MEET THE FREDERICK PIANO COLLECTION

Historical Pianos you can reach out, touch, and hear.

The purpose of the Frederick Piano Collection is to give musicians and music lovers a chance to hear works by major piano composers, played on pianos such as those the composers knew, and for which their music was conceived.

The Collection includes only grand pianos, by important makers whose instruments were highly regarded in their day, acquired in basically good condition, with most of their original materials intact (especially soundboards). It aims to match each instrument to a specific composer or generation of composers known to have used or preferred that make and vintage of piano. The period of pianos in the Collection extends from about 1790 to 1928, representing music from Haydn and Beethoven through the French Impressionists.

RESTORED, PLAYING NINETEENTH CENTURY GRAND PIANOS

in the COLLECTION of EDMUND MICHAEL FREDERICK and PATRICIA FREDERICK ASHBURNHAM, MASSACHUSETTS, USA

MANUFACTURER DATE OF MANUFACTURE WHERE BUILT
c. 1795 Unsigned piano from the Frederick Collection

Unsigned Piano

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c. 1795

Viennese type

1800-1805 Brodmann piano from the Frederick Collection Joseph Brodmann

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c. 1800-1805 Vienna
1805 Clementi piano from the Frederick Collection

Clementi

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1805

London

1805-1810 Katholnig piano from the Frederick Collection

Katholnig

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c. 1805-1810

Vienna

1828-32 Bösendorfer piano from the Frederick Collection

Bösendorfer

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c. 1828-1832

Vienna

1828-29 Graf piano from the Frederick Collection Graf

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c. 1828-1829

Vienna

1830 Stodart piano from the Frederick Collection

Stodart

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c. 1830

London

1830 Tröndlin piano from the Frederick Collection

Tröndlin

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c. 1830

Leipzig

1836 Erard piano from the Frederick Collection

Erard

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1836 Paris
1840 Erard piano from the Frederick Collection Erard

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1840

Paris

1845 Pleyel piano from the Frederick Collection Pleyel

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1845

Paris

1845 Bösendorfer piano from the Frederick Collection Bösendorfer

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1845

Vienna

1846 Streicher piano from the Frederick Collection

Streicher

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1846

Vienna

1859 Erard in the Frederick Collection of Historical Pianos

Erard

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1859 Paris
1862 Chickering piano from the Frederick Collection Chickering

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1862

Boston

1868 Streicher piano from the Frederick Collection

Streicher

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1868

Vienna

1871 Streicher piano from the Frederick Collection

Streicher

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1871

Vienna

1877 Bösendorfer piano from the Frederick Collection

Bösendorfer

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1877

Vienna

1877 Erard piano from the Frederick Collection

Erard

"Extra-grand modèle de concert"

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1877

Paris

1877 Blüthner piano from the Frederick Collection

Blüthner

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1877

Leipzig

Bechstein

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1892 Berlin
1893 Erard piano from the Frederick Collection

Erard

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1893 Paris
1907 Blüthner piano from the Frederick Collection

Blüthner

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1907

Leipzig

1928 Erard piano in the Frederick Collection of Historical Pianos

Erard

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1928

Paris

GRAND PIANOS CURRENTLY UNDERGOING or AWAITING RESTORATION

MANUFACTURER DATE OF MANUFACTURE WHERE BUILT

Carolus Benedict

c. 1790

Gratz

Seuffert

c. 1812

Vienna

Frenzel

c. 1820-1825

Lintz

Pleyel

c. 1835

Paris

Böhm

c. 1840

Vienna

Schweighofer

c. 1840-1845

Vienna

Pleyel

1842

Paris

Erard

c. 1852-1853

Paris

Chickering

1856

Boston

Streicher

1860

Vienna

Bösendorfer

c. 1865

Vienna

Ehrbar

c. 1879

Vienna

FREDERICK COLLECTION PIANOS: DESCRIPTIONS

Unsigned Piano, c. 1795, in South German/Viennese style. Typical of its time and place; state-of-the-art at the end of Mozart's lifetime. Case, with all-over geometric marquetry, evidently re-used from a mid-18th century harpsichord. Reverse-color keyboard. Knee levers control dampers, mute stop.

Joseph Brodmann, c. 1800-1805, Vienna. Five and-a-half octaves FF to c; knee levers control dampers and a moderator (now missing). A major Viennese piano builder, Brodmann was the master to whom the young Ignaz Bösendorfer was apprenticed.

