Rip Van Winkle Pianos

Ask questions on piano history and the age of your piano.

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MLA
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Rip Van Winkle Pianos

Post by MLA » 27 Apr 2004, 00:52

Heyla, folks....

I've been reading over this site, which I stumbled on via a Google. Some fabulous information here, especially the timeline.

Alas, it doesn't quite have the details I need for a particular sequence I'm writing.

First, when did the first pianos arrive in India and China, respectively, and did they have some other similar instrument, such as a harpsichord, in either country prior to that time?

Second, assume that we have a Rip Van Winkle who was an avid musician circa 1750-1760. Then he has no contact with western music until around 1820-1823.

What would be the primary differences in instruments that this individual would see? And experience if he sat down to play. (Leaving aside his own age, of course.)

I picked up a history of the Steinway piano, but it didn't go far enough back, and plus, I'm interested in British instruments.

Thanks for your time and assistance.
-- Marilyn
(researching, as always)

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Bill Kibby
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Post by Bill Kibby » 27 Apr 2004, 11:07

I was a bit confiused there, I've only just dealt with an enquiry about a piano maker called van Winkle! I have no information about the first pianos in India or China, but the first piano in Japan was a William Rolfe square piano, around 1830. As recently as 1977, Beethoven's music was still banned in China, and in 1980, there were said to be only TWO pianos in the whole of Peking.

In the 1750s, the piano hardly existed at all outside Germany, so your scenario is unworkable. By the 1820s, there were upright pianos, as well as fancier cases, and less obvious technical improvements in tone and volume, plus the use of pedals instead of hand-stops.
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Rip Van Winkle Pianos

Post by MLA » 27 Apr 2004, 14:00

Bill,

>> In the 1750s, the piano hardly existed at all outside Germany, so your scenario is unworkable. By the 1820s, there were upright pianos, as well as fancier cases, and less obvious technical improvements in tone and volume, plus the use of pedals instead of hand-stops. <<

On the contrary! You've just saved an excellent scene which I thought I was going to have to give up for the sake of historical accuracy!

The character in question was very much into music in the time frame of Louis XV, and was in Paris, not Vienna, or London. So if the piano was virtually unknown outside of Germany, he could not (or would have been unlikely to) know about it.

So then he returns to the Western world some 60 years later, and it's not implausible that he might walk into a London music room and be utterly astounded by the capabilities of a piano.

>> By the 1820s, there were upright pianos, as well as fancier cases, and less obvious technical improvements in tone and volume, plus the use of pedals instead of hand-stops. <<

Right, I was reading some of that in the articles on this site. Unfortunately, the problem is that when a topic is of interest rather than a passion, it's easy to get confused. <grin> I have 6000 books here in the house and I've read all of them. Sometimes my brain doesn't always put the facts together.

I'll go browsing the site again, but I believe the piano my character will be seeing is probably from around 1812, although the family who owns it might easily have replaced it with a newer, improved model some time around 1820.

If you don't have any information on pianos in China or India in the early 1800s, then it's unlikely someone will come back at me and say, "Oh but there was a <fill in the blank> piano at XYZ House in Calcutta", or "There was a Whatever Piano at ABC in Macao".

That's very interesting about Beethoven's music being banned in China -- I wonder if that was a factor of the Nationalists having been run out. Also about the number of pianos. I wonder if there were some and they were destroyed by the various upheavals towards the end of the Manchu Empire?

Also, I haven't yet gone browsing the piano music section on this site, so it may answer my question, but in reading histories of both Mozart and Beethoven, it's exceedingly annoying to note that XYZ was wriiten in 1794 or 1812 or whatever, with no indication of date within the year. I realize most people don't care, but when you're working on something set in that time frame, it makes a big difference if a piece debuted in January or is it debuted in September. In addition, there the factor of say, a piece by Beethoven being written in Germany, in 1812, but when did it reach London? (Ran across a reference in the Times for either November or December 1813 of "new music by Louis Beethoven. Apparently, the Times anglicized the composer's name, which makes it even more interesting to track bits down.) Can you point me to a site which might have "first performance in" information?

Again, many thanks -- you've saved a very nice scene.
-- Marilyn
(researching, as always)

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Rip van Winkle

Post by Bill Kibby » 27 Apr 2004, 20:48

I'm glad I saved your scene, email me if you need any specifics about 1812 pianos or whatever. The piano makers brought their art to London when they fled from the Seven Years War, just as George III was coming to the throne. Can't help with the music history questions though, not my field.
Piano History Centre
http://pianohistory.info
Email via my website.
If you find old references or links on this site to pianogen.org, they should refer to pianohistory.info

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