Liv­ing na­tional trea­sure

Piano maker

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Pho­to­graph by Richard Can­non

The piano maker

ADAM COX, pro­pri­etor of York­shire Pianos, com­pares the in­tri­cate works un­der the piano lid to what’s con­cealed be­neath a car bon­net. ‘When we look at the wind­screen wipers or lights, we don’t think about how they ac­tu­ally work. If you imag­ine this process to be as com­pli­cated as it could be and then mul­ti­ply it by 10, that’s how com­plex it is,’ he ex­plains. ‘It’s an in­tri­cate ma­chine made out of wood at a level of pre­ci­sion not seen much out­side the mak­ing of mu­si­cal in­stru­ments.’

York­shire Pianos, based in an old forge on the Duke of Devon­shire’s Bolton Abbey es­tate in the York­shire Dales—hence its Cavendish range—is the only com­mer­cial, tra­di­tional piano maker in Bri­tain (once, there were more than 300). Mr Cox trained in piano tech­nol­ogy at Leeds Col­lege of Mu­sic; this course doesn’t ex­ist any more ei­ther—there’s only one in the UK, at the Piano Tech­nol­ogy School in Northamp­ton.

Com­mis­sion time is about six months (there are ready-made ones in stock) and si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­volves crafts­peo­ple who in­clude a lo­cal cab­i­net-maker, a string-maker in Did­cot, Ox­ford­shire, and a mar­quetry de­signer in Wales.

No two pianos are the same, but the com­pany’s USP is the tra­di­tional mel­low ‘Bri­tish’ sound, dis­tinct from the ‘stri­dent’ Ger­man sound or that of a Far Eastern model, says Mr Cox. ‘They tend to value vol­ume, which isn’t high on our list— here, the piano was a ladies’ in­stru­ment, played in the boudoir.’

He adds: ‘The rea­son why peo­ple still value a hand-built piano is be­cause the hu­man eye is ca­pa­ble of a high level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion. It’s a labour of love.’ KG www.york­shirepi­anos.com; www. her­itage­crafts.org.uk

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