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Two beautiful old grands I saw today
#2195638 12/10/13 04:29 PM
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Had a visit to Bowes Museum, a large stately home full of wonderful historic artifacts in a building reminiscent of Downton Abbey. 2 of the exhibits were grand pianos. One was a vintage Broadwood with no name anywhere I could see, and a lovely black Bechstein on loan from another place
In the excitement I forgot the name of its former home.
Anyway I asked the curator for info on the pianos as there were no info boards, and no Do Not Touch signs. He said I could lift up the fall board to see the keys. Which I did. I then had to play some notes. I couldn't stop myself. A thing of beauty like this had to be tpuched, felt, played. Most of the keys were good sounding, with one or two sounding really bad. Anyway the guy came pver and told me not play it, there are security cameras. I did wrong but I just had to play it, just a few chords.
I apologised and lowered the board.
Now Ive googled Broadwood and they were an important name in pianos and harpsichords, desogning a h'chord for Handel and a piano for Haydn. But it seems the age depends on the way the name is presented above the keys. The fall board was of the type that opens in two parts, concertina like, but only the lower half opened so I was unable to see the name.
Anyone know much about Broadwoods?

Here's some photos.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Last edited by LarryShone; 12/10/13 04:34 PM.

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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195641 12/10/13 04:31 PM
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And here is the Bechstein, a later model than the Broadwood.
This was locked unfortunately.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


Last edited by LarryShone; 12/10/13 04:32 PM.

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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195693 12/10/13 06:00 PM
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Broadwood was the most prominent piano manufacturer in the UK, and possibly Europe for a long time. The grands attracted the attention of some of the greatest of the romantic pianists - in particular Beethoven had a Broadwood, and Chopin preferred to use Broadwoods when he came to the UK - in fact I think he found the touch of them a bit heavy in comparison to his Pleyels, but don't quote me on that.

That looks like a straight-strung concert grand, it is possibly under-damped (with the dampers actually under the strings), and the frame is likely to be bolt on steel bars, rather than a full cast frame. I say likely because Broadwood built several types of pianos in this period, all looking pretty similar from the outside, but with variations between them as to the damping system and scale design. It could, for instance, be overstrung.

They did sound beautiul, but the trouble was that Broadwood was making these pianos as late as the 1890s - possibly even a bit later - and they didn't adopt the modern scale designs that Bechstein and Steinway were already using at that time, so their popularity diminished. They didn't budge on their ideas of how a concert grand should be made (until much, much later, by which time it was really too late), and eventually they came out of the concert market altogether. They continued to make high quality upright and baby grand pianos, and at some point in the 1970s or 1980s the Broadwood grands were then made in Korea by either Samick or Young Chang. I think the Korean Broadwoods were sold right up until the 1990s, but they also lost popularity because Yamaha were much better, and I think they were lower priced. With the Korean Broadwoods, you were paying for the name. The pianos themselves were the standard factory issue. Decent, but nothing special. Perhaps they were 'finished' in the UK - perhaps the strings and hammers went on here, and the regulation, but I don't know.

Anyway, even during the time of the Korean Broadwood grands, the uprights were still made in the UK, and I THINK they were one of the pianos bought over by the British Piano Manufacturing Company in the 1990s - the other marques being Knight, Welmar, Bentley and Woodchester. The British Piano Manufacturing Company was basically a subsidiary of Bluthner UK, but they decided in 2003 to fold the company, the pianos were too expensive to compete with the Japanese/Chinese markets, and it was only a small step up financially to actually buy a Bluthner. From that, Roger Willson set up the UK Branch of Bluthner in 2003, which is still in existance today and actually owned by Bluthner Germany.

The British Piano Manufacturing Company ceased to exist, but some of the staff went on to form Piano Restorations UK, who still function as the main rebuilding centre for Bluthner UK, some of the staff went to Kemble (that's another story), some set up as independent tuners/techs, and some have ended up with Cavendish pianos.

Broadwood themselves have resurfaced, and in 2003 they started producing uprights in Norway (the year that the BPMC ceased trading). I think it's the strung backs are made in Norway, but the cases, actions, and soundboards are assembled in the UK.

More information can be found on www.broadwood.co.uk

Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195703 12/10/13 06:18 PM
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Thanks for the information Joe. I think I came across that site you linked to on google-fascinating history. I could talk pianos all day!
I don't know much about them, never having owned one, so a good book or website on their workings would be good.
I just find them fascinating.
We went to the museum with the college to see the artifacts, in particular the silver swan automaton from 1772 but then I saw there was an old piano in the room...


