Toronto, Ontario, Canada

1882 Chickering Grand -- looking toward keyboard , lid up1885(?) Chickering Grand Piano (used)

This handsome Chickering 6' Grand was made sometime between 1884 and 1886, probably 1885, judging by its serial number. This was well before the American Piano Company acquired Chickering (around 1906) and standardized its output, along with that of their other acquisitions -- Knabe and Mason-Hamlin. For instance, this piano has five braces under the bentside, the later American Piano Chickerings have only three. It was this generosity with materials and workmanship that earned Chickering its reputation as fine piano makers. We should say right now that there are several unusual things about this piano. One is the action, which is a Chickering double-escapement rather than the heavier modern (= Steinway) double-escapement, the present-day standard for pianos. This makes for a very light, responsive action. The wrestplank (aka tuning pinblock) is also odd in that it consists of four separate pieces set into the cast-iro1885 Chickering piano, from the siden frame rather than a single piece -- we have never seen anything like it. Another is the tone. It does NOT sound like a Steinway. Most of us are too young to remember when you could tell the make of a piano by its sound. Chickerings were famous for their warmth, their tone is deep and iridescent. It is a softer, more complex sound than is produced by a modern Steinway. If mother-of-pearl made a sound, it would sound like a Chickering. At 6' long, it is considered a "living room grand". This piano does not produce enough volume for a concert hall, but it is wonderful for intimate pieces in a large room or salon. It is suited to Schumann, Chopin, Schubert, Brahms, Beethoven and much of Bach. It is a considerate instrument for chamber and vocal music, and currently is the regular duet partner of a cello. It is especially effective with the music of its own time, the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Try Granados on it, or Bartok, or the French impressionists -- Debussy, Satie, Fauré -- talk about shimmer!.

This instrument was purchased by its present owner in the 1960's from the T. Eaton Company, who had fully re-conditioned it in their in-house piano department. This is probably when the ivory keys were replaced with plastic. Since then it has had regular tuning and maintenance but it has a few loose tuning pins now, due to a split in one section of the wrestplank. The finish is generally good, given its age, although deteriorating somewhat along the spine side, perhaps from the sunlight. We estimate that it would cost around $3,000 to have it repaired. Because of the age of this instrument, the repair should be done by a piano restorer who has experience in fabricating parts for old pianos, who understands their historic finishes and materials, and who really loves and respects them. Don't get us started on modern piano 'technicians' who figure that if they can't buy parts for it out of the Piano Supply catalog, it should be turned into a desk. Or worse, the ones who use modern wire, glues and finishes to 'repair' historic pianos, or the ones who rip out the original action and replace it with --- we SAID don't get us started!

Price is $10,000 Canadian or $6,750 USD plus shipping and applicable taxes & duties. If interested, or for more information e-mail Claviers Baroques or give us a call. [back to used instruments page]

"Under the hood"

(left) Bass strings and a portion of the wrestplank showing the Chickering name on the frame casting

(right) A portion of the soundboard showing the Chickering Brothers decal


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