Abstract

Two beautifully constructed ‘commodes’ [cabinets] attributed to Christopher Fuhrlohg, each containing a pianoforte signed by Frederick Beck survive, one in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight and the other in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (‘Commode’: an eighteenth-century French term for a storage cabinet — not, as in modern parlance, a chair containing a chamber pot). In the former the pianoforte is inscribed ‘Fredericus Beck Londini fecit 1775’; the name board of the latter is similarly inscribed and dated 1777. Earlier researchers have suggested that Beck commissioned Fuhrlohg to make the cases to house these instruments; however, their shape renders them impractical for the player. Why, one must ask, would a musical instrument maker adopt such a seemingly illogical approach? A more plausible explanation is that the reverse situation applies and that Fuhrlohg obtained these instruments from Beck for insertion into his cabinets, these being designed primarily as decorative pieces, suitable to grace the homes of wealthy patrons. This hypothesis is supported by newspaper advertisements placed by Fuhrlohg in 1776 and 1784.

Other newly identified biographical materials include clear evidence of Beck’s presence in London as early as 1762; an extant example of an early pianoforte bearing his name, dated 1769; and the wills of both men, which firmly establish the dates of their respective deaths and provide new insights into their circumstances



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