Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano

Written by Madeline Goold

The author’s search for a second-hand harpsichord on which to play early music led her on a journey that will fascinate the reader. Not finding a harpsichord, she tracked down a square piano at an antique auction (the same auction at which there was another piano turned into a chicken incubator), Broadwood #10651, made in the early 1800s. The Broadwood Company, a leading British piano manufacturer, left extensive company records about the pianos and their international distribution. The piano found by the author was ordered by Mr. John Langshaw, organist and music master in Lancaster, one of Broadwood’s distributors. The subtitle of this volume is “The Story of the First Pianos and How They Caused a Cultural Revolution,” which certainly explains the content but does not convey the absolute delights of reading it. The Broadwood archive and the many surviving documents connected to the Langshaw family allow the author to flesh out her tale far more than might be expected. The Langshaws were connected to the family of Charles Wesley, brother of the founder of Methodism, another engrossing angle to the story. This is a riveting glimpse into a musical and social world, all thanks to Broadwood square piano #10651.