Muzio Clementi, 1805, London. This piano helps to explain matters of compositional style in Haydn's "London" sonatas: Haydn, living in London in 1794, wrote his three last piano sonatas in an idiom particularly suited to English pianos of the time, and took a Longman & Broderip piano with him on his return to Vienna. When Longman and Broderip bankrupted in 1798, the composer Muzio Clementi, a major shareholder, became a partner in the reorganized firm, which became known as Longman, Clementi & Co. In 1801, Longman left to establish his own business; the present piano, made in 1806, bears only Clementi's name. This instrument is decorated with painted flowers and line inlays.

Caspar Katholnig, c. 1805-1810, Vienna. Purchased from Manfred, Count von Schönborn, whose signed affidavit states that the piano had been part of the entailed estate of his wife's family, the Esterhazys at their palace at Eisenstadt, the Katholnig was almost certainly played by the composer and pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel (who as a child prodigy had been a pupil of Mozart and of Clementi.) Hummel was Haydn's successor to the position of Kapellmeister to the Esterhazys, serving in that capacity from 1804-1811.

This piano may have been at the Esterhazy palace at Eisenstadt when Beethoven was there to conduct a concert in 1807.

Since the Katholnig represents the last kind of piano sound Beethoven was able to hear before becoming severely deaf, one may suppose his compositions even after this time were conceived for the kind of piano tone Beethoven remembered, rather than for later instruments whose sound he could only imagine.

The reverse color keyboard is quite typical of Viennese pianos made around 1810. The pedals are, from left to right, una corda, "bassoon stop" (an uncouth effect for popular music of its day, presently disconnected;) the moderator (a mute stop, yielding a pianississimo;) and the damper pedal.

From our late-twentieth-century viewpoint, it is easy to forget that the tone of the Katholnig, while smaller than we are accustomed to, as compared to the sound of the earlier pianos of Beethoven's youth, is full, rich and modern. This is vividly demonstrated by a comparison of the Katholnig with the c.1790s anonymous piano in the Frederick Collection, which stands beside it in the Collection.

Bösendorfer, c. 1828-1832, Vienna. Ignaz Bösendorfer studied piano making under Joseph Brodmann (see above), working his way up to shop foreman, and eventually taking over the firm when Brodmann retired. The name label on this piano says, "Ignaz Bösendorfer Brodmanns SchülerBürger in Wien" (Brodmann's pupil, respectable middle-class citizen of Vienna). Since Bösendorfer is known to have become a "Bürger in Wien" in 1828, the piano cannot have been made before 1828. By 1832, Brodmann had retired, turning over the shop to Bösendorfer. Brodmann may have retired gradually, phasing out his involvement with the shop over a period of months or years. Just when, between 1828 and 1832, the transition was complete, we have been unable to learn.

Conrad Graf, c. 1828-'29, Vienna. Graf's pianos were held in the highest regard by pianists playing in Vienna. Graf's instruments were played by Chopin, Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, and, later, Liszt. This particular instrument is reputed to have belonged to a distinguished family of Viennese music patrons, the Sonnleithners, who would have had the best the builder could offer. It is in almost original condition, with all but a few of its original strings.

William Stodart, c. 1830, London. The metal frame in this piano, built of iron and brass tubular braces, was patented in 1820 by Messrs. Thom and Allen of the Stodart firm. The piano is a good example of an English piano of its time.

Tröndlin, c. 1839, Leipzig. Johann Nepomuk Tröndlin (1790-1862) studied instrument making in southern Germany and Vienna. From 1821-1824 Tröndlin ran the instrument manufacture division of Breitkopf & H�rtel in Leipzig. Subsequently he established his own business, which was sold in 1855. Tröndlin's instruments were praised by Clara Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Ignace Pleyel, 1835, Paris. Pleyel was the favorite make of Chopin from his arrival in Paris in 1831. This piano has extremely soft hammer felts, yielding an ethereal, intimate tone of the kind Chopin seems to have preferred. It is presently awaiting renovation and not currently on display.

Erard, 1836, Paris. Six octaves and a fourth, CC – f4.

Inventor of the double-escapement repetition action, Erard was the direct competitor of Pleyel. Liszt's preference was for Erard's more dramatic range of tone colors, while Chopin played both makes, preferring the more intimate sound of the Pleyel except when he was feeling ill and wanted a piano that would produce more effects with less effort.

Erard, 1840, Paris. Six and two thirds octaves, CC-a4 (originally to g), otherwise very similar to the 1836 model, above.

This piano works well for both Liszt's and Chopin's music.

Ignace Pleyel, 1845, Paris. Ten years later than the above-listed piano, this instrument shows an apparent effort by Pleyel to build a more outspoken piano. It is quite different from the Viennese pianos of the day, in construction and in sound, but is also very unlike pianos by its chief Paris competitor, Erard.

