« AnteriorContinua »
intelligent person doubts it, it is either the harpsichord. The first pianos gave because he does not know that age, or forth a dull and feeble sound to ears because he does not know this age. accustomed to the clear and harp-like
The spinet expanded into the harpsi- notes of the fashionable instrument. chord, the leading instrument from In that same upper room of the 1700 to 1800. A harpsichord was Messrs. Chickering, near the spinet nothing but a very large and powerful just mentioned, there is an instrument, spinet. Some of them had two strings made perhaps about the year 1800, for each note ; some had three ; some which explains why the piano was so had three kinds of strings, — catgut, slow in making its way. It resembles brass, and steel ; and some were paint- in form and size a grand piano of the ed and decorated in the most gorgeous present time, though of coarsest finish style. Frederick the Great had one and most primitive construction, with made for him in London, with silver thin, square, kitchen-table legs, and hinges, silver pedals, inlaid case, and wooden knobs for castors. This intortoise-shell front, at a cost of two teresting instrument has two rows of hundred guineas. Every part of the keys, and is both a harpsichord and a construction of the spinet was im- piano, - one set of keys twanging the proved, and many new minor devices wires, and the other set striking them. were added; but the harpsichord, in The effect of the piano notes is so faint its best estate, was nothing but a spinet, and dull, that we cannot wonder at the because its strings were always twanged general preference for the harpsichord by a piece of quill
. How astonished for so many years. It appears to have would an audience be to hear a harpsi- been a common thing in the last cenchord of 1750, and to be informed that tury to combine two or more instrusuch an instrument Handel felt him- ments in one. Dr. Charles Burney, self fortunate to possess !
writing in 1770, mentions “a very curiNext, the piano; — invented at Flor- ous keyed instrument" made under ence in 1710, by Bartolommeo Cristofali. the direction of Frederick II. of Prus
The essential difference between a sia. “It is in shape like a large claviharpsichord and a piano is described chord, has several changes of stops, by the first name given to the piano, and is occasionally a harp, a harpsiwhich was hammer-harpsichord, i. e. chord, a lute, or piano-forte; but the a harpsichord the strings of which most curious property of this instruwere struck by hammers, not twanged ment is, that, by drawing out the keys, by quills. The next name given to it the mers are transferred to different was forte-piano, which signified soft, strings. By which means a composition with power; and this name became may be transposed half a note, a whole piano-forte, which it still retains. One note, or a flat third lower at pleasure, hundred years were required to prove without the embarrassment of different to the musical public the value of an notes or clefs, real or imaginary." invention without which no further The same sprightly author tells us of development of stringed instruments “a fine Rucker harpsichord, which he had been possible. No improvement has had painted inside and out with as in the mere mechanism of the harpsi- much delicacy as the finest coach, or chord could ever have overcome the even snuff-box, I ever saw at Paris. trivial effect of the twanging of the On the outside is the birth of Venus; strings by pieces of quill; but the and on the inside of the cover, the moment the hammer principle was in- story of Rameau's most famous opera, troduced, nothing was wanting but im- Castor and Pollux. Earth, Hell, and proved mechanism to make it univer- Elysium are there represented; in sal. It required, however, a century Elysium, sitting on a bank, with a lyre to produce the improvements sufficient in his hand, is that celebrated comto give the piano cqual standing with
This gay instrument was at Paris. reputation in the Old World. He may In Italy, the native home of music, be said to have created the "action" the keyed instruments, in 1770, Dr. of the piano, though his devices have Burney says, were exceedingly infe- been subsequently improved upon by rior to those of the North of Europe. others. He found the piano in 1768 · Throughout Italy, they have generally feeble and unknown ; he left it, at his little octave spinets to accompany sing- death in 1831, the most powerful, pleasing in private houses, sometimes in a ing, and popular stringed instrument triangular form, but more frequently in in existence; and, besides gaining a the shape of an old virginal; of which colossal fortune, for himself, he bethe keys are so noisy and the tone is queathed to his nephew, Pierre Erard, so feeble, that more wood is heard the most celebrated manufactory of than wire. I found three English pianos in the world. Next to Erard harpsichords in the three principal cit- ranks John Broadwood, a Scotchman, ies of Italy, which are regarded by the who came to London about the time of Italians as so many phenomena." Erard's arrival in Paris, and, like him,
To this day Italy depends upon for- procured employment with a harpsieign countries for her best musical chord-maker, the most noted one in instruments. Italy can as little make England. John Broadwood was a "good a grand piano as America can com- apprentice,” married his master's daughpose a grand opera.
