Robert & Matthew Stodart   in   London  ca.1795

 

2 Pedals for dampers lift and una chorda

 

Grand Piano by Matthew and William Stodart, London, late 18th century, the case of mahogany with holly stringing, the fascia board and cheeks of satinwood with holly and ebony stringing and mahogany crossbanding, the five and a half octave keyboard, FF to c4, with ivory naturals faced with boxwood mouldings and ebony accidentals, English grand action, split bridge, trichord stringing throughout, two pedals controlling damper lift and una corda, with music desk, on trestle stand, inscribed on a boxwood plaque on the name board Matthaeus et Guilielmus Stodart Londini Fecerunt, Golden Square, length 7' 4¾", 225.5.cm; width 3' 6⅛?", 107cm.

 

 

In the 18th century England square pianos were made more than anywhere else in the world, in great number, next to mass production (specially by Broadwood , Longman & Broderip and others) but there were much fewer grand pianos made at that time until (I believe the year 1804!) must have been the jump-start year of making grands. The number of grands increased enourmesly, incomparable to the 18th century. It has definitly something to do with volume not lack of space basically. Of course grand pianos were always much more expensive than square pianos in all times and many could afford buying square pianos but the main reason was that English square pianos had an old tradition in England and were made in huge number in comparison to the whole Europe!  they were imported to Europe and were praised and loved very much specially because of their tone quality, appearance and being made solid and durable.

Great composers had square pianos at home as they had also grand pianos but indeed for concerts and piano recitals even in the 18th century (also piano concertos) grand pianos were more useful.

 

Haydn had a similar grand piano by Longman & Broderip in Vienna (later being lost, but probably it is the one found by Robbins London decades ago in Vienna!) which has the same action, compass and design. He loved his English piano and wrote many piano sonatas on it. His other favorite pianos were those of Schanz and Könnicke which were half way between Stein and Walter, Mozart's favorite piano makers. 

 

The action of this piano is called English grand action which basically remained from 1770 for decades the same. First made by the Dutch Americus Backers in London but was patended by Stodart later in that decade. 

Broadwood patended the divided bridge in the bass in 1788 and about 1792 used a half octave obove the long time remaining compass of 5 octaves (FF-f''') but we do not know exactly when Stodart who also was a leading maker of grand pianos in London started this compass but most probably Stodart immediately got the idea of making the divided bridge but could possibily making 5 and half octaves grand pianos even earlier than Broadwood.

 

The leading grand piano makers of the time were these 4 brands in London :

Backers (from 1770), Stodart (from 1775) Broadwood (first from 1787!) and Longman & Broderip (probably mostly Culliford made his pianos too as well as his harpsichords, whereas most square pianos of L&B were made by John Geib who made such escapement English action called the Double English action on square pianos from late 1780s).

 

Interesting relevant instruments in this collection are the Longman & Broderip square piano and double manual harpsichord both from almost the same years

(ca.1789-1790)

 

The appearance of single manual harpsichords and English grands of this period in terms of length, height and of course width but also veneer work of the case and all details but also the stand and even the two pedals are almost identical.

 

England was the only country in which harpsichord and fortepiano were made from early years and the harpsichord lasted as late as 1800 still in big numbers not as few as those in Europe. But of course from very late 18th century the harpsichord went almost out of fashion and such grand and square pianos dominated the musical socity.

 

 

English grands are today among rarities in all keyboard collections. Very few recordings feature such instruments and they are hugely under the shadow of the tasty Viennese pianos of the late 18th century which present mostly Mozart's ideal keyboard instrument but indeed for many of Haydn's piano works, Dussek, Clementi, Field but also some French composers of the period such late 18th century English grand pianos are ideally historical and fantastic sounding instruments. 

Today we need to present these high quality instruments which were also highly regarded in Europe, specially in France where people like Erard made basically copies of them and only added some pedals for sound effects.