Ardanaiseig is brimming with interesting and beautiful antiques. One of our favourites, which takes pride of place in our drawing room, is a beautiful Bechstein piano. Built c. 1910, there is some mystery as to the previous life of this ornate piece before it came to us.
During World War II, the Bechstein factory, and its records, were destroyed by bombing. However, thanks to fellow Bechstein owners Christopher and Lindy Wright from Bath, we have been able to glean a little more information and shed some light on this extraordinary piece.
Established in 1853 by Carl Bechstein, C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik is a piano manufacturer of German origin. The technology of piano making reached its peak in Germany around the turn of the last century, during a time when pianos were almost as common as TVs are now; a time when people made much of their own entertainment.
German piano makers such as Bechstein, Blüthner, Steinway and Bösendorfer dominated the market and even had their own forests, producing the finest timber, which was stored in ideal conditions for decades. With the onset of World War I, all that lovely timber was requisitioned for the war effort. As a result, many people believe that the top German pianos made from around 1900 to World War I are the best pianos ever created, and we’ve got one.
Bechstein’s instruments were designed to be both hardy and delicately decorated, enabling them to stand the test of time while keeping their distinctive ornate qualities. Thankfully for us, our piano has indeed survived in very good condition, complete with various intricate designs on its sides and legs.
It is likely that to receive its decoration, our beloved Bechstein was shipped to London, where its plain mahogany or rosewood case was then veneered with satinwood and neo-classical decoration. This was a popular style for furniture in 18th century England, and has produced some wonderfully ornate pieces of work.
John Gregory, a director of London’s Reid’s Pianos, believes that the likely decorators of this piece were English, possibly Waring & Gillow or Maples, a fact that many experts in antique furniture agree with, however the official artist is yet unknown.
We believe that our Bechstein beauty is one of three versions, sitting in the middle ground between a simple design and a more complicated one that bears musical trophies in the ovals. In the words of Mr. Wright, we think “ours is the most successful creation, being both elegant and suitably restrained”, but then we would say that.
Origins aside, it is possible that our piano has a rather exciting claim to fame; potentially appearing in ‘Indiscreet’. The 1958 film, which stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, features a Bechstein piano that looks not dissimilar to ours. If you click here, you will see a black and white still of the film, showing the front and side of a piano that could well be the one sitting in our hotel right now.
Was our lovely Bechstein amidst the romantic flirtations of that iconic film? Art-cased pianos like these are relatively rare so who knows, it could just be the case. We would certainly love to find out more about it, so if anyone out there has more information then please do get in touch. Until then, we will be content to enjoy the curving magnificence and tuneful melodies that this lovely piece brings to our days. Moreover, if you’ve got beyond grade one, come and tinkle our ivories yourself any time you like.
Written by Rosalea Collinge