Lectures

A short history of the birth and growth of the instrument called piano

The planned lecture is dedicated to the birth of a new instrument called in its adulthood the piano, and the evolution of its construction in connection with the development of music for keyboard instruments. Mention will also be made of the position it occupied in the musical culture at various stages of his relatively short life (approx. 320 years). We will discuss first the most important inventions used in the instrument during the evolution of its construction. If time permits, we will look into the ranges of terminology relating to historic, historical and contemporary instruments.

Beniamin Vogel, Professor Emeritus of the University of Szczecin (Chair of Artistic Education) and Associate Professor at the Institute of Musicology, Lund University, Sweden. Specialises in instrumentology. A graduate in musicology at the University of Warsaw (1973), where he received his PhD in 1977 (Instrumenty muzyczne w kulturze Królestwa Polskiego 1815 1914, Kraków 1980) and habilitated in 1988 (Fortepian polski. The construction of pianos on Polish territory from the mid 18th century to World War II, Warsaw 1995), and where he was employed until 1994. He is also the author of Dictionary of violin makers active on historical and current Polish lands and of Polish violin makers active abroad until 1950 (Szczecin 2007; 2nd ed. Bydgoszcz 2019) and of catalogues: Kolekcja Zabytkowych Fortepianów im. Andrzej Szwalbe in Ostromecko (Bydgoszcz 2016) and Kolekcja Zabytkowych Fortepianów Muzeum Historii Przemysłu w Opatówku (Opatówek 2020); articles in professional journals in Poland (“Ruch Muzyczny”, “Muzyka”, “Rocznik Chopinowski”) and abroad (“Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society”, “The Galpin Society Journal”, “Svensk Tidskrift för Musikforskning”), dictionary and encyclopaedic entries (Encyklopedia muzyki, PWN; Encyklopedia muzyczna PWM; Polski Słownik Biograficzny; Encyklopedia Gdańska; Encyklopedia Szczecina; Encyclopedia of Keyboard Instruments, New York 1994; Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. 2, Bärenreiter 1999-2007; The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 2nd ed., Oxford 2014). Co-author of the Institute of Music and Dance web portals Polish Folk Musical Instruments (2014), Piano in Polish Collections (2015) and Violin in Polish Collections (2016). Member of the Polish Composers’ Union, the Union of Polish Violin Makers, the American Musical Instrument Society and Svenska samfundet för musikforskning, as well as member of the Programme Council of the Fryderyk Chopin National Institute (2007-2011) and honorary member of the Association of Polish Piano Tuners.

The main problems/challenges in the reconstruction of period pianos

This will require a description of the nature of Chopin’s instruments and the situation of piano manufactory between 1820 and 1850 as a preamble. In the main part I will talk about the typical demages, methods of restoration and the importance of the proper material.

In 1993 the pianist and further master craftsman of pianobuilding Gert Hecher founded a workshop in order to restore historic pianos, which since 2000 is called Klavieratelier. This institution is specialized on historical and early modern pianos. Since this time he and his team have restored and traded pianofortes from ca. 1780 to the second world war. He is especially focussed on grands with Viennese mechanic, but also on french pianos.
The pianos of the Klavieratelier are often used in concerts, e. g. in the famous Golden Hall of the Viennese Musikverein, in the Viennese Konzerthaus or in important festivals and also for recording productions, played by importand and famous players. Gert Hecher himself still appears as pianist from time to time.

Fixing the basic problems of Viennese pianos

PAUL McNULTY is a maker of world-famous fortepianos known for their best performance quality. He became interested in instrument building after studying music at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and graduated in piano technology from North Bennet Street Industrial School in Boston, where he earned guild qualification as a tuning examiner.

Paul McNulty made more than 300 fortepianos. His copies of Silbermann, Stein, Walter, Hofmann, Fritz and Graf are used for concerts and recordings in most prestigious concert halls and opera houses, owned by prominent players and leading music institutions, such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Paul Badura-Skoda, Malcolm Bilson, Ronald Brautigam, Warsaw Chopin Institute, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Paris Opera and Glyndebourne Festival as well as Cornell, Oberlin, Stanford, Harvard, etc. 

Paul McNulty was first in modern times to build Pleyel 1830, Boisselot 1846, Streicher 1868 and Chopin’s Warsaw piano, 1826 Buchholtz. Paul McNulty’s current efforts are restoring antique French pianos for the Warsaw Chopin Institute.

The process of building of the copies; presentation and film about a copy of Buhcholtz piano

PAUL McNULTY is a maker of world-famous fortepianos known for their best performance quality. He became interested in instrument building after studying music at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and graduated in piano technology from North Bennet Street Industrial School in Boston, where he earned guild qualification as a tuning examiner.

Paul McNulty made more than 300 fortepianos. His copies of Silbermann, Stein, Walter, Hofmann, Fritz and Graf are used for concerts and recordings in most prestigious concert halls and opera houses, owned by prominent players and leading music institutions, such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Paul Badura-Skoda, Malcolm Bilson, Ronald Brautigam, Warsaw Chopin Institute, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Paris Opera and Glyndebourne Festival as well as Cornell, Oberlin, Stanford, Harvard, etc. 

