H a r p s i c h o r d s

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Steiner Reminiscences 24K jpeg


Reminiscences of Morris Steinert

Compiled by Jane Marlin


G. P. Putman’s Sons 1900

As a young man, Morris Steinert emigrated to the United States from Bavaria. Settling in New Haven, he opened a store selling second hand pianos, small instruments and sheet music. Successful in business, he became one of the important collectors of early keyboards at the end of the 19th century. Today, instruments from his collection can be found in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. His Reminiscences are simply told and offer some delightfully snapshots of this eccentric entrepreneur’s adventures in the music business and his passion for collecting keyboard instruments.



José de Torres’s Treatise of 1737

Indiana University Press 2000

José de Torres opened the first Spanish publishing house devoted entirely to music in 1700. One of the first works published in 1702 was the first edition of his own thoroughbass manual for keyboard instruments and harp. While the practice of thoroughbass accompaniment was common in Spanish music from the beginning of the 17th century, Torres’s Treatise was the first such work to be published in Spain. The second edition published in 1737 added a section pertaining to the Italian style of accompaniment.


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Anthony Ashton

Walker & Company 2003

In explaining his fascination for the 19th century scientific instrument the Harmonograph, the author takes us through a history of music where it intersects with math. From Pythagoras and Fludd to easily understood discussions of the mathematics of the overtone series, this book looks at the efforts of 19th century men of science to illustrate the math of music, and the inevitable debate over the tempered scale.


Old Pianos

N. E. Michel

Michel 1954

Michel was famous for his Piano Atlas, self published from his home in Revira California. His Atlas is a source book for old model pianos from expired piano companies, with dates and serial numbers.

His publication Old Pianos contains 181 pages of photos of early pianos, clavichords, and harpsichords by makers such as Graf, Stein, Hoffman, Hass, Dulcken and more. Each photo is accompanied by a description.

In a folksy manner, he also fills out the pages with photos of people at their pianos. Lawrence Welk is featured in one of his publicity shots, and Judith McKeller is shown seated at her upright with the distinction of being the oldest living person in Downey California”. Michel fills his pages further with photos of people’s houses, for example “the first plastered house in Pasadena” on page 124, or the very modest home on page 93 with the description "Richard Nixon’s Home in Yorba Linda, California, in which Richard was born; it is a very modest small frame California bungalow. Mr. and Mrs Nixon, parents of Richard, live in Whittier, and are very proud of their son as becoming the Vice-President of the United States.”


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Stuart Isacoff

Faber & Faber 2002

Stuart’s authoritative book on the history of Temperament might best be described as a “tempest in a teapot”. It is a remarkable book to read, if just for the sheer breadth of intellectual and cultural thought skillfully woven into the debate. From Cassanova to Shakespere, Michaelangelo to Milton, and Diderot to Pope Pius II, the most pressing question of the day seems to have been the dreaded comma, that little mathematical quirk that exists between the mystical beauty of pure intervals and the scientific order of equal temperament. Why has God vexed us so?!!!

It’s all rather silly actually. The many solutions, including equal temperament, each give their particular color to a piece. But, as luck would have it, equal temperament does not flatter the harpsichord. Enough said.



Mabel Dolmetsch

Routledge & Kegan Paul


Mabel Dolmetsch’s account of her late husband’s life is a charming narrative of his prolific endeavors. She is prone to “airbrushing” over some of the rougher edges of Arnold’s adventures, as in her recounting his decision to declare bankruptcy.

But “rose-colored glasses” notwithstanding, the reader is left with great admiration for this remarkable pioneer of the modern early music movement. Of particular interest are passages chronicling his activities first with the Chickering Piano Company, and later—perhaps less successfully—with the firm of Gaveau.

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     • Library •

     • Todini •

     • Makers circa 1960 •