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This book catalogues the diverse array of keyboard instruments at Hatchlands Park near Guildford. Written by Alec Cobbe, the distinguished designer who compiled the collection, and Christopher Nobbs, an expert keyboard historian and restorer, the book provides a detailed overview of 41 instruments, all of which are maintained in playing order.

My favourite feature of this book is the way the instruments are put into a historical context. A tantalising link is drawn between Schudi’s ‘immensely grand’ harpsichord presented to Frederick the Great in 1744 (not in the collection) and J. S. Bach, who probably played it when he visited Potsdam in 1747. We also learn that the Broadwood company provided Chopin with two new mattresses when he complained of disturbed sleep!

Printed on high-quality paper, this exquisite publication includes many lavish colour photographs featuring the instruments from different perspectives, in addition to relevant prints and pictures. Each instrument’s provenance is given together with technical data which – surprisingly – omits to mention any of the woods used in construction. A select discography featuring the instruments might have made for an interesting appendix (audio clips of the instruments are available on the website, www.cobbecollection.co.uk). Niggles aside, though, this book is first-rate and most definitely a must-buy.

Julian Perkins Read the full review on Agora Classica


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