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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195704 12/10/13 06:21 PM
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Hi Larry,

There are lots of books on the history of pianos. You might check out Amazon to find something you might enjoy.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195721 12/10/13 06:50 PM
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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195749 12/10/13 07:35 PM
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The wood and carving on the Broadwood is very beautiful but it's a shame they displayed the piano without opening the fallboard and lid and on those hideous dollies. Maybe they thought the dollies ere necessary because they allowed the piano to be touched.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 12/10/13 07:38 PM.
Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195757 12/10/13 08:05 PM
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I would guess that the dollies are necessary because they allow the pianos to be moved easily. I would not be surprised if the pianos are played on special occasions. It looks like a nice room for performances.

Those dollies are nice because they can leave the casters on the piano.


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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195791 12/10/13 09:17 PM
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I have two Broadwood grands just like that in my shop. One has a new soundboard, bridges and pinblock. The other I picked up for some spare parts needed.
Sad thing is the lady that wanted this piano restored passed away and her heirs don't want the piano back or completed.



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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195798 12/10/13 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by LarryShone
...I couldn't stop myself. A thing of beauty like this had to be tpuched, felt, played. Most of the keys were good sounding, with one or two sounding really bad. Anyway the guy came pver and told me not play it, there are security cameras. I did wrong but I just had to play it, just a few chords.
I apologised and lowered the board.


I know the feeling. I touched a painting once at a museum.

Beautiful pianos!


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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
BDB #2195868 12/11/13 02:41 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
I would guess that the dollies are necessary because they allow the pianos to be moved easily. I would not be surprised if the pianos are played on special occasions. It looks like a nice room for performances.

Those dollies are nice because they can leave the casters on the piano.


Well the Bechstein may be played, Im not sure. Like I say its on loan from another place. As for the Broadwood, the curator was insistent that it not be played.


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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195906 12/11/13 07:19 AM
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One thing I forgot to mention in the Broadwood history was the introduction of the Barless grand. It was made originally between around 1890 and 1915 or something, and it was actually a very beautiful piano. It came in a few sizes, I think a 6' and a concert grand which was 8'6 or something. The barless frame allowed (in theory) greater resonance than the standard frame, and more volume at shorter lengths apparently. I don't know if that's true, but what is true is that the pianos do have an exceptional sound. Sadly they came just a little too late to conquer the market. By that time in the UK, Bechstein and Bluthner were the pianos of choice, Chappel made a 'modern' high quality concert grand, and Steinway were of course gaining a hold over here, although Steinways monopoly didn't take full hold until after WW2 here.

The Broadwood Barless can be bought fairly cheaply these days, and they do rebuild incredibly well.

Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195913 12/11/13 07:39 AM
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Apparently they have an upright grand there too according to their website. I didnt see it though. I did see the harp however.


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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195926 12/11/13 08:01 AM
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Happily, some of us have traveled to FREDERICK'S MUSEUM in Ashburham, Ma where you can hear and play several wonderful old pianos.

(Make sure you have nice speakers to listen)



"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."
Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2195960 12/11/13 09:03 AM
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Yes, they did have a barless framed upright. It was reintroduced in the mid 1990s and was manufactured to order by Ladbroke Pianos who I think have gone bust in recent years (well, actuall maybe about 10 years ago).

Knight upright pianos, a highly regarded English make, were also barless and had a wonderful sustained and singing tone in the treble. Their actions weren't wonderful though, and they had a tendency to go very, very bright. When voiced and set up correctly they were good.

Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2196009 12/11/13 11:14 AM
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My wife and I are fans of Downton Abby and we were watching the 3rd season on DVD the other night where James is playing the upright piano in the servants dining room. It was a beautiful cased instrument with the candle holders on the side. They showed the fallboard very briefly and I thought it said Broadwood. I wonder if anybody else saw a glimpse of it. I love that show.


Mason-Hamlin "A" and Schlicker 2 manual and pedal pipe organ
Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2196014 12/11/13 11:19 AM
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Can someone please explain what is meant by barless?


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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2196075 12/11/13 01:06 PM
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Usually on piano frames, there are bars that are either bolted on (on very old instruments) or are cast into the frame. You can see that on any modern grand piano there are bars, some of them are braced over the strings.

The barless frames don't have any bars, only a very strong perimeter frame. The idea was this left the strings and soundboard freer to vibrate.

Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2196132 12/11/13 02:53 PM
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At the cost of strength and stability?


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Re: Two beautiful old grands I saw today
LarryShone #2196414 12/12/13 04:43 AM
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No, not at the cost of strength and stability. In fact many of these pianos are still serviceable today, after a century or more, and they hold their tuning pretty well. They were renowned for their strength, and at the time, tone. The frames were made of steel, rather than iron, so they were stronger than iron in theory.

The tensile pull on the Knight upright was small enough to get away with an iron frame, and there was a huge hardwood bracing on the back. Knight pianos are still popular on the UK market, and still make a very good buy - they sell for about £500 - £1,000 in a private sale without reconditioning, and a shop will sell them for about £2,500 reconditioned with a guarantee. They are in many ways stronger and more reliable than the Yamaha U series of the same period, but the U series are larger so have better bass, and the Yamaha action has always been better than many others.

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