Fryderyk Chopin never saw, let alone played a Steinway. But he was intimately familiar with the first great brand of pianos…the Broadwood, an instrument powerful enough to stand up to Beethoven.
Like Richard Petty’s famous switch from Plymouths and Dodges to Chevrolets, when Chopin toured England and Scotland in 1848 he too took on a new manufacturer – John Broadwood and sons, which supplied him with no fewer than THREE pianos – two grands and the “cottage” or new-fangled upright piano. Chopin’s trip to Britain was mostly dreary, drafty, and plagued with illness, but not for lack of effort on the part of John Broadwood and his son James, who took care at every turn to pamper his new star. “To give you an idea of his English courtesy,” Chopin wrote, “…one morning I told him I was tired, and had slept badly. At night I came back from Lady Somerset’s and found a new spring mattress and pillows on my bed. After much questioning…I discovered that Mr. Broadwood had sent it and would not tell me.”
And yes, it was James Broadwood who purchased the extra seat – for Chopin’s feet – for the pianist’s 12-hour train ride from London to Edinburgh. Chopin got another boost from Broadwood too…they assigned their best piano tuner, Alfred Hipkins to accompany his journeys. Hipkins became so enthralled with Chopin’s music that he was said to be the first to perform all-Chopin recitals after the composer’s death…a final tribute to one of the brightest, if short-lived, stars in the Broadwood garage. - Rachel Stewart & Benjamin K. Roe