I'd love to hear your thoughts. I have a French made Erard baby grand. The shortened 'back story' is that it was in a house in Finchley in London for many generations. the family were friends of Paderewski and he would stay with them whilst playing London Concerts in the 1890s. I have managed to contact the holders of the Erard archives and they have confirmed the piano's date and its shipment to a north London address in 1894. Sadly they cannot shed light on the Paderewski connection and my own lines of enquiry have gone dead. The Paderewski Foundation in Poland expressed some interest but wanted proof of a connection (fair enough) and will not want the piano without it I think.
Why am I so concerned about Paderewski? Well the piano is in poor condition and needs a lot of work. I spent some considerable time trying to find someone who would even consider restoring it. The quote I got was anywhere between £8-16k for a piano that would be worth half that when complete. If there was a Paderewski connection then it would realise much more than that and be 'worth' doing.
I am left now with a piano that is in storage in North London and needs to be moved soon. I am desperately trying to save it and find someone who can advise me on more people to talk to about restoring it / avenues to explore (I am a musician although not a pianist myself so all of this is pretty new to me). There is a chance that I'll need to take an axe to it and take it to landfill but I'm not sure I could actually do that! I think it could be a nice playable instrument (if not remarkable) when restored. I am willing to put some money into it but I can't afford anything like the quotes that I was given. Here's the nub of it all ... if it was YOUR piano...what would you do? Who would you speak to? Where would you go?
Thanks! in anticipation of your response.
- Colin Nicholson
- Executive Poster
- Posts: 1839
- Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
- Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Few questions first if that's OK....
1, How old is the piano?
2, What is the serial number?
3, What is your budget?
4. Have you had a professional assessment/inspection done on the piano?
6. What is the casework/ veneer like in condition?
7. Would the restoration be an investment to sell on, or to keep the piano?
Colin - thank you too for your response.
1. I contacted the 'Cite de la Musique in Paris, who have the Erard archives (I'm sure you know) - they confirmed that it was made in Paris, completed in July 1894 and sent to London on 1st september 1894.
2. The serial number is 71709
3. Hmm that seriously depends on what can be done and what it's worth would be afterwards. I am not all about money at all but I can't really afford to lose any / much (who can?!)
4. I had someone who gave me a basic assessment but he was really a tuner and was not au fait with Erard so I don't count this as cast iron advice (nice and helpful though he was). I spoke with a guy at (I think) Robert Morley pianos - he looked after the older pianos at the Royal College of Music amongst others and had had experience with Erard. He didn't use the internet / email so i couldn't send pictures but i did pay to have someone go to North London (where my piano is) and produce a report for him. He then quoted me between £8k (min) to around £16k. It was way too much for me - especially when he said it wasn't worth it. He didn't seem that keen to work on t. It was a bit dispiriting if I'm honest.
5. That was the only inspection i had done and (as I said) the verdict was more or less a complete overhaul. I didn't get the impression that they were really considering alternatives. The keys stick significantly... I know that much. It is not greatly out of tune however - the piano tuner felt that t could be brought into tune. I'm not 100% convinced about this myself.
6. The casework is plain. The veneer is bleached in parts across the top where it was sat near a window.
7. I'd really like to keep it if possible - I'm more about having a piece of history (Paderewski or not!) to play on. I just don't want to see a piano 'die' if it 100% doesn't need to. If there were better options for sale then I'd look at those... I mean if it could be more easily saved by selling on then I'd do that. i do have another (Kawai) grand that I will eventually have at home (when I have somewhere big enough)...for now it's on loan to a charity...so kids who don't have pianos get to play on a grand.
Time is money unless its your own and you have some to spare.
Poor could mean everything is worn out and warped or, at the other extreme, in need of cleaning and adjustment. If it's the latter or somewhere in between you could have a go yourself.
You mention pictures. If you post some here, especially close ups of keys, hammers, strings etc. you may get some useful advice.
It's remarkable what you can achieve with some basic tools like screwdrivers, brushes and rags, used judiciously with a little forethought to avoid doing daft things.
Yes, time is money. I can have a go myself but the big problem for me is two-fold. 1. I have nowhere to store the piano whilst I am working on it (I have a small flat on the outskirts of London). The piano is currently at a venue but will have to move soon. And...2. I have literally NO experience with pianos / no idea what i'm doing.
I understand what you're saying about what 'poor' could mean. It seems that getting anyone out to look at this is very difficult (even when you pay). I could only get two people - 1 was a tuner who doesn't know Erards and 2 was a specialist but I wasn't that happy with how it all unfolded. I'm not 100% that they even went!
I'm trying to find the pictures. I will then post them here. Thanks for your thoughts.
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It was hardly played but someone had installed new nickel plated tuning pins and cracked the pin block. Also some new cupper wounded strings were installed.
The hammer felt was not worn, just compressed, so it was easy to press the felt back into the right form. The new pin block was made like the original from the Canadian supplyer (available from Jahn Piano). Heller Bass made new basstings similar to the original and the steel strings was bought from France. I had a blackschmith to make a set of blue tuning pins flat on the tops, as the original pins were not available.
It was not a difficult job, but time consuming. Those Erard pianos are wonderful instruments and should be treated with respect.
I hope someone will be interested in your piano!
I've stumbled across this thread while looking for somewhere to sell my piano.
I inherited it from my grandfather and it is currently in storage in Scotland.
It's an upright Erard with paderewski's signature inside. And is genuine. (It was my grandfather's pride and joy).
Does anyone know where the best place to sell it would be?