Thomas Tomkison's Square Piano Forte
Our delightful square piano forte was made in London in 1806, and generously sent out to us by our lovely English relatives recently, having been with our family for many years. The little piano is the first development beyond a harpsichord, so has a very soft tone, a single sustain, or hard, pedal, and one octave fewer of keys. The beautiful mahogany case is inlaid with string detail in boxwood and ebony on four sides, suggesting that it was used in the middle of the room for small concerts. Most are only decorated on three sides as the pianos generally were placed against a wall. Ours is the second oldest by this maker in Australia, a very slightly earlier one having turned up in Tasmania last year, however it is also the oldest in concert condition having just undergone a very comprehensive full restoration. At our "Everything Stops for Tea" exhibition opening, we were fortunate to have talented pianist Jane Ellis entertain our guests with a selection of early English and Celtic tunes time-appropriate to the little instrument. Jane was so keen, the piano threw an ivory, but she persevered in true Jane Austin fashion and the evening was completed entirely successfully (there were no lasting damages to either pianist or piano!). Like many of our projects, the Tomkison piano is a work in progress. Our good friends at the Friends of the Square Piano in England have kindly provided a beautiful set of 1806 turned legs to replace those added to ours sometime during its 211 years, and these will be fitted over the next weeks, ready for a series of Chamber Music concerts here during winter.