Pianos

The expertly curated piano collection represents some of the best exemplars—originals and replicas—associated with major composers for the piano from the 18th through 20th centuries. The collection features all of the important historical and modern schools of piano building, as well as modern master-builders from Europe and North America. Pianos are regulated to be concert-ready and routinely tuned to support the Center’s performance, research, and educational programs. Select instruments (including some originals) may be made available for loan to institutional partners and specialized research or performance projects.

Highlights

Piano after Gottfried Silbermann, Saxony, 1749

Silbermann

Copy by Paul McNulty, 2020

Gift of Malcolm Bilson

5 Octaves

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Piano after Andreas Stein, Augsburg, 1784

Stein-McNulty

Copy by Thomas McCobb

5 Octaves

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Piano after Johann Schantz, Vienna, c. 1800

Piano after Johann Schantz (c. 1800) by Thomas and Barbara Wolf (1991)

Copy by Thomas and Barbara Wolf, 1991

Gift of Malcolm Bilson

5 Octaves and Two Notes

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Johann Schantz (1762–1828) was born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). He established a workshop with his brother Wenzel outside Vienna in the 1780s. Their first instruments were unsigned. After Wenzel’s death in 1791, Johann became a member of the instrument makers’ guild and the workshop began producing signed instruments.

In Vienna around 1800 there were more than 100 fortepiano builders. The most famous was Anton Walter (Mozart’s instrument was a Walter). Schantz, however, built excellent instruments as well, praised by both Haydn and Beethoven.

This replica (and the original on which it is based) features a moderator operated by hand stop.

John Broadwood & Sons, London, 1799

1799 Broadwood & Sons piano

Gift of Nancy Garett

5 1/2 Octaves

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There were two very distinct types of fortepiano in the late eighteenth century: the English and the so-called Viennese. Today many builders make Stein and Walter copies, and for many the term “fortepiano” refers to such instruments. The difference between the Viennese and English instruments is wonderfully described by Hummel: while the Viennese instrument, with its light and ultra fast mechanism speaks clearly and promptly in every register, the English instrument, with its deeper touch and “fuller” sound, must also be given its due. Playing first on this instrument and subsequently on the Schantz fortepiano will make this distinction eminently clear.

Piano after Anton Walter, Vienna, 1805

PIANO AFTER ANTON WALTER, VIENNA, 1805

Copy by Paul McNulty

5 1/2 Octaves

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Conrad Graft, Vienna, 1823

Conrad Graf piano, Vienna, 1823

Gift of Nancy Garrett

 6 1/2 Octaves

Piano after Conrad Graf, Vienna, 1824

Regier Graf

Copy by Rodney Regier, 2000

6 1/2 Octaves

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Conrad Graf was the Steinway of his day, the most sought-after and admired of the many builders in Vienna at the time. Beethoven’s last piano was a Graf; Robert and Clara Schumann received a Graf as a wedding present; Graf is almost always associated with Schubert, etc. This particular instrument is fitted with 3 pedals: Shift, celeste and damper-raising.

Joseph Simon, Vienna, 1835

Joseph Simon piano

Gift of Malcolm Bilson

6 1/2 Octaves

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Simon was the shop foreman for Conrad Graf, and made a number of pianos on his own. Particular features of this piano, especially regarding the mechanism, are virtually identical to those of Graf pianos of the period. Originally fitted with five pedals: shift (to reduce the striking of three strings to two), bassoon (parchment pressed onto the bass strings), pedal (damper raising), celeste stop (cloth strip between hammer and strings), and janissary (drum and bell). Bassoon and janissary, used principally in “battle” pieces (very popular in the early nineteenth century), are no longer present in this instrument.

Pleyel et Cie, Paris, 1843

1843 Pleyel piano

Gift of Mark Kroll

7 Octaves

John Broadwood & Sons, London, 1849

1849 Broadwood piano

6 Octaves

 

 

 

 

Beginning in 1837, Broadwood began making what they referred to as “bichorda” or “semi-grand” pianos. These were throwbacks in some ways, with only two strings per note, a shorter length than their concert pianos, and often very plain cases. The intent was to produce a smaller and cheaper piano that would allow them to compete better with their rivals. In the period 1850–60 they made up the majority of Broadwood’s production.

