Christian Baumann in Zweibrücken
ca.1785

Square piano   Tafelklavier   Piano carré 

Christian Baumann was born near Zweybrücken in 1740 (died 1816) at the age of 75 and was one of the most important piano and organ makers of his time.

The two serious and vast articles written about this maker and his surviving square pianos are by Karl Jost around 1950s and very recently by Christopher Clarke who has listed 15 Baumann square pianos and this one as the 16th.

 

He divides Baumann's pianos into two periods based on their furniture and especially the stand (of phase I) and legs (for phase II).

This highly important piano belongs indeed to the phase II which starts from around 1783.

All of Baumann pianos are squares and all of them have 5 octaves, black keys, simpel Prellmechanik and 2 hand stops for the divided dampers of Bass and treble. (some of them including this one have also a buff stop which is not from leather as English and French pianos of the period)

All except one have retro but same Prellmechanik with over dampers but all others have very nicely crafted under-dampers. Their touch is very light and enables the player to have a very good tone repetition but does not allow to play non-stylistically loud for the period.

This kind of playing was usual though for Viennese action with back check and required a bit different technique.

 

Baumann, Stein, Walter, Friederici, Spath and a few others are among the most important and highly valued makers of Mozart's time. Friederici made also square pianos called Fortbiens but we have no single record of it. A number of Stein's and Walters but also Tangent pianos of Regensburg masters are available to us but rarely square pianos from any of them from Mozart's time. 

There is a letter from Mozart recommending Baumann square pianos which shows that not only grand but also square pianos were what composers and musicians in that period used and took them serious, unlike today.

 

 

 

On the bottom, there is a chalk inscription, "Baudoin de Rochambeau." Probably written by the second owner who bought it from an important French Politician.

 

The man conducting the estate sale in Los Angeles suggested that this belonged to JB Donatien, Comte de Rochambeau, who was involved in the American Revolution.
We know from the book ''Men, Women and Pianos'' that Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur de Rochambeau liked music.

 

Zweibrücken or Deux Ponts and the region were occupied by France from 1793 to 1814.

Most probably this important French politician who also served for many years in Germany and France bought this piano and took it with himself to the USA where he also played a major role in the American revolution. Around 80 years later a Hollywood actor whose name is not known to the previous owner anymore, active around 1930s owned this piano. Later it was sold in 2011 in Los Angeles in an estate Sale.

In Early 2017 it was purchased by Pooya Radbon for the Fortepiano Collection.