Built in 1792, the CMM’s Broadwood grand piano represents a critical instance of keyboard instrument production and firm personnel in the trajectory of the Broadwood company, before significant change in the latter half of the decade.
Hailing from Cockburnspath, Scotland, John Broadwood learned basic woodworking from his carpenter father before relocating to London in 1761. There, he entered into an apprenticeship with celebrated harpsichord maker Burkat Shudi and joined a renowned line of craftsmen stretching back to the workshops of the Ruckers Family in seventeenth century Antwerp. The craftsman community was a powerful entity in late eighteenth century London, and Broadwood solidified his place in this community with his marriage to Burkat Shudi’s daughter, Barbara, at the completion of his apprenticeship in 1769. Bound with ties strengthened by family, Shudi made Broadwood a partner in the firm. Only a few years later, Broadwood inherited the entire workshop with Shudi’s death in 1773. With a fashionable Soho workshop and a lengthy list of clientele in hand, Broadwood continued the firm under his own name.
By the early 1790s, John Broadwood was making significantly more pianos than harpsichords. The firm seamlessly made the harpsichord-to-piano transition, and the CMM’s 1792 grand saw the penultimate year of Broadwood’s harpsichord production. Following a decade of steadily advancing piano technology, Broadwood was exclusively making square pianos and grand fortepianos. The burgeoning piano production came at a time when Broadwood’s eldest son, James Shudi Broadwood, finished his training and joined his father as a partner, beginning a long lasting dynasty of the Broadwood family and ushering a new era of the firm as Broadwood & Son in 1795.
This instrument is on loan to the Carolina Music Museum due to the generosity of Steven Bichel.