Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Not all pianos are the same…

Fri Mar 15 2019

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In preparation for our Four Seasons concert with Rachel Podger @AnvilArts and @stgeorgesbris next week, we've revis… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

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Bluther 1867, restored by Edwin Beunk

When we play music from any era, we want to find instruments that replicate as closely as possible what musicians of the day would have used.

There’s no difference when it comes to the piano. For next week’s performances of Brahms Piano Concertos, our Principal Artist Sir András Schiff has picked a very special instrument dating back to 1867. It has some characteristics of the modern piano’s predecessor, the fortepiano.

It was originally made by Julius Blüthner, who was one of the leading piano manufacturers in Germany in Brahms’ time. Remarkably, it was discovered recently in Berlin having been disregarded and sat on its side in water for a number of years.

A master restorer of early pianos, Edwin Beunk, set about bringing it back it back to life in 2013. As he explains, “the veneer of the spine and the tail was missing and many glueing joints were loose. Somebody had painted the whole instrument black. The pin block was ruined by the thickest possible modern tuning pins. A completely new pin block was made; the soundboard was taken out, taken apart and carefully rebuilt, using every original piece.”

The Blüthner 1867 has travelled over from Germany in a van for this series of concerts, and will be stopping in London, Dublin and Basingstoke on the tour.

We’ve also had a new horn made for the concerts – watch it in action here.

One Comment

  • A very rewarding concert last night from the OAE and Andras Schiff! I really enjoyed the lean yet romantic sound of the orchestra, with plenty of power and satisfying timbres, but nothing overstated.

    As a piano technician and restorer fascinated by period instruments and performance, I was very keen to find out what Schiff chose to play, and it was wonderful, with plenty of power and singing tone. I was intrigued to see the flurry of excitement around the 1867 Bluthner, with audience members queuing up to look at and photograph it.

    Having not heard Brahms’ Piano Concerto No 2 in a period performance, I wondered whether it would have the impact of a ‘modern’ orchestral performance, but piano and orchestra sounded full, clear and lyrical.

    I much enjoyed the informal atmosphere of the concert and Schiff’s interactions with orchestra and audience.

    Please make a recording of these pieces with Andras Schiff!

    Andrew Dawes Wed Mar 20 2019