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Text Only Version

These reproducing piano pages are being written as time allows. At present, the following pages are available, either in their complete state, or in preparation:

  Early Experiments  
  Welte-Mignon  
  Hupfeld DEA  
  Philipps Duca  
  Ampico  
Duo-Art

In the meantime, let the music speak for itself. Here is a selection of mp3 files, firstly of Grieg, Granados, Scriabin, Medtner and Fauré, all playing their own works, and then of Josef Hofmann's sparkling portrayal of Schumann's Contrabandista, and Ernest Schelling's light and elegant delivery of a Chopin Study. Oh, if only more pianists played like this today!

Edvard Grieg: 1843-1907
Grieg recorded for the Welte-Mignon in April 1906, only a year before he died. There were three rolls, two of his Lyric Pieces and the Norwegian Bridal Procession. The Lyric Piece, Opus 43, no. 1, the Butterfly, is a model of phrasing; nowadays pianists are unlikely to play so freely, but Grieg's mastery of his own music paints a vivid and delicate picture of a real butterfly, flitting impulsively from flower to flower.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

mp3 GRIEG: Papillon - Lyric Piece, Op. 43, no. 1,  [1.7 Mb]
Recorded by Edvard Grieg - 17 April 1906, Leipzig.


This roll was played back on a Steinway Welte grand piano in London, in March 2005.
The audio recording is the copyright of the Pianola Institute, 2006.

Enrique Granados: 1867-1916
By the time the Welte Company came to record Granados, they had considerably more experience of their own recording process, and the subtlety of dynamic shading on this roll is quite remarkable. There are many theories concerning the dynamic recording process used by Welte, but from the detail that was captured in this performance, it is clear that some form of automatic procedure was involved.

Enrique Granados (1867-1916)

mp3 GRANADOS: Goyescas, Part 1, Los Requiebros,  [6.9 Mb]
Recorded by Enrique Granados - c. 1913, Paris.


This roll was played back on a Steinway Welte grand piano in London, in April 2006.
The audio recording is the copyright of the Pianola Institute, 2006.

Alexander Scriabin: 1872-1915
The Welte recording piano was taken to Russia in 1910, as far as we know to St Petersburg and Moscow. Glazounov, Liapounov and Scriabin recorded their own works, and many pianists were represented as well, including Pouishnoff and Borowski. A notable achievement was the first ever recording of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition by G. Romanowsky. In early February, Scriabin recorded about seven or eight rolls, six of which were issued, including several of his Opus 11 Preludes. His playing of the Poème, Op. 32, No. 1, has an almost improvisatory quality; but then the piece had been in existence for less than seven years when he came to record it.

Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)

mp3 SCRIABIN: Poème, Op. 32, no. 1,  [3.1 Mb]
Recorded by Alexander Scriabin - February 1910, Moscow.


This roll was played back on a Steinway Welte grand piano in London, in October 2007.
The audio recording is the copyright of the Pianola Institute, 2007.

Nikolai Medtner: 1880-1951
Medtner recorded for both Welte and Duo-Art, the latter being the Aeolian Company's reproducing piano, introduced in March 1914. The recording of dynamics for the Duo-Art involved a musical producer, sitting at the side of the piano, and controlling two large dials, which transmitted an interpretation of the artist's dynamics to the recording machine. Aeolian was able to perforate an "original" roll in real time, and after a few copies had been made, this was worked on repeatedly, until the pianist was content with the result. Percy Grainger often remarked that the Duo-Art represented him not as he actually played, but as he would like to have played. Such rolls are portraits rather than photographs, but they can be equally telling.

Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951)

mp3 MEDTNER: Danza Festiva, Op. 38, no. 3,  [4.1 Mb]
Recorded by Nikolai Medtner - c. 1925, New York.


This roll was played back on a Steinway Duo-Art grand piano in London, in November 2005.
The audio recording is the copyright of the Pianola Institute, 2006.

Gabriel Fauré: 1845-1924
No-one yet knows for sure where Welte's Paris rolls were recorded, though the most likely studio would have been the premises of the piano firm of Eugène Moullé, who were the Welte agents in France at the time, around 1913. Gabriel Fauré was one of the French composers who paid a visit, in his late sixties, and he recorded six rolls, five of which were published, including this remarkably straight performance of his Nocturne in Ab. Fauré's use of the sustaining pedal is intriguing; he holds the pedal down over some of the changes of harmony, which was to some degree a French characteristic of the time, and yet in other sections of the music he allows the harmonic structure to resonate much more clearly. Such is authenticity!

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

mp3 FAURÉ: Nocturne in Ab, Op. 33, no. 3,  [3.4 Mb]
Recorded by Gabriel Fauré - c. 1913, Paris.


This roll was played back on a Steinway Welte grand piano in London, in February 2008.
The audio recording is the copyright of the Pianola Institute, 2008.

Josef Hofmann: 1876-1957
Hofmann recorded rolls for a number of companies, but in the end signed an exclusive contract with Aeolian, where he was on very friendly terms with the main Duo-Art recording producer, W. Creary Woods. Hofmann's technical mastery of the keyboard was legendary, although unlike Rachmaninov, his hands were not especially large. Sometimes his piano rolls can be disappointing, perhaps because he achieved so much in his early life, so that later projects lacked the excitement of youth. He was a true Renaissance Man, an expert mechanical engineer, and his Hofmann Automobile Springs were really successful in their day. This recording shows something of his sparkling sense of humour - the tiptoeing smuggler is clearly trying to avoid the authorities!

Josef Hofmann (1876-1957)

mp3 SCHUMANN: El Contrabandista,  [1.7 Mb]
Recorded by Josef Hofmann - c. 1926, New York.


This roll was played back on a Steinway Duo-Art grand piano in London, in December 2005.
The audio recording is the copyright of the Pianola Institute, 2006.

Ernest Schelling: 1876-1939
Schelling was an American, born in Belvidere, New Jersey, who studied the piano in the US and Europe and became a good friend of Paderewski, who recorded his Nocturne a Ragusa (Dubrovnik) for Duo-Art. Schelling recorded Duo-Art rolls himself, but also played for Welte quite early on, in 1907. He went on to become an orchestral conductor, with a particular love of children's concerts, perhaps fitting for a man whose own music and style of playing are rather gentle. His performance of this Chopin Study has a quite magical joyfulness - what a miracle such recordings must have seemed 100 years ago!

Ernest Schelling (1876-1939)

mp3 CHOPIN: Etude in F, Op. 25, no. 3,  [1.7 Mb]
Recorded by Ernest Schelling - late 1907, Freiburg.


This roll was played back on a Steinway Welte grand piano in London, in June 2006.
The audio recording is the copyright of the Pianola Institute, 2006.

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