ter, inherited his business, and carried The history of the piano from 1710 it on with such success, that, to-day, to 1867 is nothing but a history of the the house of Broadwood and Sons is improved mechanism of the instrument. the first of its line in England. John The moment the idea was conceived Broadwood was chiefly meritorious for of striking the strings with hammers, a general improvement in the construcunlimited improvement was possible ; tion of the instrument. If he did not and though the piano of to-day is cov- originate many important devices, he ered all over with ingenious devices, the was eager to adopt those of others, and great, essential improvements are few he made the whole instrument with in number. The hammer, for example, British thoroughness. The strings, the may contain one hundred ingenuities, action, the case, the pedals, and all but they are all included in the device the numberless details of mechanism of covering the first wooden hammers received his thoughtful attention, and with cloth ; and the master-thought of show to the present time traces of his making the whole frame of the piano honest and intelligent mind. It was in of iron suggested the line of improve- this John Broadwood's factory that a ment which secures the supremacy of poor German boy named John Jacob the piano over all other stringed instru- Astor earned the few pounds that paid ments forever.
his passage to America, and bought the Sebastian Erard, the son of a Stras- seven flutes which were the foundation bourg upholsterer, went to Paris, a of the great Astor estate. For several poor orphan of sixteen, in the year years, the sale of the Broadwood pianos 1768, and, finding employment in the in New York was an important part of establishment of a harpsichord-maker, Mr. Astor's business. He used to sell rose rapidly to the foremanship of the his furs in London, and invest part of shop, and was soon in business for the proceeds in pianos, for exportation himself as a maker of harpsichords, to New York. harps, and pianos. To him, perhaps, America began early to try her hand more than to any other individual, tlie at improving the instrument. Mr. Jeffine interior mechanism of the piano ferson, in the year 180o, in one of his is indebted ; and the house founded letters to his daughter Martha, speaks by Sebastian Erard still produces the of “a very ingenious, modest, and poor pianos which enjoy the most extensive young man” in Philadelphia, who “ has invented one of the prettiest improve- other. Mr. Mason recommended the ments in the forte-piano I have ever Chickering piano to his multitudinous seen.” Mr. Jefferson, who was him- classes and choirs, and thus powerfully self a player upon the violin, and had aided to give that extent to Mr. Chicksome little skill upon the harpsichord, ering's business which is necessary to adds, “ It has tempted me to engage the production of the best work. Both one for Monticello.” This instrument of them began their musical career, was an upright piano, and we have we may say, in childhood ; for Jonas found no mention of an upright of an Chickering was only a cabinet-maker's earlier date. “ His strings,” says Mr. apprentice when he astonished his naJefferson, “are perpendicular, and he tive village by putting in excellent playcontrives within that height” (not giv- ing order a battered old piano, long been in the published extract) “to give fore laid aside; and Lowell Mason, at his strings the same length as in the sixteen, was already leading a large grand forte-piano, and fixes his three church choir, and drilling a brass unisons to the same screw, which screw band. The undertaking of this brass is in the direction of the strings, and band by a boy was an amusing intherefore never yields. It scarcely gets stance of Yankee audacity; for when out of tune at all, and then, for the most the youth presented himself to the newpart, the three unisons are tuned at ly formed band to give them their first once.” This is an interesting passage; lesson, he found so many instruments for, although the “forte-pianos ” of this in their hands which he had never seen modest young man have left no trace nor heard of, that he could not proceed. upon the history of the instrument, it “Gentlemen,” said he, “I see that a shows that America had no sooner cast good many of your instruments are out an eye upon its mechanism than she set of order, and most of them need a little to work improving it. Can it be that oil, or something of the kind. Our best the upright piano was an American in- pian will be to adjourn for a week. vention ? It may be. The Messrs. Leave all your instruments with me, Broadwood, in the little book which and I will have them in perfect condilay upon their pianos in the Exhibi- tion by the time we meet again.” Betion of 1851, say that the first vertical fore the band again came together, the or cabinet pianos were constructed by young teacher, by working night and William Southwell, of their house, in day, had gained a sufficient insight into 1804, four years after the date of Mr. the nature of the instruments to inJefferson's letter.
