The Walter Cave Bechstein

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Last week Berkley Square hosted the eleventh PAD London art fair. This internationally acclaimed event showcases prestigious artworks encompassing contemporary, modern and historical design, with works from sixty-seven leading galleries. The object of the fair is to inspire collectors, consultants, museum experts, interior designers and the general public.

One exhibit, on the H. Blairman & Sons stand, was a Bechstein Model IV upright piano. The piano was manufactured in c.1892 in Berlin, with the casework designed by Walter Cave. This attractive instrument is a classic example of the Arts and Crafts style.

A Walter Cave Bechstein

A Walter Cave Bechstein, first shown at the Arts & Crafts Exhibition (1893). Photo: H. Blairman and Sons

Born in Bristol (UK) in 1863 and educated at Eton, Walter Cave was a leading architect, interior designer, and furniture maker. He designed the famous Burberry Building in The Haymarket, London.

The Arts and Crafts movement originated in Britain in the 1860s, and lasted until the 1910s. It spread across Europe, North America, and the then not-inconsiderable British Empire. The movement’s philosophy was one of simple styling, often based on medieval or folk roots, using traditional craftsmanship. It was a reaction to a period of stifled design, and the industrial mass production of goods that was becoming all-pervasive.



Many piano manufacturers produced instruments in the Arts and Crafts Style, employing top furniture designers. Broadwood were known for their “Manxman” uprights (with folding doors), designed by M.H. Baille Scott and Charles Robert Ashbee.

A Broadwood “Manxman” Arts and Crafts piano (1896). Photo: Tennants Auctioneers

The Walter Cave piano is an overstrung 85 note Model IV Bechstein upright with full cast iron frame and internal underdamping. The oak casework features brass candlestick holders and ornate brass hinges. The basic nameplate, also of brass, is embossed “C • BECHSTEIN BERLIN •”. The action is light/medium and the instrument has a that rich, warm Bechstein tone.

Variations

These pianos were produced between 1892 and 1906 (approx.). Cave produced several variations of the casework and also utilised different woods (oak, rosewood, and mahogany).

Walter Cave Bechstein upright piano

A mahogany Walter Cave Bechstein (c1900). Photo: Tennants Auctioneers

The instrument on show in London last week has a basic fretted music rack, a simple front panel, and two square tapered legs, supporting the candlestick holders at the front. Some instruments include a front panel with fretwork in a scrolling floral design, others have a slatted front panel.

Bechstein produced the Model IV until 1902, when the entire range was re-classified. The Model IV became the Model 9. Later versions of Cave’s design were Model 9s.

George Bernard Shaw had an oak cased Model IV Walter Cave Bechstein at Shaw’s Corner, his Hertfordshire home for some 40 years.

The Walter Cave Bechstein at Shaw's Corner

The Walter Cave Bechstein at Shaw’s Corner. Photo: © National Trust

A Walter Cave Bechstein can sell at auction for a surprisingly realistic price. At Piano Auction Ltd’s April 2017 sale one sold for 450 UK pounds. But, these instruments, being over 100 years old usually require extensive renovation, and you can pay many times that for one in top condition. They are however statement pieces of furniture and suit both traditional and contemporary interiors.

Walter Cave was also a first class cricketer, playing for Gloucestershire. Busy man!

 

Thanks to:
H. Blairman & Sons Limited (Furniture and Works of Art dealers)
Tennants Auctioneers
The National Trust.


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