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#2311972 - 08/06/14 03:13 PM The rebirth of British piano manufacturing?
williambonard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/11
Posts: 110
Loc: Essex, UK
First and foremost: apologies if a similar thread has been posted before and if this is relatively old news.

Yesterday, whilst browsing the Internet for any new piano related things I somehow came across a piano brand named Cavendish pianos. After conducting a bit of research on Cavendish, I was able to deduct that they are a British firm established in Yorkshire in 2012 by husband and wife team Adam and Charlie Cox after a three year planning period. The founding of Cavendish pianos was apparently inspired by the closure of the Kemble piano factory (by Yamaha) in Milton Keynes in 2009 which moved all production to Indonesia.

They state that the pianos are wholly built in England with no sign of any Asian production. If I remember correctly, I read somewhere that the piano frames are made outside of England because apparently there is no establishment here that does it. But apart from that everything else is all built and assembled up in Yorkshire.

According to Wikipedia, Cavendish is the first British piano manufacturer to start up since 1934. However, I don't know how much truth there is in this seeing as there are three other British piano manufacturers currently around: Venables & Son pianos produced by Chris Venables, Phoenix pianos produced by Hurstwood Farm Pianos and supposedly John Broadwood & Sons pianos. However, not all these pianos are totally 100% British pianos as I know for a fact that Phoenix pianos have direct links with Steingraeber and that Chris Venables has the crux of his pianos built somewhere in Asia but does the finishing touches himself.

So yes, in a way it is true that Cavendish is the first truly British piano manufacturer to begin since 1934. The video below is a video taken from the Cavendish website detailing the brand and some of their work.



I mentioned Broadwood pianos; a piano brand I'm sure we're all familiar with. One that has been around since 1728 and has provided pianos to many esteemed composers and virtuosos including the likes of Mozart, Chopin, Haydn, Beethoven and Liszt. The reason I mention this is because earlier this year, Cavendish pianos merged with Broadwood - what the end product is going to be, I do not know. However, based on what the Cavendish pianos website states, and I quote:

Quote:
Cavendish, based in Yorkshire, will be working with Broadwood chairman Dr Alistair Lawrence to produce the distinctive Broadwood brand of piano.


Broadwood produces annually a minute amount of pianos, all of which are uprights if my memory serves me correct. Not much more than around 12 pianos a year given that the company produces one upright piano per month. So, I should imagine the merge between the two companies would theoretically mean a larger output of Broadwood pianos. Possibly even a line of grands from them again?

For me, as a Brit (and I hope for the rest of you too!) I find this all very exciting stuff. The height of British piano making was anywhere between 1900-1940. Camden in London was home to 100 small, individual piano firms providing 6,000 jobs. In the 1960s, Britain was selling around 14,000 pianos a year. Now, we only sell around 5,000 a year.

So, as you can see I do find this all very exciting and endearing. As some of you may recall from earlier posts of mine, I'm actually currently on the hunt for a grand piano for the drawing room of our new house so a Cavendish could be in the equation!


Edited by williambonard (08/06/14 03:14 PM)
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#2312000 - 08/06/14 04:07 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1364
Loc: Reseda, California
Originally Posted By: williambonard
If I remember correctly, I read somewhere that the piano frames are made outside of England because apparently there is no establishment here that does it.


That's correct. The plate castings are made and painted in Germany, because they couldn't find a foundry in the U.K. capable of making castings that large.

I, too, find this to be very good news, and I wish them the best of success.
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2312021 - 08/06/14 05:11 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1194
Hi William,

Thanks for the exciting and enthusiastic post. Venables pianos are made by hailun and then venables does a large amount of prep and selects some premium parts.

Phoenix is based on the steingraeber frame, with a WNG action and a carbon fibre soundboard.

Cavendish frames are Chinese but the piano is built around that frame in the UK

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#2312022 - 08/06/14 05:13 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1194
Oh that post about the frames being German appeared before I had finished posting. I stand corrected sorry

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#2312035 - 08/06/14 05:39 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
williambonard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/11
Posts: 110
Loc: Essex, UK
JohnSprung, thanks for your input. I knew it was somewhere outside of the UK, but wasn't sure where - now I know!