Paul McNulty was first in modern times to build Pleyel 1830, Boisselot 1846, Streicher 1868 and Chopin’s Warsaw piano, 1826 Buchholtz. Paul McNulty’s current efforts are restoring antique French pianos for the Warsaw Chopin Institute.

The specificity of Camille. Pleyel pianos in F. Chopin’s period in Paris

Description: 
– Introduction: Intimate relationship between the Pleyel pianos and Chopin
– Main content  

1. The characteristics of the sound with references to historical sources
– Evidence from Chopin’s letters
– Commentaries by musicians and critics of the time 

2. What factors contribute to the creation of such sound
– An evolution from the pianino (the first ones were produced at the same year of Ignace Pleyel’s death) to grand piano 
– Research on the Pleyel pianos that have kept the original material and structure (e.g. 3 pianos of 1844: Rossini’s Pleyel in Bologna, Italy etc.)
– the mechanics
– the felt (the material used, the density and size) with demonstration

3. Historical context of music making at the time
– performances mainly took place in salons for a relatively small audience (still very much influenced by the tradition from the 18th century)
– the design of the Pleyel pianos was ideal for such settings
– Chopin always prefers to play in salons for a small circle of friends (eg. Eugene Delacroix etc.)

Olivier Fadini

Krall and Seidler – building a copy

An attempt to discuss the methodology of work on recreating the instrument, taking into account techniques and materials (leather, wood, strings, metals). I would like to illustrate both lectures with photos from technological processes and a live presentation of pianos.

Andrzej Włodarczyk, born 1972 in Warsaw. A graduate of the Technical College of Piano Construction in Kalisz (1994) and the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University (1998). Since 1993 he has been running “Pracownia Pianin i Fortepianów Andrzej Włodarczyk” (Piano and Firm Piano Workshop Andrzej Włodarczyk) offering repair, tuning, expertise and restoration of historical and contemporary instruments. He was an apprentice at the Steinway & Sons factory in Hamburg (2007). In the years 2000-2006 he was a lecturer at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw (Principles of Tuning and Piano Construction). For many years he has been an instrument tuner at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music. The initiator of establishing the “Association of Polish Piano Tuners” (2007). He collaborates with institutions from all over the country (Fryderyk Chopin Institute, National Philharmonic, Royal Castle, University of Warsaw, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, Grazyna and Kiejstut Bacewicz Academy of Music in Lodz, Andrzej Szwalbe Historic Piano Collection in Ostromecko, Palace in Chrzęsne, District Museum in Krosno, American School in Warsaw, Polish Army, Gdansk Museum and others). He has served the International Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój, the International Music Festival Chopin and His Europe, the Ad Libitum Festival, the International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn, Chopin concerts in the Royal Łazienki Park, Floralia Powsin). Initiator of the cycle “Charm of old pianos in Radzymin”. Constructor of grand pianos (two copies of a Viennese grand piano made by A. Walter, according to the 1795 model, and copies of a grand piano made by the Warsaw company Krall and Seldler, according to the 1830 model). Restorer of historical pianos (among others he has reconstructed a giraffe piano owned by the Museum of Romanticism in Opinogóra, a Krall and Seidler Zygmunt Noskowski piano from the Ostromecki Collection, a Krall and Seidler S. Moniuszko piano owned by WTM, a Schwechten Zofia Nałkowska piano from the Nałkowskis Museum in Wołomin, Erard pianos belonging to the NIFC, a Pleyel piano from the District Museum in Krosno). Owner of the largest Polish private collection of historical pianos, constantly used for concerts and recordings.

Broadwood 1846 – reconstruction of the piano

An attempt to discuss issues related to the reconstruction of the above-mentioned instrument, divided into:
– acoustic part
– furniture part
– mechanism with keyboard
The discussion will concern state before works, works and the final result of works.

