The Cobbe Collection at Hatchlands Park
Hatchlands is home to the Cobbe Collection, an extraordinary group of keyboard instruments by makers who were highly regarded or patronised by composers.
Eighteen of the instruments were actually owned or played by some of the greatest composers in history, including JC Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Elgar and Chopin.
The collection is one of the largest groups of composer-related instruments to be seen anywhere in the world. Here are some of the highlights:
Harpsichord by Zenti
Harpsichords are instruments in which the strings are plucked rather than struck by rebounding hammers as in a piano. Girolamo Zenti made them for the Medici family, Queen Christina of Sweden, in England for Charles II and for Louis XIV at Versailles. There are seven surviving instruments by Zenti and this is the oldest, from 1622.
Harpsichord by Ruckers
The Ruckers family of Antwerp were the greatest of all harpsichord makers. This example was built by Andreas Ruckers in 1636. It underwent revalement, a process of enlarging to add more notes, by Henri Hemsch in 1763. Decorated with a beautiful Flemish landscape it's believed to have belonged to the Savoy family.
Virginals by John Player
Virginals are rectangular instruments with a plucking action as in a harpsichord. Built by John Player in 1664, the year of the Restoration, this instrument is likely to be a survivor from the Royal Household of Charles II. It's branded with the letters WP on its front left panel, used to mark items belonging to Whitehall Palace.
Square pianoforte by Zumpe
This instrument survived in a family house in the French village of Saint Germain-en-Laye. It was likely brought there by JC Bach when he visited in 1778, accompanied by Mozart. The pianoforte went on to survive the revolution and is autographed by Bach on the soundboard.
Pianoforte by Southwell
This pianoforte dates from 1782 and was built by William Southwell, it's one of about six to survive. Built into an elegant and decorative half-moon table by William Moore, these instruments were very fashionable in Dublin during this period.
Grand pianoforte by Streicher
This grand pianoforte was built in 1823 in Vienna by Nannette Streicher, who was the preferred maker of Beethoven. It was commissioned by King George IV, who purchased it directly from the maker. The instrument is loaned to us by HM The Queen in the care of The Cobbe Collection Trust.
Square pianoforte by Broadwood
Built in 1845, this pianoforte came into the possession of Edward Elgar's father, who ran a piano business. Elgar chose this piano from his father's stock for his cottage near Malvern and inscribed on the soundboard names of the works he composed on it. They include Sea Picture, Caractacus and The Dream of Gerontius. His most famous work The Enigma Variations was both begun and finished on this piano. A big history for a little instrument.
Grand pianoforte by Pleyel
The grand pianoforte in our music room was built by Ignace Pleyel & Compagnie in 1848. It was built for and then brought to London by Fryderyk Chopin. He used it for his last-ever performance in Paris in February 1848. He then gave his first London performance on it, a private occasion at Gore House in Kensington. Chopin preferred Pleyel pianos above all others and referred to this one as 'my own' piano in his letters.
Listen in the music room
Our organ by JW Walker & Sons and the music room itself were both built in 1903 by Lord Rendel. You can regularly hear the organ played by volunteers as you walk through the house. If you play the organ and you'd like to have a go why not get in touch.
The instruments above are just a taste of what you can see at Hatchlands, with the whole collection stretching to over 40 pieces.
It's the aim of the Cobbe Collection Trust to keep all these amazing instruments in playing condition.
Regular concerts are held throughout the year and music from the period is played on the same historic keyboards that inspired great composers.
Listen to the music as it was meant to be heard, for music lovers this is a must-see collection.