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The instrument that started a revolution: Beethoven's Broadwood grand, 1817. Owned by Liszt and eventually given to the Hungarian National Museum, the instrument suffered from unhistoric meddling, until a recent restoration reversed the damage. The turned legs, for example are from the later 19th century; orginally the instrument had a stand. The cheek warp, lack of parallelism of the spine and cheek due to string tension, is clearly visible.
The Broadwood 4553, built in 1809, photgraphed at the auction house.
Very dirty, many broken strings, water damage and rusted tuning pins.
Rusted pins removed
Broken strings and more dust
Poorly formed string loops, moth-eaten cloth under strings; scratches on the case interior caused by sudden string breakage
Back of the removed action, hammers and backchecks with more insect damage, mold and dust
The hammers were felted at a later date to modernize the action, a move which the moths thoroughly approved of.
Keybed, with wool action cloth completely eaten away
Bottom removed, softwood framing visible, note square nails
The Date Reveled
The case, soundboard and bottom removed, is slowly jacked into square to correct the inevitable cheek warp.
The cheek re-glued and clamped
Marinus' secret weapon in the war against cheek warp: a fabricated metal bolster which could be removed in a subsequent restoration if neccessary; another smaller one is inserted from the underneath, covered by the bottom.
Soundboard separation in the treble corrected by insertion of shims
Rusted screws which secure and clamp the bridge are removed by heating with a red-hot screwdriver.
The restored soundboard from the bottom, showing the bass bar and original linen taping of the joints. Unlike the exterior, the interior could have been made yesterday.
The jacks, which lift the hammers, are re-bushed with felt.
The restored action, the engine of the instrument, with hammers re-leathered, jacks installed, cleaned and re-assembled. A major milestone of the restoration
The craftsman that made the keyboard signed the last key.
The damper jacks are re-clothed. Several new dampers are at left
A cross section drawing of the action
New tuning pins are made from steel rod
Stringing the bass
The damper jackrail is held down by brass catches.
The stand sports brass casters for an era when floors had no carpets.
The bolts which hold the stand are covered by cast brass florets. Before and after cleaning
The case is cleaned and waxed, the three brass lid hold-downs are cleaned and installed. The figured mahogany panels with ebony stringing are clearly visible.
The lid hinges are cleaned, the holes are filled and the lid is re-installed.
The instrument is technically complete, but not entirely ready for a concert. There must first be hours of playing in, tuning and string stretching. Rattles and squeaks must be tracked down and eliminated. All the new leather and cloth in the action must be properly compressed by playing. The soundboard must slowly re-awaken. The leather of the hammers will develop grooves which make the sound progressively brighter...but...
...the new owner is very, very happy with the result, as the instrument takes its place in her studio. The 1913 Bechstein is in the background
How does it sound? As if the balance of harmony, melody and rhythm in the piano music of Beethoven, Haydn and Schubert had never been properly heard quite as it should be, as if at least for us, they were re-focussed. Many new discoveries will be made. The split pedal (in which the dampers are raised and lowered on the two halves of the keyboard independently) permits observance of Beethoven's instructions, not possible on a modern piano. The bass may be played staccato, while the treble is pedalled legato. The particular qualities of Beethoven's piano texture, his occassionally startling effects, his penchant for orchestral sonority, and his wide-ranging shifts of texture and harmony, are all more apparent, more dramatic and less bizarre on this instrument. It has already proven its authority.
Susan muses on the last person who played this instrument and what was played. What will this instrument tell us in the future about the music which it gives us?
Special and profuse thanks to Marinus van Prattenburg, whose dedication and experience made this instrument sing again. Thanks also for his excellent photography and record- keeping.
The restoration of this instrument is dedicated to the memory of my father, John Ernest Titmuss, whose lifelong interest in history formed one of the conerstones of my education.
Stay tuned for some very fine music. The inaugural concert is planned for April 2007, with recordings to follow.
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