824) went ten times above the top estimate at £8000 [£10,400 to take away]. Yes, it was playable, and yes, it was almost complete, but the white replacement hammer coverings were not for the aesthete.

There was still considerable discussion over the Erard grand of 1801. Everyone would like to believe that this is the instrument supplied to Joseph Haydn, but it is very uncertain. What I can say for sure is that if you are prepared to lie on your back and examine the bottom of the piano you will see that it has been overwhelmingly rebuilt c.1900 (in France I suspect). There are no bottom boards (an essential part of the original construction) and the internal bracing has been stripped out to be replaced by huge timbers that you'd expect to see in a 1900 piano. The dampers? They couldn't leave those alone either. They were modernised with felt wedges. Does it play well? So-so. Selling at £17000 [i.e. over £21000] someone has a handsome piece of furniture, with possible connections to a famous composer – but not the genuine Erard work.

It was good to see that the Antunes harpsichord made the expected price. £80,000 [hammer price] is a gratifying result. Having made a replica of this instrument myself which is now in Malta, complete with a copy of the oil painting under the lid, it is easy for me to appreciate the unique and glorious tone of the original. The soundboard looks like any old piece of floor board wood, with knots, but what a sound it produces! I guess we all hope that this unique heritage object will be going home to Portugal, but we must wait and see.

10 May 2016

Seeing Finchcocks for the last time, as I suppose, was both happy and sad. There, rearranged for viewing, were the familiar instruments. Some of them have been wisely saved to be kept as a resource for the educational purposes which Katrina is so enthusiastically describing. Funding, of course, to come from the proceeds of the auction. Those on show, and to be sold, were often in poorer condition than I remembered – but that is to be expected. It's simply too big a task to keep them all in good playing order, and some have never been so.

Here is the Broadwood circa 1820 as viewed from the stairs on the last viewing day. Just to the right (out of shot) is the doorway to the former Finchcocks shop. There I found Dick Burnett. How good to see him, but how sad to find him sitting alone, cut off from the social intercourse of the day. 'Dick! How nice to see you', I exclaimed when I saw who was there. His face lit up. 'Sorry' he said. 'I can't hear a word you say – deaf as a post'. He cupped his hands behind his ears and I tried speaking very loud and close, but it was no use. To communicate I sat beside him and wrote down my questions on a notepad, and Dick answered very promptly and effusively. He is not very good on his feet either, but he seems cheerful enough, perhaps resigned but 'upbeat' as they say, as his life's great enterprise is about to be dismantled. How grateful we are that he undertook this.

5 May 2016

It's May at last! With sunny weather to match. And May in Cheltenham brings with it the opportunity to hear some of the many talented, aspiring young musicians of the area in the Town Hall. Yesterday I had the priviledge of listening to Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven and Haydn played on the festival's Steinway grand by players with a great range of abilities, some subtle, some seeming to aim at mere dexterity. And while each took their turn in the spotlight I could admire again the marvellous extravagance of the Town Hall's scagliola pillars, their gold-painted volutes, and the charmingly decorative garlands of plaster flowers, painted pale green against the cream-coloured walls. Best of all this session ended with a performance of the Andante sostenuto from Schubert's great B flat sonata. How beautiful! How elevating! This is something more than music.

And when the music ended, it was off to Seven Springs and Coberley, for a Elysian stroll in the Cotswold Hills where the River Thames is born - shady woods, green glades, spring lambs leaping and running, with a rest beside the purling waters of Cubberley Spring, bathed in warm sunlight. What a lovely day!

28 April 2016

I hear that the jointly authored paper 'Three Pioneer Piano Makers' – i.e. Plenius, Neubauer, and Viator – continues to be the most frequently read and downloaded item on the Royal Musical Association's research website. This is obviously gratifying. Margaret Debenham, with whom I worked on this paper, has the double satisfaction of finding that her paper on John Joseph Merlin occupies second spot in these rankings.

London Conference, May 28th — Sad to say, I have decided that I must withdraw from the conference in London next month, organised by Dr Marie Kent. My subject was to have been coincident with the theme of the conference 'Made in London' which I interpreted in both ways – instruments made in London, by Hintz, Kirckman, Zumpe and Pohlman – and the fortunes and reputations 'made in London'. The period chosen was 1760-1780. I hope that the material I had assembled for this will be published elsewhere eventually. Nevertheless, I wish Marie every success with this enterpising venture, anticipating that it will be well supported and productive.

20 April 2016

Further to the mention of Warwick's coffee concert below – we took the Clementi grand piano to Charlton Kings yesterday to record a Beethoven duet [4 hands at one piano] with the talented and very popular Ashok Gupta. With some time to spare, and no pressure, we also recorded Field's Nocturne No. 5. When you hear this on the sort of piano that John Field played it opens up a new window on these compositions. So I hope, and expect, that Warwick will include that piece too on June 4th. It will be a rare opportunity. If you love Field, or fun Beethoven, it's the place to be – Holy Apostle's Church, on London Road, Charlton Kings. Last month's concert attracted 200 so be there by 10.30 am if you can.

