Square piano by John Broadwood

Square piano by John Broadwood, London c. 1815, heard solo in the Hadyn Sonata in D, and with period guitar in the Giuliani Rondo and Carulli sonata


The Broadwood square piano is a relic of the burgeoning British Empire in the 19th century. This particular instrument probably came to Vancouver around the horn of South America with an immigrant family. Many such fine English, French and German pianos found their way to the west coast of North America in such circumstances.

The technical liabilities of the instrument, less than perfect damping and the occassional rattle, are more than offset by its fluty treble, transparent and sustaining middle and penetrating but not overwhelming bass. This is the key to its success as an instrument design, and the Broadwood firm continued to produce these instruments over an extended period, shipping them all over the world to colonies of Great Britian long after they had been superceded by larger but less utitilarian competitors. Broadwood made several models, this is the more elaborately decorated one, with rosewood veneers, brass inlay and rings on the legs. Simpler unveneered “tropical” models were made for export to humid colonies. The instrument’s solidity, basic quality and integrity are a tribute to its makers.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the owner and restorer of this superb instrument, Marinus Van Prattenburg (www.earlypianos.com), who kindly lent it to us and scrupulously prepared it for recording in 1995.

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