The Keyboard in London

My photo
We (Mike Lurie, Greg Dunbar, Lauren Buono, Shawn Riley & Bryn Coveney) are a group of students studying abroad in London for the semester from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. This blog is to document our class experiences in "The Keyboard and it's Role in London Society" course, which is being taught by Diane Birr at the Ithaca College London Center, in South Kensington. Our studies focus on keyboard instruments (the Virginal, Harpsichord, Pianoforte, Piano, Organ, Electronic keyboard) and explore how these instruments are historically interwoven with the personal and social fabric of London society.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Cobbe Collection at the Hatchlands


Hatchlands Park
East Clandon, Guildord
Surrey, England

For more than 40 years, Alec Cobbe has been collecting keyboards. From grand and square pianofortes to virginals and harpsichords, his vast collection has a purpose: to assemble instruments by makers who were highly regarded or patronized by composers. Out of his collection numbering nearly 40, eighteen of these instruments were either owned or played by some of the biggest names in music’s history. With a lineup of names including Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Mozart, Henry Purcell and Johann Christian Bach, the collection happens to be “the largest group of composer-related instruments to be seen in one place anywhere in the world.”

1846 Grand Pianoforte by I. Pleyel, owned by Chopin

According to the collection’s official website, the instruments are “maintained in playing conditions and are used for concerts”.

Dr. Birr and husband, Charlie Speed

Lauren and Shawn

The ride

Walking up to the house

The house

Greg's great find!

Don't knock our bull

"We were extremely lucky to have Alec Cobbe himself show us his collection. He walked from one priceless keyboard to the next, talking of their history and playing beautiful music on them. I could not believe the vast amount of colors he extracted from each instrument.
My favorite moment had to be when he played the prelude to the second cello suite on the Clavichord
...the instrument, he [Cobbe] told us,
that Bach was likely to have composed the cello suites on."

"I especially loved how Alec Cobbe told us of how many people speak of how old instruments can hold a performer back, but how he believes that they are liberating for it is up to the performer to create a sound and music based on the capability and distinct beauty of each individual instrument."

"During the morning performance, Mrs. Comparone's opening piece contained a basic melody pattern repeated with the left hand while improvisation occurred with the right. I found the piece incredible, yet concluded that due to its loop-like approach it seemed to be quite similar to the popular music of today."

"I didn't understand Mrs. Comparone's introducing every piece before playing, even playing bits of the piece before actually performing it. It certainly was strange and a bit annoying, but I think she completely made up for it with her encore."

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