struct those who knew nothing of After 1800 there were a few pianos them. made every year in the United States, Jonas Chickering was essentially a but none that could compare with the mechanic, a most skilful, patient, best Erards and Broadwoods, until the thoughtful, faithful mechanic, - and it Chickering era, which began in 1823. was his excellence as a mechanic which
The two Americans to whom music enabled him to rear an establishment is most indebted in the United States which, beginning with one or two pianos are Jonas Chickering, piano-maker, a month, was producing, at the death born in New Hampshire in 1798, and of the founder, in 1853, fifteen hundred Lowell Mason, singing teacher and com- pianos a year. It was he who introposer of church tunes, born in Massa- duced into the piano the full iron frame. chusetts in 1792. While Lowell Mason It was he who first made American was creating the taste for music, Jonas pianos that were equal to the best imChickering was improving the instru- ported ones. He is universally recogment by which musical taste is chiefly nized as the true founder of the manugratified ; and both being established facture of the piano in the United in Boston, each of them was instru- States. No man has, perhaps, so nobly mentaļ in advancing the fortunes of the illustrated the character of the American mechanic, or more honored the one of them, fortunately, becoming a name of American citizen.
tuner, which brought him into relathe soul of benevolence, truth, and tions with many music-teachers. Durhonor. When we have recovered a lit- ing these three years, their knowledge tle more from the infatuation which and their capital increased every day, invests “public men” with supreme im- for they lived as wise men in such cirportance, we shall better know how to cumstances do live who mean to control value those heroes of the apron, who, their destiny. In plain English, they by a life of conscientious, toil, place a kept their eyes open, and lived on half new source of happiness, or of force, their income. In 1853, in a small back within the reach of their fellow-citizens. shop in Varick Street, with infinite
Henry Steinway, the founder of the pains, they made their first piano, and a great house of Steinway and Sons, has number of teachers and amateurs were had a career not unlike that of Mr. invited to listen to it. It was warmly Chickering. He also, in his native approved and speedily sold. Ten men Brunswick, amused his boyhood by re- were employed, who produced for the pairing old instruments of music, and next two years one piano a week. In making new.ones. He made a cithara 1855, the Messrs. Steinway, still unand a guitar for himself with only such known to the public, placed one of tools as a boy can command. He also their best instruments in the New York was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker, Crystal Palace Exhibition. · A memand was drawn away, by natural bias, ber of the musical jury has recorded from the business he had learned, to the scene which occurred when the jury the making of organs and pianos. For came to this unknown competitor :many years he was a German piano- “ They were pursuing their rounds, maker, producing, in the slow, German and performing their duties with an manner, two or three excellent instru
ease and facility that promised a ments a month; striving ever after speedy termination to their labors, higher excellence, and growing more when suddenly they came upon an inand more dissatisfied with the limited strument that, from its external appearsphere in which the inhabitant of a ance, — solidly rich, yet free from the small German state necessarily works. frippery that was then rather in fashIn 1849, being then past fifty years of ion, - attracted their attention. One of age, and the father of four intelligent the company opened the case, and careand gifted sons, he looked to America lessly struck a few chords. The others for a wider range and a more promis- were doing the same with its neighing home for his boys. With German bors, but somehow they ceased to chatprudence, he sent one of them to New ter when the other instrument began to York to see what prospect there might speak. One by one the jurors gathered be there for another maker of pianos. round the strange polyphonist, and, Charles Steinway came, saw, approved, without a word being spoken, every one returned, reported; and in 1850 all the knew that it was the best piano-forte in family reached New York, except the the Exhibition. The jurors were true eldest son, Theodore, who succeeded to their duties. It is possible that some to his father's business in Brunswick. of them had