14 April 2016

What a great man Pinto might have been! I have had the privilege today to be working on a Broadwood piano while Warwick (my son) was practicing on the Clementi grand nearby. It was just a proving run to see if the dampers or hammers need any further adjustment, which they did as several notes performed below expectations when the una corda pedal was used.

But Pinto! What an incredible legacy he left! They say he was just seventeen when he wrote the E flat minor sonata, but what mastery he displayed of the sonata form. What a musician! Warwick intends to include this piece in his coffee concert on 4 June. It sounds so convincing on the Clementi of 1804!

23 March 2016

An old friend Georg Ott has uploaded a very informative and animated youtube video illustrating the Clavecin Royal. I've often lamented that this type of instrument is so neglected, so let's hope that this upload will make a contribution - you hear an excerpt from CPE Bach's Fantasie in C minor, played by Sylvia Ackermann, and see the hammer mechanism brilliantly explained with Georg's painstaking animation. If you've never heard these instruments or want to know what the action is like, view this.

The one thing I continue to lament is that the special feature of such instruments - the Veränderungen or rapid changes of registration – are not shown. It seems that the pedals [or knee levers] are missing on this instrument - a pity. Christoph Hammer plays the same instrument in a related video*. A still from that is shown below. Nevertheless, the tonal character of such instruments can be heard. Does this not suit CPE Bach better than the ubiquitous Walter flügel?

*Numerous attempts to link directly to that video ended in failure. To view this video search Youtube for Georg Ott and Christoph Hammer. I hope more people will view it.


15 March 2016

At first glance it looks like a very ordinary Broadwood square piano. Look again and you see that despite sitting on a retro style trestle stand, of the type used for the lowest priced pianos from the 1780s, the instrument is clearly inscribed '1797'. In that year nearly all of Broadwood's output had the additional notes, up to c4 so this was rather old-fashioned when sold. But, it has survived in pretty good condition: robustly constructed, and almost complete. How the red cloth came to disappear from the hitchpin block at the right is a mystery. The listing cloth is not there either. But the dampers are present. A few five-octave pianos of this type continued to be sold up to as late as 1802. (I was shown one of that date near Stratford-upon Avon a few years ago.)

So, an interesting oddity, in restorable condition: against a very modest estimate it sold at a hammer price of £780, that is £970 with commission. It looks like a piano with a future as well as a past!

11 February 2016

Through my letterbox today came notice of the Finchcocks Sale, with that familiar Georgian brick facade of the house against a cheerful blue sky. Such an optimistic annoucement! but equally a sad ending!

How many people first experienced the soundworld of old pianos here? For a little while longer the instruments will remain in the house, and can be viewed there from 29 April until 11 May. But the auction sale (on 11 May) for 70 instruments is to take place at Donnington Priory, near Newbury, which is in itself a very pleasant venue. The sale at Dreweatts will include ancilliary items, such as prints and pictures. All of the expected profits will be applied to the continuing Finchcocks Charity for Musical Education.

15 January 2016

Denzil Wraight (who now lives and works in Germany) has done everyone a useful service by studying carefully Cristofori's original piano action. It's always been a bit of a puzzle. Students of piano history will know very well that the first announcement appeared in Maffei's Giornale di Litterati d'Italia in 1711. But what a puzzle it is! What purports to be a side elevation drawing of the mechanism looks like the work of an incompetent bungler. But 'no' says Denzil. Study the Original drawing closely and you'll see that most of the confusion about the hopper and its return spring has come about through inaccurate replications of the drawing. Personally I'm glad to have this clarified. In 1996, when working on The Pianoforte in the Classical Era I left out the return spring in Fig.1.2 because, as I wrote on page 6, 'it is impossible to be certain of its point of application from Maffei's drawing'. Equally problematic was the nature and position of the leather mounted stop - a vital part of the mechanism. The problems actually originate in faulty drawings. When you have the original, it's possible to make sense of it all. So, it is a great boon to those who wish to grapple with this enigma that Denzil's clear thinking and persistent research has brough some light on the matter. Better still he's making it available from his website: there you can download it as a PDF and study it at your leisure. www.denzilwraight.com/Maffei.pdf You'll also find a wealth of clear and informative material on his website, including many sound clips.

2 January 2016

Two hundred people turned out on a windswept and rainy Saturday morning for the latest Coffee Concert at Holy Apostle's church. All credit to Warwick for an ambitious step outside the normal repertoire for these events -- Stravinsky, The Soldier's Tale. His apprehension that maybe he would see a smaller than normal audience proved unfounded. Folk arrived from many miles away for a chance to hear this performance. For many who, like myself, who have only heard it in recordings or on radio this was very worthwhile.

Next month something more traditional - James Gilchrist joins members of the Corelli Orchestra for French Baroque - music by Clerimbault, Rameau etc. And if that's not enticing enough to bring you on a Saturday morning the following event is even more ambitious - Bach's St Matthew Passion, the first part at 11am, and the second part at 2pm on Easter Saturday, March 26th. As usual, no tickets, free admission - you can support the event on the way out when Sophie Cole will be at the door with a bowl for donations.

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