Joe: my pleasure as always! How are you doing by the way? It's been sometime since we've been in contact; I've been meaning to drop you an email.

I thought that Chris Venables had his pianos made by Hailun but I wasn't sure - thanks for clarifying that for me.

Ah yes, I knew about the Phoenix pianos. In fact, I've played them before. Both those and the Steingraeber-Phoenix pianos. I was pleasantly surprised in fact. I made a previous post about it all somewhere along the lines. The carbon fibre soundboard in particular blew me away. In my opinion, if you sat one next to the same piano with a traditional spruce soundboard, you'd notice how the differences are very subtle.

Richard Dain of Hurstwood Farm Pianos also employs his design of the adjustable bridge hitch-pins in his Phoenix pianos too. They're also featured in the Steingraeber-Phoenix pianos also.
_________________________
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Yamaha Clavinova CVP-208 digital piano
Aspiring concert pianist

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#2312108 - 08/06/14 08:30 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Actually, I can't wait to hear/play these instruments. I'm certain they sound a good deal different from the Asian-influenced -produced pianos.

Hi Joe! Hope you are doing well!!
_________________________
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1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2312141 - 08/06/14 10:15 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 662
Loc: Leicester, UK
Count me in as a supporter and interested observer of the piano industry in the UK. ... am always interested in hearing news and thoughts about what's happening ...

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#2312145 - 08/06/14 10:21 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: laguna_greg]
PaintedPostDave Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/09/10
Posts: 543
Loc: Upstate New York
I hope Dr. Alistair Lawrence will attempt to re-produce the Broadwood barless piano now that there is an expansion.

BTW, Williambonard, do you have an email address for Dr. Lawrence? smile
_________________________
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#2312172 - 08/06/14 11:38 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: PaintedPostDave]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5296
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: PaintedPostDave
I hope Dr. Alistair Lawrence will attempt to re-produce the Broadwood barless piano now that there is an expansion.

BTW, Williambonard, do you have an email address for Dr. Lawrence? smile

I agree. But not without some much needed design improvements, I hope.

ddf
_________________________
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Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
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(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2312197 - 08/07/14 01:01 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: JohnSprung]
backto_study_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/10
Posts: 428
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung
Originally Posted By: williambonard
If I remember correctly, I read somewhere that the piano frames are made outside of England because apparently there is no establishment here that does it.


That's correct. The plate castings are made and painted in Germany, because they couldn't find a foundry in the U.K. capable of making castings that large.

I, too, find this to be very good news, and I wish them the best of success.




That's interesting - I'm sure that I read that Grotrian (AKA Grotrian Steinweg) has their plates cast in the USA.
_________________________
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#2312221 - 08/07/14 03:41 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1194
HI Greg! I've just spent a week in Vienna, gave a couple of concerts and participated in some master classes - will tell more later!

I've heard some recordings of the Cavendish pianos and while I know it is not the best way to judge a piano's sound, they've sounded pretty rubbish on the recordings. I need to experience them in the flesh

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#2312237 - 08/07/14 04:50 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: joe80]
Robert 45 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/18/06
Posts: 1227
Loc: Auckland New Zealand
I have also followed the development of this new British piano making enterprise with interest and I agree with Joe that the sound quality of their pianos on their short advertising videos has been disappointing.
I have also been looking for some independent reviews of the Cavendish piano, but I have found only promotional material by the company.
Their marketing thrust appears to be the "all British" piano rather than the sound and pianistic qualities of the Cavendish piano.

I certainly wish this piano venture well and I hope that the recent merger with John Broadwood pianos may give impetus to a renaissance of British piano manufacturing.

Kind regards,

Robert.


Edited by Robert 45 (08/07/14 04:51 AM)

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#2312239 - 08/07/14 04:55 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1194
Yes and they take a stab on one of their videos at manufacturers who use 'plastics' in their actions.......

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#2312253 - 08/07/14 05:42 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
williambonard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/11
Posts: 110
Loc: Essex, UK
PaintedPostDave, I'm afraid not, sorry. The Broadwood website is very basic and limited with little information on it - it appears to be very dated. Have a look for yourself: http://www.broadwood.co.uk/

Del, I could not agree more. Broadwood certainly would need to update their designs. This is purely the reason why production and sales started the cease in the first place. Other piano manufacturers like Steinway and the likes started using more modern designs which proved better. Broadwood didn't follow the newer, more modern designs until it was too late.

