Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/729

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on the other, the triumph of the Piano was but a question of a few years. In the most conservative institution of the country, the King's band, the harpsichord was replaced by the pianoforte in 1795. It would appear that Backers on his deathbed desired to commit the care of his invention to his friend. John Broadwood; but Broadwood devoted his attention to the improvement, or rather the reconstruction of the Square piano, which he made public in 1780,[1] and patented in 1783, allowing Stodart to go on with the grand piano with which he soon made considerable reputation. Excepting as to the action, Zumpe's instrument had been merely a clavichord with a second bridge. Broadwood boldly transferred the wrestplank with its tuning-pins to the back of the case, and straightened the keys, which had hitherto been twisted hither and thither to accommodate an imperfect scale. Besides these radical improvements he substituted a brass damper, acting under the string, for the 'mopstick-damper' which had acted above it; and for Zumpe's treble and bass 'hand-stops,' which did away with either half of the dampers when not required, he patented (in 1783) two pedals, the one to raise the dampers altogether, the other to produce a pianissimo or sordine, by dropping a piece of cloth upon the strings near the curved bridge on the belly. This was the earliest adaptation of pedals to a pianoforte. Last of all in this patent he included a double soundboard and soundpost, which he imagined to be the 'most essential part' of his improvements (see Patent no. 1379); but neither in his hands nor those of others has this notion of resonance box and cavity, in analogy to the violin and the guitar, been brought to practical value. Having accomplished this, and being stimulated by Stodart's success, and advised by Clementi, who then played on Broadwood's instruments, as to the deficiencies of the Grand piano, Broadwood began to consider seriously the charge confided to him by Backers, and resolved to improve the Grand instrument. The difficulty in this case being the equalisation of the tension or drawing-power of the strings, he sought the advice of scientific men, and guided by Dr. Gray of the British Museum, and Cavallo, who calculated the tension by a monochord (publishing the result in 1788), Broadwood divided the bridge upon the soundboard, that is, made a separate bridge for the bass strings, an improvement which in the absence of a patent was at once adopted by all makers. As Stodart continued to use the undivided bridge (like a harpsichord) as late as 1788,[2] Broadwood's improvement can hardly have been introduced before that time.

Meantime the Zumpe square action was not to remain unimproved. Broadwood had already in 1780 transformed the instrument, and in 1786 the action met with improvement from John Geib, a workman (probably a German), said to have been in the employ of Longman and Broderip, the predecessors of Clementi and Collard in Cheapsicle. He took out a patent (London. No. 1571) for a new hopper and underhammer; both modifications of Cristofori's. He regulated his hopper in two ways, by piercing the blade with the 'set-off' or regulating screw already invented by Backers, and by turning this screw down upon the key. Both expedients are still in use. Tradition says that Longman and Eroderip first used a modification of this patent, known by workmen as the 'grasshopper,' with whom for a long while it was unpopular from its supposed susceptibility to atmospheric changes, and consequent need of constant attention.

Mozart, with all his genius and charm of cantilena, on the importance of which he dwelt by precept no less than by example, was yet not a pianoforte-player in the sense that Clementi was; his technique, as we know from Beethoven (through Czerny's report), was that of the harpsichord, to which in his early days he had been accustomed. The late Herr Saust, who heard Mozart play, told the writer that Mozart had no remarkable execution on the instrument, and that, for instance, he would not have compared, as a virtuoso, with Dussek. And he must have met, at first, with very imperfect instruments, such as those by Spaeth, an organ builder of Ratisbon, mentioned in his letters. Being at Augsburg in October 1777, he was introduced to the pianos of Stein, also an organ-builder and a good musician. Stein's newly contrived pianoforte escapement appears to have charmed Mozart. In a letter to his father he refers to the evenness of its touch,[3] saying that the action 'never blocks, and never fails to sound—as is sometimes the case with other pianos. On the other hand, it never sounds too long, and the machine pressed by the knee [to act as a forte pedal] is prompt to raise the dampers, or, on discontinuing the pressure ever so little, is as prompt to let them down upon the strings again.'[4] Herr C. F. Pohl of Vienna, the accomplished bibliographer of Mozart and Haydn, has kindly made enquiries in Vienna as to the existence of any piano by Stein. There is not one, and Herr Streicher, the pianoforte-maker, Stein's descendant, can give no information. In the Library of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, of which Herr Pohl is the accurate and obliging cusdian, there is a small pamphlet entitled 'Kurze Bemerkungen über das Spielen, Stimmen und Erhalten des Fortepiano, welcher von den Geschwister Stein in Wien verfertiget werden' (the 'Geschwister Stein' rectified in ink to 'welche von Nanette Streicher geborne Stein'), Vienna, 1801, from which a small engraving of Stein's escapement is here reproduced (Fig. 10).

It will be observed that this escapement differs from Cristofori's and the English action in the fact that the axis of the hammer changes its position with the rising of the key, the hopper

  1. Messrs. Broadwood have a Square Piano of John Broadwood's dated with that year.
  2. This Grand Piano by Stodart was made for the Prince of Wales, who gave it to Mr. Weltjé, in whose house at Hammersmith and family it remained in 1880, a really powerful instrument. The earliest known date of a Broadwood Grand is 1781. No. 40 was made in 1786. But Abraham Kirkman was in the running with a Grand in 1780.
  3. Much more like the harpsichord in fluency than the English escapement, which Mozart did not know then, if ever.
  4. Letter, Oct. 17, 1777.