Extracts from some reviews of Five London Piano Makers by Alastair Laurence
These are some of the comments made in published reviews:
Rick Ohlendorf, writing in PTA News, August 2010:
- Alastair has collected information for many years about British piano making and is a foremost authority on the subject ... The book contains many interesting stories and if it wasnt for Alastair these would be lost for ever ... Although only a small volume, it is a real gem; scholarly, a good read and highly recommended. Im ending this with a plea to Alastair to write another erudite book about more lost companies from the heyday of Londons piano trade.
Laurence Libin, writing in the American Musical Instrument Society Journal No. 36 (2010):
- Drawing on family and corporate histories, interviews with former employees, recent scholarly research, and his own recollections of the piano business (his family has had ties to Broadwood since 1787), Laurence presents a view of the industry that is nostalgic and sad, but also penetrating and enlightening. He deals largely with instruments often overlooked by piano historians: small grands and inexpensive uprights that were nevertheless the core of the business and the focus of much ingenuity. Where warranted, he praises exceptional musical qualities, for example of Challenís grands, which the BBC adopted exclusively for about 30 years, and he credits manufacturers for overcoming practical challenges, such as Danemannís ability during the 1960s and 70s to mass-produce durable school uprights alongside an
out of this world model sold exclusively by Harrods.
In anecdotal style Laurence tells of fabled successes, notably Collard & Collards growth from 18th-century roots to become Englands most productive piano manufacturer for a good part of the 19th century, when colonial expansion carried Collard, Brinsmead and Broadwood instruments across the world. He relates remarkable events: Determined to outdo his rival Erard & Cie., in 1904 John Brinsmead mounted a monster concert at the Royal Albert Hall featuring 50 of his grands, each with two players. Among other triumphs, Laurence describes and illustrates Challens monumental if somewhat absurd 12-foot-long grand commemorating George Vs Silver Jubilee in 1935. But he also chronicles disastrous fires, bankruptcies, family squabbles, Horace Brinsmeads suicide, short-sighted management decisions, and dwindling trade resulting from foreign competition ... Danemanns very last concert grand fell from its hoist upon leaving the factory and was destroyed, uninsured; more critically, the collapse of British piano production (like much of Britainís manufacturing over the last 30 years) took with it a great deal of knowledge and institutional memory that cannot be revived.
Everyone who appreciates what it takes to manufacture a piano will profit from Laurenceís labor of love.
David Thomas, writing in GLIAS Newsletter No. 255 (July 2011):
- Laurence ... has talked to people who worked in the piano-making forms of Brinsmead, Challen, Collard & Collard, Danemann and Welmar. His book brings together a mix of background information about the industry, the personalities, the rise and fall of the firms chosen and personal reminiscences of individuals. There is a selection of photographs. This book ... has lots of information about piano types, gives so many little insights on those involved and detail of activities, and is overall a good read.