When the National Museum of Hungary and EMI wanted a piano mover to transport Beethoven’s original Broadwood Fortepiano on a European Tour who do you think they asked? Yes, you guessed it Colin Batt Removals. We were selected as the exclusive piano mover for this unique and priceless instrument during the Beethoven Broadwood Fortepiano Tour.
The tour was to celebrate Beethoven’s genius and the idea was to play his best works using his original Broadwood Fortepiano. This required the exquisite instrument to be painstakingly restored to its original beauty and sound by David Winston of the Period Piano Company. After this we took the piano on a grand tour of Europe during which Melvyn Tan and EMI put on a series of concerts to celebrate the music and creativity of Beethoven .
Beethoven and the Proper Gift
In 1817 Broadwood and Sons were the largest piano manufacturer in the world and were based in London. In 1817 Thomas Broadwood visited Beethoven in Vienna and after becoming close friends Thomas offered Beethoven one of his pianos as a gift. After returning to London Thomas Broadwood set about finding the best instrument for his new friend.
To select the perfect instrument for the musical maestro Thomas Broadwood had 5 esteemed musicians select the best pianoforte they could find in his factory. They choose a 6-octave, triple stringed piano that was acclaimed to be the most perfect grand piano ever constructed. Before the piano was shipped Broadwood had the names of the 5 musicians engraved onto a plaque on the piano as well as an inscription onto the pin block that reads:
This instrument is a proper gift from Thomas Broadwood of London to the great Beethoven.
Piano Moving in 1818
As you can imagine, piano removals at that time were a little different than today and in 1818 the piano was moved by horse-drawn cart and ship from London to Trieste and then on to Vienna. The journey took seven months during which time the piano was buffeted and bumped by strong waves, rough muddy tracks and the weather. Unfortunately this arduous journey damaged the piano and Beethoven had to make repairs on its arrival. Even with the repairs Beethoven was elated with his gift from Broadwood, writing this to his friend.
I will regard it as an altar on which I will offer to god Apollo my most beautiful sacrifices of spirit.
After Beethoven’s death in 1827 the piano was gifted to Franz Liszt who kept it in his library. By this time the piano had become unplayable and was kept for display only. In turn Franz List bequeathed the piano to the National Museum of Hungary in Budapest. There it remained in an unplayable state until the Museum asked David Winston to restore it to its former glory.
Restoration of Beethoven’s Instrument
Time and some heavy playing by Beethoven had taken their toll and this meant a lot of the components had to be stripped right back to their base elements to be restored. To preserve the authenticity of the piano, wherever possible, the same techniques and materials were used by David as they would have been by the Broadwood Company back in 1817. The plan was to make the instrument sound and look the same as it had done in Beethoven’s time. This required extreme skill and craftsmanship and this is why David Winston from the Period Piano Company was asked to carry out the restoration.
The restoration was a labour of love but the results were fantastic and offered us a unique insight into the genius of Beethoven. The tour which followed demonstrated the beauty of the piano and Beethoven’s chosen art form in their most natural and intended state.
Moving Beethoven’s Piano
During the European Tour, the security and safety protections for Beethoven’s piano were unsurprisingly extensive. During the entire tour Colin Batt Removals were the only people ever allowed to move the piano in any way. To protect the piano we wrapped it in protective blankets, covered it in bubble wrap, then placed it in a wooden box which in turn was secured inside a metal container. The metal box was then bolted to the floor of our lorry. All of this extra protection made the piano very heavy and large to move, which meant we had to design and build specialist equipment to get the piano into all of the venues on the tour.
Celebrating Beethoven’s Music and his Piano
To celebrate the revival of the piano Melvyn Tan, under the direction of Roger Norrington, played several concerts across Europe in Vienna, Bonn, Bath, London and Budapest. Melvyn Tan also recorded 6 bagatelles at Ford Abbey on the EMI label capturing the genius and beauty of Beethoven on the original instrument the music was intended and composed.
Piano Mover Legacy
We are extremely honoured to have been Beethoven’s piano mover of the modern era and to be the piano removal company that brought this priceless instrument back to the England for the first time in 175 years. We expect the piano will never be taken on such a journey ever again and so we may very well be the last piano mover to ever touch this famous musical instrument. A true honour and a great legacy for our piano removal company.