FEBRUARY 15 - MARCH 18, 2022
Back in 1817, Thomas Broadwood met the 47 year old Beethoven in Vienna. Upon discovering that the famed composer was almost deaf and somewhat impoverished, Broadwood decided to give Beethoven a new grand piano. At that time an English grand was noticeably louder than any of the Viennese instruments used by Beethoven. Broadwood arranged for some of the most accomplished pianists in London – Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Ferdinand Ries (Beethoven’s London agent), Johann Baptist Cramer, Mu- zio Clementi, Jacques-Godefroi Ferrari and Charles Knyvett – to choose a piano for Beethoven, from his factory. And all, with the exception of Clementi, actually signed it. The piano was despatched from London in December 1817. On hearing of Broadwood’s gift, Beethoven wrote:
“My dearest friend Broadwood,
I have never felt a greater pleasure than that given me by the anticipation of the arrival of this piano, with which you are honouring me as a present. I shall regard it as an altar on which I shall place my spirit’s most beautiful offerings to the divine Apollo. As soon as I receive your excellent instrument, I shall send you the fruits of the first moments of inspiration I spend at it, as a souvenir for you from me, my very dear B., and I hope that they will be worthy of your instrument.
My dear sir and friend, accept my warmest consideration, from your friend and most humble servant,
Louis Van Beethoven
Vienna, 3rd February 1818.”
The Broadwood grand piano arrived at Beethoven’s Viennese Summer residence in May 1818, and instantly became the composer’s favoured instrument. Beethoven, however, suffered from worsening deafness, and to generate as much volume as possible played the piano with great force. Reports indicate that by 1824 it was quite unplayable.
David Crombie, 2018