Welcome to the Frederick Historical Piano Collection
Located in Ashburnham, Massachusetts
Our Historical Piano Collection
2020 year-end update
Despite having canceled all of our 2020 concerts, due to Covid-19, we nonetheless have some interesting news:
The Piano Study Center reopened for tours in July, by appointment only, for individuals and groups of no more than three or four, all appropriately masked and socially distancing. Student Heather Lobley video-recorded some short samples from Mozart and Beethoven on two of the earliest pianos, comparing such factors as key depth and ease of execution to the same examples on a modern piano. The videos, part of a term project for a college course, turned out very well. This is one of the uses of the pianos that we have always encouraged, and shows why this is a "study center", not a "museum".
During the summer, our redoubtable recording engineer, Christopher Greenleaf, posted music from two of our past seasons' concerts on YouTube: Jiayan Sun's cross-referencing concert, "Beethoven - to Brahms's Ear", the last three Beethoven piano sonatas, played on the 1871 Streicher piano similar to Brahms's own piano for the last twenty-five years of his life. The other YouTube posting was from pianist Gail Olszewski's program, "Northern Lights" - music by Grieg and several Finnish composers, played on our 1877 Blüthner. Each of these YouTube programs is illustrated with photos by Mr. Greenleaf, taken at the concerts and rehearsals.
A new book, Chasing Chopin, was released by Simon & Schuster in August. Author and serious amateur pianist Annik LaFarge, having decided to learn all she could about Chopin's Op. 35, the "Funeral March" Sonata, traveled to France and Spain researching the composer's life. She also traveled to Ashburnham, Massachusetts, to acquaint herself with the kinds of pianos Chopin was writing for. Fascinated by what she learned by playing the pianos at the Frederick Collection, she devoted several pages of her book to our work, and also talked about our pianos during her Internet book-release interviews. She also gives us space in her YouTube companion site to the book.
Another new release at the end of the summer was the four-CD album of Beethoven's Complete Sonatas for Piano and Violin, featuring five pianos from The Frederick Collection. Pianist Cullan Bryant and violinist Jerilyn Jorgensen recorded the ten sonatas over several concert seasons, 2015-2018, with the ca.1790 piano by an unidentified maker; the ca.1800-1805 Brodmann; the ca. 1805-1810 Katholnig, and two piano ca. 1830, the Bösendorfer and the Tröndlin. The album, on the Albany label, was recently included on Classical Candor's list of fourteen favorite recordings of 2020. A review will be published in mid-January.
Having been denied their scheduled concert on our fall series, violinist Daniel Kurganov and pianist Constantine Finehouse made up for the loss by having a recording session at the Ashburnham church in October: they have made a video of two of Brahms's three Sonatas for Violin and Piano, and will record the third sonata in the spring. Kurganov was fortunate in being able to borrow an original Guarneri violin, with gut strings, which sounded wonderful with the 1868 Streicher piano. More about this project as it takes shape.
Pianist Keith Kirchoff had a video shoot at the Piano Collection in November - an exciting program of compositions by Liszt, with the 1859 Erard piano.
As is the case for other music organizations, we cannot be certain when the spread of the pandemic will have been brought under sufficient control by vaccinations, to permit resumption of our concerts. We guess this will be no earlier than fall, 2021, if then. In the meantime, we will continue to do what we can, and look forward to hearing from musicians and music lovers.
Covid-19 Update: Concerts, Study Center, and Beyond.
Study Center Update
Since July 2020 the Piano Study Center has been open for tours, on a very limited basis: visits by appointment only, no more than two guests at a time, masks to be worn by all, and appropriate physical distancing.
Musicians who customarily play our concerts are welcome to come and play the pianos without our supervision, as would normally be the case if they were rehearsing for a concert.
We have been using this "downtime" to overhaul and update this website, which for many years was added-to, without sufficient pruning, consequently becoming like an overgrown garden. We have benefited from the expertise of web developers Kim Hosty, and software engineer Bryce Bodley-Gomes on this project.
We look forward to a time when we can be together with you again in live concerts!
Recordings of pianos from the Frederick Piano Collection
Our newest recording is a four-disc album, Ludwig van Beethoven, The Complete Sonatas for Piano and Violin on Historic Instruments Jerilyn Jorgensen, violin, Cullan Bryant, piano. Albany Records, No.Troy 1825-28. The album of ten sonatas features five pianos from the Frederick Collection, ca.1790-ca.1830. The album is available from us at $35.00 plus $5.00 mailing. You can read a review of this recording by John Puccio on his blog, Classical Candor.
Gail Olszewski's CD, "Northern Lights", was issued on the Centaur label in 2019. This collection of Finnish favorites was recorded on our 1877 Blüthner piano. A listing of the pieces included on the album can be viewed here. You can buy it, and many other albums recorded with Frederick Collection pianos: see the complete list below.
Read all about it! We have been making the rounds in the print-realm. You may have noticed us in the Grove, or already heard about the commentary on our collection. Come see why we're the leading location for historic pianos in New England.
Our Mission: Education through interaction.
The Frederick Collection of Period Grand Pianos includes over twenty original pianos in playing condition, specifically, the sorts of pianos known to important composers from about 1790 to 1928. At present, there is no comparable collection of period, playing grand pianos in the United States. Most museum collections that include pianos focus on their decorative appearance rather than their musical value. Such instruments are rarely used for performance; perhaps two or three pianos in each of the other major collections in this country are maintained in regular playing condition.
The value of a piano in context
Piano was the most important solo instrument, for which the most music was composed, from the late 18th through early 20th centuries.
Music from the late 18th through early 20th centuries represents the core of present-day piano repertory.
Until around World War I, piano design was constantly changing. As in clothing fashion and furniture design, changes in taste do not necessarily mean improvement.
Piano design changes reflect not only shifts in musical taste, but also
ideals of technical perfection rooted as much in the Industrial
Revolution as in music.
Every composer wrote for the pianos he
knew, capitalizing on
particular musical effects available from those instruments. The same
music played on a
significantly different instrument will have a different sound, and not
one the composer would have preferred.
To hear and/or play the piano literature
on an instrument such as it was conceived
for, is to discover important features of the music. Effects
the standard modern piano (bass/treble balance, clarity of bass tone,
tone-color changes over the dynamic range) become evident, enriching
one’s appreciation and enjoyment of the music.
Built on the Frederick Piano Collection,
the Historical Piano Study Center offers lecture-recitals, master classes, seminars, workshops, tours and
Located in a handsome,
handicapped-accessible, renovated 1890 former public library building,
the Collection is conveniently accessible to persons who value its
resources, including pianists, musicians who perform with piano
music scholars, teachers, students, music critics, piano technicians,
builders of historic instrument replicas, concertgoers, and interested
members of the general public.