The Érard grand piano at Newbridge House is an important instrument in terms of original pianos surviving in situ in an Irish country house. It is dated to 1863 when it was bought by Charles Cobbe for the Drawing Room at Newbridge, where it has remained ever since. It was acquired from Mr Pigott’s Musical Instrument Importers and Musical Publishers of 112 Grafton St. and 11 Suffolk St. Dublin.
From the archives
Pigott had a history of working for the Cobbe family at Newbridge, with bills paid to Mr Pigott in 1840. Other bills such as one in January 1845 for 10s 6d was paid presumably for the tuning of the piano forte at Newbridge listed in the 1821 Inventory in the Large Drawing Room. This piano was replaced in 1863 by the Erard instrument purchased from Mr. Pigott’s shop. In operation from 1823 Pigott’s shop was a staple of the Dublin trade, until the Grafton Street shop was devastated by fire in 1967 [see link].
Footage of Pigott’s shop fire in 1967:
An Érard piano was a fashionable and expensive instrument at the time. Sébastien Érard (1752-1831) had established his manufactory in eighteenth-century Paris, supplying Louis XVI. Later Érard and his nephew Pierre jointly operated factories in Paris and London. By the time Sebastian Érard died in 1831 both London and Paris were simultaneously producing the highest-quality instruments, desired by elite consumers. Most famously Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn played on Érard instruments and Queen Victoria acquired them for her many homes. At the time of her death in 1901, fifteen of the twenty-three pianos in Windsor Castle were by Érard, not counting the other instruments to be found at Osborne House and Balmoral. Érard’s lasting contribution to the history of music was the invention of the double-escapement action, necessitated by the full tones and faster pace of Romantic compositions. It was Érard’s improvements which revolutionized piano construction and repertoire and have been built upon over the subsequent two centuries of piano making.
The acquisition of such an instrument by the Cobbe family at the time showed their musical taste and desire to possess the most advanced instruments available.
In 1985 the piano was acquired by Fingal County Council, when they purchased Newbridge House from the Cobbe family. This has preserved the original instrument in the room ever since.
In early 2022 the Érard from Newbridge began a lengthy process of restoration. It was restored by Jeffrey Clamp, an expert in this period of keyboard instruments. The instrument returned to Newbridge in April 2023, with a renewed lease of life. On 5 July 2023, Newbridge House was delighted to host Dr. Tal Zilber for an intimate recital to celebrate the restoration of this historic instrument. His performance included works by Chopin, Liszt, Field and Beethoven as well as drawing on other influences.
Newbridge House look forward to hosting more recitals to celebrate our wonderful collection of historic musical instruments in 2024.