Anton Walter & Sohn ca.1809

 

6 octaves FF-f''''

Triple strung all through.

Hammers have a unique shape.

2 kneelevers, 3 pedals.

 

Anton Walter was born in Neuhausen near Stuttgart in 1752. During the 1780s he set himself

up as an organ and instrument maker in Vienna, the musical capital of Europe. By that time

the piano had largely taken over from the harpsichord and Vienna was an important centre

for piano building. Walter's business soon proved a great success. In a letter of December 1790

he asked to be granted the title of 'Kays. Königl. Hof Orgel und Instrumentenbauer', or 'Imperial

Royal Chamber Organ Builder and Instrument Maker'. Thanks to the support of Prince Franz Xaver

Rosenberg, Minister of State and Conference Minister under Leopold II, his request was officially

approved in a decree dated December17th 1790. In 1791 Walter became a Viennese citizen. At the

turn of the century his son-in-law Joseph Schöffstoß joined the business and they signed their

instruments "Anton Walter und Sohn". The company continued to thrive. In 1790 it employed 14

instrument builders(among them Martin Seuffert) ; in 1804 there were 20, by which time Walter

was one of the 3 most distinguished names in the trade (Walter, Streicher and Schanz).

Anton Walter died on April 11th 1826, two years after his son-in-law. There was no successor.

 

Anton Walter was well known in aristocratic circles and among musicians, as evidenced by his

list of customers. The court had four of his fortepianos. Though Mozart was a great admirer of

Johann Andreas Stein, a German maker of keyboard instruments in Augsburg, in 1782 he came

knocking at Walter's door and bought the best grand he had available in his workshop.

Beethoven had several pianos, including a Walter. Carl Czerny played

on that instrument at the home of Beethoven who gave him lessons at the age of six. At a later

date Czerny recalled Beethoven's Walter piano in his Souvenirs. Walter was highly productive

and must have made around a thousand instruments, yet only forty have survived. Today Mozart's

instrument is preserved and exhibited in his house in Salzburg. Other surviving Walter pianos

are praised for their beautiful sound. 

 

 

According to the Grove dictionary of music at the end of 18th century Anton Walter was known as the most famous maker in Vienna, a city that was the center for piano making in the continent where composers like Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert were making music and Viennese pianos were undoubtadly their favorite type of piano. In Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Hungary and Italy but also parts of Switzerland the main piano was the Viennese type in Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn's time.

 

In 1781 Mozart bought the finest piano of Walter from his several pianos in his workshop in Vienna which inspired him to write not only his solo and chamber music with fortepiano in his last 10 years of life but also his piano concertos which were composed and played on his Walter. He took it often with him to theaters and halls for performances and after his death it was with his widow, then his son who took it to Milan and later brought it back and gave it to Mozarteum Salzburg on his father's anniversary.

 

By the turn of the century about 1800 Schanz was also counted as one of the very best makers in Vienna along with Walter. (according to Haydn from a Letter in June 1790, Walter pianos were extraordinarily expensive! and comparing to Schanz pianos, Walters were made a bit heavier (heavier hammers, heavier touch) This was generally one of most important reasons that Walter was a leading piano maker in Vienna and made slighltly heavier and louder pianos and earlier than others with bigger compass.

When he arrived in Vienna probably 1778 most other colleagues of him were making pianos with Stossmechanik (still in the tradition of Cristofori and Silbermann but in varied versions) but probably it was Walter who started to make Viennese action (basically modelled from Stein from Augsburg) but with his own improvements and developments (like using brass kapsel, check, triple strung in the treble and generally a more robust body which produced a bit louder and more singing sound quality compared to Stein pianos). All these were among reasons that made him the leading piano maker in Vienna in 1780s till at least 1810).

 

Nanette Streicher who was J.A Stein's daughter carried the long line of piano making tradition of his father and was also one of the best of his time. (at that time Viennese pianos were modelled all either on Walter models or on Stein or Streicher models. The majority followed Walter's steps)

When Walter was becoming older and his workshop was going to an end (he died in 1826) and he had no son (his widow's son worked with him and that's why since ca.1805 his name plaques bear the name ''Walter & Sohn'' -a Walter & Sohn 1809 can be found in Radbon collection as well) so at the time as many piano makers were developing Graf came on the scene.

 

His pianos were still expensive and very much sought after because of his almost 50 years of legacy.

Among others who often praised the solid quality was Beethoven who had a Walter in his piano collection. The young Carl Czerny had piano lessons at Beethoven’s home, and he recalled Beethoven's Walter piano there. Apart from Beethoven's special interest in Walter's pianos we find also a Portrait of Schubert playing a Walter square piano painted by Rieger.

 

 

Beethoven writes to his friend Zmeskall to ask Walter making a pianoforte for him...

 

''My Dear Z., For aught I care you can speak strongly to Walter about my affair, for first of all, he deserves it, and ever since one has been under the impression that I am at loggerheads with Walter, the whole swarm of pianoforte makers is impatient to serve me — and in vain. Each of them wants to make me a pianoforte to my liking. Reicha, for instance, is earnestly entreated by his pianoforte maker to persuade me to let him make me a pianoforte, and he is really one of the more honest fellows where I have already seen good instruments. You, therefore, give him to under- stand that I will pay 30 ducats for it, though I can get one gratis anywhere else ; but I will only give 30 ducats, on condition that it is made of mahogany, and, in addition, with the una corda pedal. If he does not agree, give him to understand that I shall apply to one of the other makers, to whom I shall suggest this, and whom, in the meantime, I shall also take to Haydn, so that he may see his instrument. A Frenchman, unknown to me, is coming to-day about 12 o'clock, volti.

 

Here is the letter : http://www.beethoven-haus-bonn.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=15129&template=dokseite_digitales_archiv_en&_eid=1507&_ug=Friends%20in%20Vienna&_dokid=b542&_mid=Written%20documents%20by%20Ludwig%20van%20Beethoven%20and%20other%20people&suchparameter=&_seite=1

 

 

Anton Walter at the age of 73 (Portrait by Friedrich Gauermann)