Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano: The Story of the First Pianos and How They Caused a Cultural Revolution
by Madeline Goold


BlueBridge, 2009. ISBN 978-1-933-34621-2.
Reviewed by Susan M. Andrus
Posted on 01/03/2010

Nonfiction: History/Current Events

If you like historical detective stories, Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano fits the bill. A creative non-fiction account of how an actual piano crafted in 1807 became a fixture in Madeline Goold's home evidences superb writing, creativity, and suspense as the trail unfolds from London to Lancaster, England. In addition to Mr. Langshaw, a disabled organist in Lancaster, we meet Samuel and John Wesley, Mr. Langshaw's friends and his sons' piano instructors, the Broadwood family, who crafted these pianos, and the author herself, whose impeccable research and doggedness uncovered the trail from 1807 to the present.

In addition to following the development of the piano's history from harpsichord to Steinway, Goold relates how the Broadwoods mass produced the piano, which helped to move music rooms of the royalty and the elite into virtually every home in Europe and America by the twentieth century.

Goold developed the many musical connections in the story in an engaging way that kept my interest. As a musician and lover of historical novels, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the account of Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano, as would anyone studying piano, whether teen or adult.


Madeline Goold holds a law degree from the London School of Economics. After a period in legal practice and raising a family, she studied fine art at the Barber Institute, Birmingham University, England. A well-known sculptor and artist, she has also taught piano, which she has played since childhood.

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