Pre modern times... (before the modern piano)
About 150 years of yearly changes and differences lies before the modern piano.
Modern piano came on the scene and the whole concept of variety and different
styles and tastes stopped. It was the modern piano which was going to be
accepted for over at least 130 years until the revival of early pianos (restoring the
originals and making copies of mostly Viennese types) started nearly 2 decades
ago and is increasing by number and quality.
But still in comparison with the harpsichord world, the fortepiano is still in its
early years of revival!
The good news is that there are many more original fortepianos (as grand and
specially more popular square pianos) around than original harpsichords.
On the other hand, even if one could find original pianos of Cristofori
(there are only 3 originals existing today!) one could hardly restore them
and play on them on a regular basis. One reason is because of the very old age and being made much more fragile than post 1770 fortepianos (same story about harpsichords) so, maybe a better choice is preserving them for the future instead of restoring them. But fortepianos of Mozart's time and onwards as said above are made more robust and making them playable is quite normal in comparison to the very highly valued antique pre 1750 keyboard instruments of any kind!
Specially today getting an English square piano of Beethoven and even Mozart periods is not so difficult and restoring them is basically possible and not too expensive. So with not a big amount of money one can have an original lovely sounding fortepiano of the time which can inspire us!
Viennese and German type fortepianos in square or grand form are very rare
to find and are valuable for every museum or collector. But having copies of
them are always possible and they also can bring us a lot more than a grand or
upright modern piano for studying the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert
and other pre 1840 composers.
Chopin lovers always look for a opportunity to play on 1840 Pleyel grand pianos
or pianinos similar to Chopin pianos.
We know that Chopin was still living when the modern piano came on the scene
and he clearly said and preferred his ''fortepiano''!
Schumann and Brahms were still playing on Viennese action pianos (without metal
frame or with one or two frame pianos like Benignus Seidner ca.1840 of this
collection) in their last years.
Chopin used to play only on Viennese fortepianos similar to what Beethoven used
before coming to Paris and playing on Pleyel.
So the goal of this collection is to present pianos of an era which make much more difference to the modern piano. So one of the reasons that you do not find magnificent pianos made by Streicher of 1860 or Erard 1850 is because of the limited differences they have with the modern piano.
Besides, there are some enthusiast collectors who are doing well with restoring these late types of fortepianos and share their pianos with musicians and audience in a very ideal way which is also the same ideal and goal of this collection but here with earlier pianos.
In the future there will be hopefully copies of Silbermann and Cristofori pianos in this collection to fulfill our requirement of 18th century pianos of all kinds. Till now the earliest piano (original) is by Carlo Arnoldi ca.1770 and the latest piano is by Benignus Seidner ca.1840. So the idea is to go further more in the 18th century rather than later to the 19th century.
Modern piano is a great, complicated and versatile invention (which is difficult to move but it keeps tuning very well!) but despite all its advantages, it has a disadvantage as an standard instrument... and that is the lack of varity.
So each type of fortepiano in this collection gives you new ideas of inspiration for music making for the music of the ''golden age'' (1700-1840).
Basically the advantages of the modern piano are more from the more practical point of view of keeping and moving etc. not really the sound!
You can sometimes have a modern grand Steinway or upright etc. at home, needless to be tuned more than once each year!
It costs some money to tune a piano and owners, even professional pianists can or do not tune the piano, so a modern piano is very practical whearas a fortepiano needs to be tuned at least 3 times a month, at least to some minimum degree and the owner must be able to do it otherwise should ask a piano tuner weekly! so, having this in mind, makers of modern pianos in the 1860s or so wanted to make a piano that keeps tuning too good, does not break strings, legs are so roboust that they never rattle or get damaged easily (like fortepianos) and its soundboard does not get cracks (it does but when kept under very bad circumstances, whereas fortepianos get cracks much easily with a some climate changes or transports)
It is a nice event when one can profit from playing original fortepianos or at least being able to listen to them on CD recordings or on you tube which is even more common in our time.
I do my best to restore these pianos and make video and audio recordings of them for those who are far and can not play on them in person. They can not touch the key of a piano with simple English action from 1790 or a French action by Erard 1820 etc. but one can hear how it sounds! and that means a lot to me to be able to make this possible for everyone. Learning and enjoying from distance for free! this is a possibility that was by no means given to the people of 18th and 19th centuries. So thanks to this aspect of technology we share the essense of historical presence with those who have passion for them.
Another important issue about pre 1850 pianos is that they were made mostly in rectangulair form! called square pianos in English (where they were made foremost in the history of fortepiano from 1766 to late 19th century) and in German language countries called Tafelklavier or kleine piano forte. In French piano carre...
These pianos look like clavichords and were made exactly with the same quality as grands. To my opinion they are even much more difficult to make but since everyone did not have much space at home (music was not limited to courts and aristocrat families after 1770s so normal people could also afford a smal fortepiano) and the material was very expensive but the working hours of the workshop was not too high like today! so these are some reasons that there were many more square pianos made in comparison to grand pianos.
One another very important reason is that musicians and audience were not found of too loud sounds! music was performed in rooms and very intimate places with few audiences or also like Clavichord for personal enjoyment. So why should one have paid for a grand piano?
But today uninformed and even informed musicians think that square pianos were made as none serious instruments because they are not enough load! if they know that the action, soundboard and all other things of a square and a grand are exactly the same kind, then they might change their opinion!
A square piano only takes less space and is a bit softer than a grand piano and used to be much less expensive!
So even today these pianos are not so expensive and we can afford a Broadwood and play our Beethoven, Schubert, Dussek, Haydn and Clementi sonatas on it!
Fortepianos today : better to see them in museums like furnitures? to know they are in some unknown private collections without knowing anything about their details or even their existance? let alone not having any photos and videos from them!?
Unfortunately most fortepianos are in private collections that are and will be unknown to us. Many collectors enjoy owning antique instruments not letting anyone to know more about these historical instruments.
At least in museums we know they exist there at a corner (or mostly in depots all in vertical position!).
But here in this collection and very few other collections we owners share the same passion with others and make them available for general public.
More people play on a Schanz fortepiano, learn more about the existance and quality of a clavecin royale or a pantalon the nearer we get to an ideal life style for these creatures which should not be laid under dust and forgotten.
The young F.Chopin at square piano
Recording session 1890