The consensus here appears to be that the only information on the Cavendish pianos seems to be coming only from Cavendish themselves. Thus meaning there are no personal reviews by other people telling of what the pianos are truly like. I agree with Joe: I'd need to try the pianos in the flesh themselves to see what they're like because the recordings really don't sound great due to the quality; they just don't do the pianos justice.

I agree with Robert also: it appears Cavendish's marketing techniques currently rely on degrading pianos with plastic action parts (however we all know the success of Kawais ABS/Millenium actions) but also the fact that they are British pianos. Whilst it's excellent that British piano manufacturing has been reborn, Cavendish need to focus on selling the qualities of their pianos, ie the tone, feel etc. as opposed to the British heritage behind them.

Nonetheless, I would not be put off to either try or buy a Cavendish piano (providing I liked it) due to how they market them. At the end of the day, if you like the piano and its touch and tone, regardless of the brand then it's generally a safe bet - however I'm sure we can all think of many examples where this rule of thumb would be exempt!

- Will.
_________________________
Kawai K-15 E upright piano
Yamaha Clavinova CVP-208 digital piano
Aspiring concert pianist

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#2312268 - 08/07/14 06:55 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1194
I have heard some anecdotes from people who know people who have bought Cavendish pianos, and so far there hasn't been much positive feedback coming my way. Now, whether that is people simply trying to spread hate about what is potentially an excellent venture, or whether it is that the pianos are simply not up to the mark, I have no idea.

IF the pianos are not up to the mark, the best way to criticise them is to say 'I like this, but I don't like this' and give the feedback to Cavendish themselves.

The pianos are not cheap - I mean, they're not the most expensive but at £5000 for the 112 and £7000 for the 121 in standard black finish, people do have the choice of buying a Yamaha U1 instead, or a Kawai 121cm upright (is that the K5? I don't know anymore!). Whilst these pianos are not British made, they are excellent pianos for the money and not without good reason are the most respected pianos on the market in that price range. So the Cavendish will have to match or outperform the Yamaha and the Kawai, otherwise they'll have to lower their price. If they lower the price they'll have to cut corners or ..... move east.....

But again I say, perhaps in the flesh, these pianos sound excellent, and perhaps it's poor recording equipment, which I'm currently willing to bet on at the moment. Cavendish, if you're watching, why not invest in some top notch recordings of the pianos for us - also make sure the pianos are in tune because in some of the footage they're not.

I think it's wonderful that piano making has once again commenced in my own country, and I would love to see a top quality series of grand pianos coming out in the future.

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#2312374 - 08/07/14 10:31 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
williambonard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/11
Posts: 110
Loc: Essex, UK
Oh really, Joe? I have to say, I've not heard any bad reviews of the Cavendish pianos yet. However, the only reviews I have heard of are the testimonials on the Cavendish piano web page which of course are all going to be positive...

I agree though, I didn't think the pianos were cheap when I managed to find the prices. I found them on the ABRSM forums. The following are prices as of April 2012 including VAT in GBP:

  • Classic 112: £4,999
  • Contemporary 121: £6,995 Contemporary 121: £6,995
  • Traditional 121: £7,999
  • 'Baby' Grand 152: £12,900
  • 'Boudoir' Grand 168: £14,950

Also listed is Traditional 121 Chatsworth Model in natural walnut at £9,995.

However, I don't know how up to date these prices are, of course. In comparison to other makes in what I would imagine would be a similar tier, I could buy a Feurich (Hailun) Model 161 for around £8,495. This is a huge difference and saving of £6,455! Or similarly, one of the Venables & Son models: take their Academy 180 grand which is a fair amount larger for a similar price of £11,995. What's more, for the same money I could opt for the Venables & Son Custom 200 which is 6'5" (almost a whole foot longer!) for £14,995.

Anyway, the point is, for a company this is still rather newly established, it is offering it's products at quite a high price. Now, is that because they are built with excellent materials to a high standard? Or could it be because they believe a 'truly British piano' should be priced that high?

These pianos are yet to stand the test of time, and I'm not insinuating that they're poorly built because I'm sure that they're not, but I think one can conclude it would be a safer bet to be able to buy a larger, cheaper piano from a more established company.


