This grand piano, made of mahogany crossbanded with rosewood veneer, has two historically important musical names associated with it: John Broadwood and Andrew Ashe.
John Broadwood & Sons is the oldest established piano manufacturing firm in the world. Its founder was a Scottish joiner and cabinetmaker who came to London in 1761 and began working for the Swiss harpsichord maker Burkat Shudi. Eight years later John Broadwood married Shudi’s daughter and in 1770 became a partner in the firm.
Broadwood produced his first square piano in 1771, modeled after Johannes Zumpe’s ground breaking design, and worked assiduously to develop and refine the instrument. As the popularity of the harpsichord declined, the Broadwood firm concentrated increasingly on the manufacture of pianos, abandoning the harpsichord altogether in 1793.
Broadwood’s son, James Shudi Broadwood, joined the family business in 1785 and in 1795 the firm began to trade as John Broadwood & Son. When Broadwood’s third son, Thomas Broadwood, became a partner in 1808, the firm assumed the name of John Broadwood & Sons Ltd, which it retains to this day.
Andrew Ashe, the original owner of this grand piano, was a celebrated Irish flautist who lived from 1758 to 1838. Ashe was a principal flautist in orchestras in Brussels, Dublin and London.
Through his association with the German violinist, composer, conductor and musical impresario, Johann Peter Salomon, Ashe was invited to perform with the famous Austrian composer Joseph Haydn.
Salomon had moved to London in the early 1780s and a decade later brought Haydn to London for two sojourns, in 1791-2 and 1794-5. It was during these visits that Salomon and Haydn premiered the symphonies that Haydn composed for England – Andrew Ashe was the flautist for these concerts.
Held at the Hanover Square Music Rooms for audiences of up to 500 people, the concerts were jointly directed by Salomon as first violin and Haydn at the keyboard. And that keyboard? During his 1791 stay, Haydn played a Broadwood grand piano. Composers, musicians, instruments and makers – all interconnected in a rich tapestry of musical history that is conjured before us today in the beautiful form of this 1824 Broadwood grand.