Bösendorfer, c.1845, Vienna. The present instrument, typical of mid-nineteenth-century Viennese pianos, is parallel-strung, with a range of CC - a4.This piano and the 1846 Streicher, (range AAA - a4) both by leading makers, and similar in appearance, are noticeably different in sound and touch. Among other differences, the Bösendorfer offers a more uniform tone throughout its range, while the Streicher has more distinctive registers. Visitors to the collection tend to be equally divided in their preference for one or the other, just as, one would imagine, were people in Vienna in the 1840s. Pianos such as these were played in concert by Franz Liszt and Clara Schumann.

Streicher, 1846, Vienna. See c.1845 Bösendorfer above.

Erard, c.1852-'53, Paris. Erard maintained its place as leading French builder of concert pianos from about 1830 to the early 20th century. Liszt and other virtuosi frequently used Erard pianos.

Erard, 1859, Paris. The medallion on the lid advertises that Erard had won medals in two “Universal Expositions”; London, 1851 and Paris, 1855.

Chickering, 1862, Boston. In 1840, Jonas Chickering patented his design for the first full cast iron frame to withstand the tension of the strings of a grand piano. Variants of this pattern were eventually adopted by piano manufacturers everywhere; all modern grand pianos are reinforced by cast frames. The decoration of the 1862 Chickering piano in the Frederick Collection, an eight-foot five-inch concert grand with a single-piece cast frame, is comparatively modest – although not so austere as the Collection’s Erard concert piano of 1877.

Steinway, 1866, New York. This is the Steinway model which won first prize at the Paris Exposition of 1867 (an honor shared, with argument, by Chickering.) The fact that this piano's sound bears a family resemblance to later Steinway tone is somewhat surprising, considering subsequent major changes in design and materials.

Streicher, 1868, Vienna, serial number 6668. Brahms's Streicher piano, also made in 1868, was number 6713, and was made after the company changed the design of their instruments. For a piano of the same model as Brahms's, see the 1871 Streicher below.

Streicher, 1871, Vienna. Brahms's own studio piano for the last twenty-five years of his life was an 1868 Streicher, acquired in 1872. The 1871 model is probably the same as his, but since Brahms's piano was destroyed during World War II, a direct comparison is not possible.

Bösendorfer, 1877, Vienna. One of the leading Viennese pianos from 1828 century to the present, Bösendorfers were played by Brahms, Liszt, and other important pianists in concerts in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Erard, 1877, Paris. This "extra grand modèle de concert" has an enormous dynamic range, is clearly intended for use in public space and can hold its own with an orchestra. It has ninety (rather than 88) keys, extending to a low G in the bass. Erard, the official make used by the Paris Conservatoire, was favored by French composers Fauré, Saint-Saëns, and Ravel, as well as by Clara Schumann and Liszt.

Blüthner, 1877, Leipzig.This piano has an unusual string layout; the lowest eighteen notes are flat-strung, while the next thirteen are overstrung. Originally it was fitted with Blüthner's patent Aliquot string system; these were strings tuned in unison with the highest notes, then an octave higher than those to the E below Middle C. Mounted just above those struck by the hammers, the Aliquot strings were activated by sympathetic vibration during loud playing. At some time, the Aliquot strings were removed; the agraffes or guides that carried them, and their tuning pins were removed and the tuning pin holes filled with wood putty. Restoration of the Aliquot system, while not necessary to the musical function of the piano, is desirable for the instrument's integrity.

Erard, 1893, Paris. A more modest-sized piano than the concert model, this Erard has the clarity throughout its range that distinguishes pianos by this firm. It has been used for concerts in smaller halls where the larger instrument would be overpowering. It is particularly suited to French music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Blüthner, 1907, Leipzig. This is the one of only two 20th century pianos in the Collection. Debussy had a Blüthner grand piano which he acquired in 1904. It is typical of German piano making of the time, with a very sweet, clear, even tone throughout its range. It can produce an almost inaudible pianississimo, somewhat startling in a half-ton, nine-foot instrument with a massive cast-iron plate.

Erard, 1928, Paris. The 1928 Erard Piano, Paris, looks very much like any modern piano, with its full keyboard range and one-piece cast plate. Although just under six feet in length, this Erard shares the clarity and wide dynamic color spectrum of larger pianos by the firm. Erard pianos were important for French piano music of the early 20th century. This particular piano belonged to singer and voice teacher Thérèse Leschetizky, the daughter of important piano teacher Theodor Leschetizky. She acquired the piano from her father’s most famous pupil, Paderewski.