predilections in favor of Henry Steinway again showed himself other makers ; it is certain that one of wise in not immediately going into them had, — the writer of the present business. Depositing the capital he notice. But when the time for the had brought with him in a safe place, award came, there was no argument, he donned once more the journeyman's no discussion, no bare presentment of apron, and worked for three years in a minor claims ; nothing, in fact, but a New York piano factory to learn the hearty indorsement of the singular merways of the trade in America ; and his its of the strange instrument.” sons obtained similar employment, — From that time the Steinways made rapid progress. The tide of California The construction of an American pigold was flowing in, and every day ano is a continual act of defensive warsome one was getting rich enough to fare against the future inroads of our treat his family to a new piano. It was climate, - a climate which is polar for a the Messrs. Steinway who chiefly sup- few days in January, tropical for a week plied the new demand, without lessen- or two in July, Nova-Scotian now and ing by one instrument a month the then in November, and at all times most business of older houses. Various im- trying to the finer woods, leathers, and provements in the framing and mechan- fabrics. To make a piano is now not ism of.the piano have been invented so difficult; but to make one that will and introduced by them ; and, while stand in America, – that is very diffisome members of the family have super- cult. In the rear of the Messrs. Steinintended the manufacture, others have way's factory there is a yard for seasonconducted the not less difficult business ing timber, which usually contains an of selling. To this hour, the father of amount of material equal to two hunthe family, in the dress of a workman, dred and fifty thousand ordinary boards, attends daily at the factory, as vigilant an inch thick and twelve feet long; and and active as ever, though now past there it remains from four months to seventy; and his surviving sons are as five years, according to its nature and laboriously engaged in assisting him as magnitude. Most of the timber used they were in the infancy of the estab- in an American piano requires two lishment
years' seasoning at least. From this Besides the Chickerings and the yard it is transferred to the steam-drySteinways, there are twenty manufac- ing house, where it remains subjected turers in the United States whose pro- to a high temperature for three months. duction exceeds one hundred pianos The wood has then lost nearly all the per annum Messrs. Knabe & Co. of warp there ever was in it, and the temBaltimore, who supply large portions perature may change fifty degrees in of the South and West, sold about a twelve hours (as it does sometimes in thousand pianos in the year 1866; W. New York) without seriously affecting P. Emerson of Boston, 935; Messrs.
Besides this, the timber is Haines Brothers of New York, 830; sawed in such a manner as to neutralMessrs. Hallett and Davis of Boston, ize, in some degree, its tendency to 462; Ernest Gabler of New York, 312; warp, or, rather, so as to make it warp Messrs. E. C. Lighte & Co. of New the right way. The reader would be York, 286; Messrs. Hazelton and Broth- surprised to hear the great makers coners of New York, 269; Albert Webber verse on this subject of the warping of of New York, 266 ; Messrs. Decker timber. They have studied the laws Brothers of New York, 256;. Messrs. which govern warping; they know why George Steck and Co. of New York, wood warps, how each variety warps, 244 ; W. I. Bradbury of New York, 244; how long a time each kind continues to Messrs. Lindeman and Sons of New warp, and how to fit one warp against York, 223; the New York Piano-forte another, so as to neutralize both. If Company, 139. About one half of all two or more pieces of wood are to be the pianos made in the United States glued together, it is never done at ranare made in the city of New York. dom; but they are so adjusted that one
To visit one of our large manufacto- will tend to warp one way, and another ries of pianos is a lesson in the noble another. Even the thin veneers upon art of taking pains. Genius itself, says the case act as a restraining force upon Carlyle, means, first of all, “a transcen- the baser wood which they cover, and dent capacity for taking trouble.” Ev- in some parts of the instrument the veerywhere in these vast and interesting neer is double for the purpose of keepestablishments we find what we may ing both in order. An astonishing call the perfection of painstaking. amount of thought and experiment has