Paul Hardy's Lachenal Concertina - 27590
Pictures of Lachenal 27590 before restoration
Description of Concertina 27590
It is an English Concertina, as invented and patented by Charles Wheatstone. So it is hexagonal with 48 keys, giving the same note pushing or pulling
(unlike the Anglo-German variety which have less buttons and are like a mouth organ giving different notes in the two directions).
It covers four full octaves with all sharps and flats (including enharmonic pairs like G# and Ab).
The ends are flat, of veneered and polished wood, with relatively simple fretwork. The bellows
are green, with four folds, having a green stars on white coloured patterned transfer on each segment.
One one end, in an oval aperture in the fretwork can be read "JOHN G. MURDOCH & Co Ltd, ENGLISH MAKE, 91 & 93 Farringdon Road, LONDON E.C.", who operated as a reseller from 1871 to 1918. But inside,
the mechanism is clearly labelled "Lachenal & Co, 8 Lit. James St, Bedford Row, London". Lachenal was Wheatstone’s foreman who set up on his own in 1858.
He died in 1861, but his widow used the same label until she sold the company to a group of workers in 1873,
who thereafter used the label “Lachenal & Co”. So this instrument is later than 1873. At the other end (and stamped on internal parts) is a serial number - 27590, probably dating it from around 1885.
The original thin white leather baffles are still in place, bearing the number and seller's plate.
It has its original box, wood with velvet lining. Unfortunately this holds it
in an 'ends-up' position, which was responsible for damage to the valves (see below).
I bought it in March 2018 from Liz, a fellow member of the Chiltinas group. She had bought it in 2011 off eBay,
from someone who had inherited it in 2000 from their father, who inherited it from a elderly gentleman he befriended in the 1980s.
Initial state of this concertina
The general condition is good for an instrument of its age. The keys still have pitch names on their tops, and the red 'C' keys are still totally red, indicating that it has not been played much over the past 130 years!
It’s *not* in modern concert pitch, nor in equal temperament - see section below.
The leather valves had drooped as the machine has been stored on its end, as well as stiffening, so they needed replacing, which Liz had done.
Its pads have not been replaced for many decades (if ever), and would need doing to get it playing well. However they work now for trying it out.
In all, it is generally playable, solo, as-is, but needs retuning to modern pitch (possibly staying in meantone temperament).
Tuning and Temperament
This concertina came *not* in modern concert pitch – it’s still at A=450 (rather than A=440) so about a quarter-tone (35 cents) sharp. This was probably intended as old London philharmonic pitch, usually indicated as A=452.
Retuning to concert pitch is a non-trivial task – filing the right amount of metal off 96 reeds! It is however in tune with itself, so can be played by itself, or with a singer, or a violin – but not with a piano or other fixed tune instrument.
On further investigation, there is an additional important point to note about the tuning - it's not in equal temperament, where all the semitone intervals are the same size, like a modern piano.
I believe that it is in a meantone tuning, probably quarter-comma meantone. The enharmonic pairs of notes present on all English 48-key concertinas (Ab/G#, Eb/D#) are not tuned the same,
but the flats are sharper and the sharps flatter, to give more pure mathatical ratios for the thirds of chords, and hence sweeter harmonies.
To learn more about the fascinating art and science of musical pitch and temperament, I recommend the slim book By Ross Duffin called
"How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)".
Do you know anything more about this concertina ?
Use paul at paulhardy dot net to send me an email message if you know anything about this instrument.
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