Despite the economizing, these pianos have a gentle, sweet, intimate tone that won them praise from many people, including Chopin, who is known to have tried and praised them at Broadwood’s showrooms in 1848.

Pleyel Pianino, Paris, c. 1850

Pleyel Pianino

Restored by Ken Walkup, 2020

7 Octaves

 

 

 

This piano is similar to a Pleyel Chopin owned and is known to have written some of the preludes on. It has an early version of the action that is in today's upright pianos, but with some challenging differences.

Johann Baptist Streicher, Vienna, 1857

J. B. Streicher piano

Gift of Alan Bostrom

Restored by Edward Swenson

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Brahms praised the pianos of J. B. Streicher and used them almost exclusively in his Viennese recitals between the mid 1860s and 70s. In 1872, the Streicher firm loaned him one of their 1868 instruments for use in his apartment, which stayed with him until his death. The piano was mostly destroyed in the aftermath of World War II, with only the lyre, fallboard, and parts of the music stand remaining. Despite speculations that it had a Viennese action, we are ultimately uncertain since the Streicher firm produced several different actions at the time. This particular piano, however, features a Viennese action.

John Broadwood & Sons, London, 1865

6 1/2 Octaves, 6' 9"

Pleyel et Cie, Paris, 1865

1865 Pleyel Et Cis piano

Restored by Ugo Casiglia, 2005

Gift of Malcolm Bilson

7 Octaves

 

 

This instrument was purchased by French composer Eugène Ketterer. Ketterer died in 1870, and the instrument seems to have been barely used for many years afterwards (as evinced by the pristine condition of the ivories).

Érard, Paris, 1868

Erard piano

Restored by Frits Janmaat, c. 1999

7 Octaves, 6' 10"

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J. M. Schweighofer & Söhne, Vienna, c. 1870

Restoration by Grant Hecher, c. 2005

Further restoration by Ken Walkup, 2018

On loan from Annette Richards and David Yearsley

7 Octaves, 8' 6"

The Schweighofer family is associated with piano making in Vienna going back to 1801. Johann Michael Schweighofer Jr., opened his own firm in 1832, after apprenticing in the shop of his father, mother, and stepfather; his sons succeeded him in this firm.

Blüthner Aliquot Grand, Leipzig, 1878

Blüthner Aliquot Grand piano

Restored by Ken Walkup, 2015

7 Octaves, 7'

 

 

 

Aliquot means “divisor.” This refers to Blüthner’s string plan, patented in 1872, which has a fourth string for each note above the tenor range, not struck by the hammer and tuned an octave higher than the strings which are struck. The purpose was to reinforce the treble, and/or to make the sound more complex and interesting. Several other mid-nineteenth century piano makers experimented with this basic idea in different ways, and Steinway’s execution of this concept, which they called “duplex stringing,” is a part of the design of most modern pianos.

​The Aliquot Grand system was available on Blüthner pianos as an option for decades. However, this piano is almost unique in another way: although it has a full cast iron plate, and is technically cross-strung or overstrung like the American pianos which were so influential at the time, it is basically a straight strung piano because the bass bridge is more or less in the position it was on the earlier European pianos.

Schweighofer & Söhne, Vienna, 1897

1897 J. M. Schweighofer & Söhne piano

On loan from Malcolm Bilson

Steinway & Sonde "D" Concert Grand, New York, 1908

Rebuilt by Jim Reeder, 1985

Restored by Ken Walkup

7 1/3 Octaves, 9'

Cornell has three Steinway concert grands, from 1908, 1958, and 2006, almost exactly 50 years apart from each other. They have different personalities that mirror the evolution of Steinway over a hundred years. This one has a darker, less brilliant sound that does not appeal to all pianists but is highly valued by others.

Mason & Hamlin "BB" Grand, 1911

Bechstein "E" Grand, 1912

Blüthner Model 4, 1921

Mason & Hamlin "CC" Grand, c. 1930

Bösendorfer Imperial, c. 1955

On loan from Graeme Bailey

Steinway & Sons "D" Concert Grand, New York, 1958

Restored by Ken Walkup, 2006

7 1/3 Octaves, 9'

This instrument was formerly the Bailey Hall concert grand, 1958–2006. It has been played by many of the most prominent pianists of the period, including Rubinstein, Ashkenazy, Perahia, Serkin, Brendel, etc.

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