Non-Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano

By Sandy Amazeen Nov 23, 2009, 7:13 GMT

Book Review: Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano

A handwritten serial number inside a neglected 1807 Broadwood square piano inspired this illuminating story of an almost-forgotten musical instrument that transformed the musical and cultural perceptions of the western world. Square pianos were the first popular pianos, and the core of the classical piano repertoire-Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven-was written for such early pianos. This absorbing history leads back to the early days of the Industrial Revolution and the birth of ...more

When Madeline Goold discovered a partial serial number inked into one of the panels of an 1807 square piano she rescued from the dusty confines of an auction house, it started her on a journey through history. Goold’s piano was made by John Broadwook, a shrewd businessman and one of England’s most successful piano makers. A precursor to modern pianos, the mechanics, tone and affordability of the square piano quickly moved from London’s high society to the masses. Sifting through old records, following the threads through time, Goold traces her piano’s past from Mr. Langshaw in Lancaster, England to John Wesley then on to New York.

Goold’s painstaking research and attention to detail makes the journey of her antique piano a fascinating look at how society was changing, thanks in part to these humble instruments. Music history, the origins of the piano and their makers, music teachers and clergy members come alive as Goold explores the history of her piano, giving faces to those who played a role in its past. 


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