Soufleto "bridge" piano

The piano company of François Soufléto was established in Paris in 1827. Soufléto had worked for both Érard and Roller et Blanchet prior to forming his own company. The case style of this piano is commonly referred to as "piano pont" (bridge piano) or "niche de chien" (dog kennel) because of the arched space at the bottom of the case. The design was first introduced by the firm of Roller et Blanchet in 1827, and was so popular that it was copied by many other makers. Our piano is one of Soufléto's very first, made prior to 1830 (when he moved to a location different from the one listed on the nameplate).

The interior layout is based on that of the square piano, which was the most common household piano at that time: the strings run diagonally, with the bass strings extending from the top left corner to the bottom right. This gives considerable length to the strings for such a relatively short piano, but does require a fairly tight spacing of the hammers. Obliquely strung pianos were the most common style in France, while vertically strung pianos predominated in England. Over time, there were "semi-oblique" pianos as well, where the longest plain wire string extended to the bottom right corner, and the bass strings were attached to hitch pins along the bottom. French makers also made vertically strung pianos, after the design of the English "cottage" piano, and gave them the name "pianino."

There is one pedal, operating the dampers, on the left of the opening.

The range is six octaves, F1 to E7.

The address on the nameplate, No. 6 Rue de Harlay, allows us to date the piano, as it has no serial number. Soufléto moved to Rue Feydeau in 1830.

With the front panel removed, it is possible to tune. Note the wooden knob at the far right top.

When the wooden knob is raised, a metal retaining rod is pulled from its slot, allowing the piano to be opened for service.

The entire front of the piano swings away from the back, keys and action separating from the soundboard and strings.

The strings are laid out diagonally, with the bass strings stretching from top left to bottom right.

While most of the piano is original, the damper felts (red) have been replaced.

Note names are marked on the pinblock above each set of tuning pins. The top two octaves have three string unisons, the remainder two strings per note.

Because of the oblique angle of the strings, like that of a square piano, the hammers are angled and shaped to match.

The knob for disengaging the front and back of the piano is in the right foreground.

Soufléto used his own version of the English "grasshopper" action, invented by John Geib. The jack is attached to the key by a rocker. Since the back check is following the arc of the key (moving toward the front of the key), the catcher needs to be inverted from the modern design, where the check is attached to the wippen.

Escapement is effected by the movement of the jack regulating button against a slanted surface. A variant of this principle (with the regulation button extending toward an angled face on the jack from the hammer rail) was used for many years, before being replaced by the current style of jack in the shape of an "L," with the tender hitting against an adjustable escapement button. Note the adjustable flange for the hammer butt, which allows for tightening or loosening the action center. It also allows the butt to be removed with the flange remaining in place.