Edited by williambonard (08/07/14 10:32 AM)
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Yamaha Clavinova CVP-208 digital piano
Aspiring concert pianist

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#2312387 - 08/07/14 11:19 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1194
I don't think standing the test of time will be too much if a problem as some if the worst and best pianos from 100 years ago are still standing in playable condition.

The grand piano prices are puzzling. Very cheap for a British made piano - and they can't be more than four years old. Not that I'm suggesting anything but those prices are low.

I would actually have expected that a hand built British upright would need to start at around 8000 for a 112 and more like 12000 for a 121 , with the grands coming in at 20,000 and 25,000 respectively.

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#2312394 - 08/07/14 11:32 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
williambonard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/11
Posts: 110
Loc: Essex, UK
Hmn yes, you're right actually. I guess that's not too big of a problem to worry about then.

Ah yes, I never thought about it that way. I thought they were overpriced to begin with because as I pointed out in my last post, there are other pianos that are of similar build and quality (supposedly) that can be bought for less. I wasn't originally factoring in that British labour is more expensive than that of its Asian equivalents though.

So, given that I would say the grands aren't really that overpriced. Especially if they really are all hand built and whatnot. A hand built German piano would be substantially more!

In brief, I guess we can't complain at the prices if they're lower than what we expected.
_________________________
Kawai K-15 E upright piano
Yamaha Clavinova CVP-208 digital piano
Aspiring concert pianist

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#2312403 - 08/07/14 11:48 AM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
PhilipInChina Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/19/13
Posts: 865
Loc: China
I have just watched that clip. As a British person, myself, I can honestly say that the over use of the Union Flag made me sick. I think Dr. Johnson's definition of patriotism hits the nail squarely on the head.

Sorry if I have upset anybody with that comment. To me the only reasons for buying a piano are sound and touch.
_________________________
Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"

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#2312419 - 08/07/14 12:15 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: PhilipInChina]
williambonard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/11
Posts: 110
Loc: Essex, UK
Originally Posted By: PhilipInChina
To me the only reasons for buying a piano are sound and touch.


As should be everybody else's reasons - I could not agree more.
_________________________
Kawai K-15 E upright piano
Yamaha Clavinova CVP-208 digital piano
Aspiring concert pianist

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#2312439 - 08/07/14 01:13 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1194
I think what I'm actually saying isn't that the prices are really good for a handbuilt grand piano, I think what I'm saying is that there is no way at these prices that what you are buying is a fully hand built British grand piano, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the rims and frames at least, might be coming from somwewhere else...... somewhere that is able to provide grand pianos at low cost.

The piano doesn't have to be entirely made in Britain for it to be able to claim 'British Made' or 'Made in Britain' on it. In fact it's enough that it's assembled here.

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#2312461 - 08/07/14 02:01 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
williambonard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/11
Posts: 110
Loc: Essex, UK
Oh right, I see where you're coming from. That's quite a different perspective to look at it from and certainly one that hadn't initially crossed my mind.

Well, we know for definite that the frames aren't built here in England. But the rims? This is something we'd have to investigate and find out...

I'd be curious to know what really is built here in England and what is shipped over from elsewhere.
_________________________
Kawai K-15 E upright piano
Yamaha Clavinova CVP-208 digital piano
Aspiring concert pianist

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#2312464 - 08/07/14 02:05 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: joe80]
Robert 45 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/18/06
Posts: 1227
Loc: Auckland New Zealand
Originally Posted By: joe80
Yes and they take a stab on one of their videos at manufacturers who use 'plastics' in their actions.......


Yes, I remember that too. It got my alarm bells ringing!

Best regards,

Robert.

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#2312481 - 08/07/14 02:53 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: Robert 45]
iLaw Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 193
Loc: Chicago
Did it strike anyone else as amusing that the music used to promote an ostensibly "British" piano in that Cavendish video is an Italian Concerto from a German composer?

What, no British keyboard music available? There seems to be no shortage of flags!

Larry.

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#2312492 - 08/07/14 03:13 PM Re: The rebirth of British piano manufacturing? [Re: williambonard]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1194
There is no shortage of British music. They just didn't use any.

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