The Broadwood Restoration in
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 historically inaccurate meddling
until a recent restoration reversed the damage. The cheek warp--lack
of parallelism of the spine and cheek due to string tension--is clearly
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 revealed
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
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 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.
It has already shown its authority in negotiating the twists of Beethoven's
piano texture: his occassionally startling effects, rapid changes of dynamics,
his penchant for orchestral sonority, and his wide-ranging texture and
harmony. These style characteristics are all more apparent to the modern
listener on a historic instrument such as this one.
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 November 4, 2007 at 7:30 in the Mary Irwin Theatre at the Rotary Centre
for the Arts, Kelowna, BC.
Early Music Studio is a non-profit society founded in Surrey,
B.C. in 1987 by Susan Adams and Clive Titmuss to keep alive the repertoire
and techniques of earlier musical eras. Now based in Kelowna, the Studio’s
has become a major focus for the performers. The website is a combination
of early music scholarship, unique recordings, images and information,
with hundreds of visitors every day.