Andrzej Włodarczyk, born 1972 in Warsaw. A graduate of the Technical College of Piano Construction in Kalisz (1994) and the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University (1998). Since 1993 he has been running “Pracownia Pianin i Fortepianów Andrzej Włodarczyk” (Piano and Firm Piano Workshop Andrzej Włodarczyk) offering repair, tuning, expertise and restoration of historical and contemporary instruments. He was an apprentice at the Steinway & Sons factory in Hamburg (2007). In the years 2000-2006 he was a lecturer at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw (Principles of Tuning and Piano Construction). For many years he has been an instrument tuner at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music. The initiator of establishing the “Association of Polish Piano Tuners” (2007). He collaborates with institutions from all over the country (Fryderyk Chopin Institute, National Philharmonic, Royal Castle, University of Warsaw, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, Grazyna and Kiejstut Bacewicz Academy of Music in Lodz, Andrzej Szwalbe Historic Piano Collection in Ostromecko, Palace in Chrzęsne, District Museum in Krosno, American School in Warsaw, Polish Army, Gdansk Museum and others). He has served the International Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój, the International Music Festival Chopin and His Europe, the Ad Libitum Festival, the International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn, Chopin concerts in the Royal Łazienki Park, Floralia Powsin). Initiator of the cycle “Charm of old pianos in Radzymin”. Constructor of grand pianos (two copies of a Viennese grand piano made by A. Walter, according to the 1795 model, and copies of a grand piano made by the Warsaw company Krall and Seldler, according to the 1830 model). Restorer of historical pianos (among others he has reconstructed a giraffe piano owned by the Museum of Romanticism in Opinogóra, a Krall and Seidler Zygmunt Noskowski piano from the Ostromecki Collection, a Krall and Seidler S. Moniuszko piano owned by WTM, a Schwechten Zofia Nałkowska piano from the Nałkowskis Museum in Wołomin, Erard pianos belonging to the NIFC, a Pleyel piano from the District Museum in Krosno). Owner of the largest Polish private collection of historical pianos, constantly used for concerts and recordings.

Historical features of piano touch and sound to be included in modern pianos – a plea for a re-invention lost registers and sounds

Udo Steingraeber is the 6th generation to head up Bayreuth’s piano manufacturer, Steingraeber & Söhne, where he also learned piano building. He studied law and theatre at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. Eduard Steingraeber the founder of the company in Bayreuth was his great-great-great uncle. Between 1980 and 2009, Udo Steingraeber and the Steingraeber design team developed three new concert grands, various chamber and salon grands, and concert pianos. Most were for his own firm, but some, such as the new Pleyel grand piano 280, were commissions from colleagues in the piano industry. Since 1988, Steingraeber & Sons’ innovations have continuously won prizes at every Paris piano test of the top-flight instruments. Some were awarded independently, some jointly with the five, top-quality colleagues that comprise the small group of the world’s A-1 best manufacturers, as they are designated in the US rankings.

Steingraeber & Söhne abides by his credo, “The technical development of the piano is never completed as the musical development goes on as well”. The Steingraeber construction design team has created a whole series of innovative products that complement Steingraeber & Söhne classic pianos, which are built along extremely traditional lines. These innovations include e.g. carbon fibre soundboards, SFM actions for upright pianos, Sordino and Mozart rail for grand pianos, magnet-controlled pedals for wheelchair users and recently the Transducer piano.  

As the longtime Chairman of the Federation of German Piano Technicians (BDK) and Vice President of the EUROPIANO Association, Udo Steingraeber is particularly dedicated to the improvement of education and training for European piano builders. He has also been the guiding force behind the development of the European Piano Technician Degree from 2003 to 2006.  

Historic Steingraeber Haus in Bayreuth, a 1754 Rococo palace, is his favourite pastime. Its strictly historic restoration continues year after year, along with the promotion of modern art, piano museum with a large Franz Liszt exhibition and a cultural program of moren than a hundred events per year, for which the Steingraeber Haus Bayreuth is open to the wider public. For all of these reasons, as well as his patronage and sponsorship of social and cultural institutions, Udo Steingraeber has been awarded two cultural prizes.

In 2023 he plans to pass over the leadership of the company to his children Alban and Fanny Steingraeber.

Presentation of the system for disabled (paralyzed) pianists

Michiel van Loon was born in 1947 in The Hague. After 17 years in various positions at construction companies, he temporarily stopped working in 1982 to take care of his 3 children. His wife then provided the income. During that time he was busy with the restoration of a few player pianos and he studied piano technique. He has been a certified piano technician since 1991. In 2002 he was asked to help a disabled pianist to use the damper pedal again. With the help of various people, he has developed a system through which the damping can be operated with parts of the body other than the foot. Initially with parts from PianoDisc from the United States, later with parts from Laukhuff from Germany, among others. 12 pianists with disabilities in the Netherlands, 2 in the US and 1 in Italy can now operate the dampers with a small movement of the knee or by squeezing a pipette balloon with their lips. The system can be built into almost any upright piano or grand piano. There is also a stand-alone demonstration version that can be placed under a grand piano or in front of an upright piano.

Development never stops. How to design a new upright piano. Is there anything we can improve?

Tadeáš Doskočil was born in 1990 in Hradec Králové. After his unsuccessful studies in grammar school, he found his feet in the Secondary Arts School of musical instruments and furniture. He graduated as a piano technician in 2011. After graduation, he decided to expand his knowledge at Mendel University in Brno, where he finished the Wood processing technology and management study program. During his master’s studies, he worked in PETROF as a junior Technologist and got a few internships in different piano workshops. After his master’s studies, he decided to improve his language skills in the United Kingdom. When he returned from the UK, he worked for the PETROF piano company in the Department of Research and Development. Since he started his career there, he took part in all of the new pianos produced in PETROF, and he is slowly learning to be a piano designer.​

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