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This page is still in preparation, but may nevertheless be of interest in its incomplete state.

The Hupfeld DEA (push-up model) - Leipzig, Germany, 1907 onwards.

Introduction
Whereas the Welte-Mignon was developed by a firm that specialised in orchestrions and pipe organs, Ludwig Hupfeld's company was already a manufacturer of piano players and player pianos, well before it launched the DEA reproducing piano, which it seems at the outset to have spelled in capital letters. It must have come as something of a nasty surprise to Hupfeld that Welte and Sons, from a provincial town like Freiburg, had by late 1904 stolen a march on the whole German musical establishment, especially since Hupfeld was based in Leipzig, one of the main commercial centres of early 20th century Germany.

The Phonola, invented by Robert Frömsdorf - Leipzig, Germany, 1902 onwards.

Hupfeld had introduced its Phonola, a foot-pedalled piano player with a range of 72 notes, in the autumn of 1902 at the Leipzig Michaelmas Fair, and this innovative instrument included separate bass and treble sections, split between F and F# above middle C. The division of the mechanism in this way allowed melodic lines to be highlighted much more effectively than on any existing instruments, and it is remarkable that Hupfeld failed to patent the idea, which subsequently became the accepted standard for the whole industry, though with the division transposed down by a semitone.

Robert Frömsdorf (1859-1908), Inventor of the Phonola and the DEA.

The Phonola was essentially the invention of Robert Frömsdorf, a brilliant and self-taught pneumatic engineer, who was manager of the main Hupfeld factory in Leipzig, no doubt with a dedicated workforce under his command. Although the DEA was also developed under Frömsdorf's direction, and he can be seen operating the roll-marking machine in one or two of Hupfeld's recording session photographs, he nevertheless died in August 1908, within a year of the instrument's public launch, and at the rather early age of 48.

Hupfeld's First Brochure for its Artists' Rolls - Leipzig, Germany, Autumn 1905.

Back in 1905, as an initial reply to the Welte-Mignon, and as a first step towards developing a reproducing piano of its own, Hupfeld published its Künstlermusikrollen (Artists' Music Rolls), which it began to record in the autumn of that year. Pianists visited the Hupfeld studios in central Leipzig, in similar fashion to those who were recording for the Welte-Mignon, at the Popper salon a few streets away. Although the resulting hand-played rolls were immediately available for the Phonola, with printed dynamic markings for the player to follow, they were also designed with Hupfeld's recent Phonoliszt in mind, an expression piano powered by an electric suction pump, with three levels of automatic dynamics, and variable speed crescendos between the levels. The grand piano used for recording was linked pneumatically to the machine that marked the master rolls, and an additional five tubes allowed for limited dynamic information to be recorded in real time. It is not yet clear whether there were separate sets of dynamic tubes for the treble and bass, since the Phonola had a divided mechanism, whereas the Phonoliszt did not.

The Concert Room in Hupfeld's Berlin Showrooms - 1907 onwards.

It took Frömsdorf and his team another two years to perfect their first true reproducing piano, and the Meisterspiel DEA, to use its full title, was most likely introduced to the world at five o'clock on the afternoon of Saturday, 16 November 1907, at the opening of the new Hupfeld showrooms in Berlin, at no. 123, Leipziger Strasse. An audience of over 100 musicians, dignitaries and press attended the opening concert, in the hall shown above, and by all accounts the DEA made an excellent impression, sharing the programme with a live Phonola player.

Alfred Grünfeld (1852-1924).

The pianist, Alfred Grünfeld, who heard the new instrument some four weeks later, was happy to state that he was "absolutely astonished at the note-for-note faithful reproduction of my playing by means of the DEA. During my career as an artist I have been able to examine and play all the other similar recording and reproducing instruments, and I can honestly say that not one of them is the equal of the DEA." Strong sentiments, though a careful reading of Grünfeld's comments reveals that he was simply reporting that the DEA was different from other reproducing pianos, which in those days could only have meant the Welte-Mignon, and not that it was necessarily better!

In many respects, Hupfeld's main business divided neatly into two areas at this time, with the Phonola catering for the domestic market, and the firm's numerous styles of café pianos and orchestrions fulfilling the demand for music in hotels, restaurants and other public places. The loudly trumpeted Artists' Music Rolls were used for many of the different piano-based instruments which Ludwig Hupfeld manufactured, and in view of this similarity of repertoire between the firm's various player pianos, expression pianos and piano orchestrions, the DEA itself was less prominent than it might have been with a smaller, more specialised firm. Nevertheless, it remained in Hupfeld's catalogues throughout the decade of the First World War, until it was finally replaced by the Triphonola around 1920.

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Musical Example
We are not aware of any Hupfeld DEA that plays to the standards of the other instruments on this website, and so in order to give a reasonable flavour of the performances which the instrument could produce, it seems sensible to provide a recording of one of the Künstlermusikrollen which were such a feature of the DEA's repertoire. Alexander Scriabin played fourteen of his own compositions on the Hupfeld recording piano, and these were issued on Hupfeld's various types of music roll. The composer expressed his approval of the recording process in glowing terms: "I am certain that the future belongs to the Phonola Piano, which, on an artistic level, leaves nothing to be desired." This musical example, with dynamics added by foot, is taken from Scriabin's Third Piano Sonata, the third and fourth movements, recorded in January 1908 in Leipzig, according to correspondence surviving at the Scriabin Museum in Moscow. Scriabin's playing was well-known for its intimate character, in contrast to Rachmaninov's more expansive style.

Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), from the Hupfeld Artists' Music Roll Catalogue, c. 1908.

mp3 SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata no 3 in F# minor, Op. 23,
Third and Fourth Movements,  [8.8 Mb]

Recorded by the Composer - January 1908, Leipzig.


This roll was played back on a Steck grand Pianola Piano in London, in June 2009.
The audio recording is the copyright of the Pianola Institute, 2009.

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The Dea Recording Process
Hupfeld began recording piano rolls, as opposed to arranging them from the score, in late 1905, at which time the main instruments available to play them were the Phonola and the Phonoliszt. The Phonola was foot-pedalled, and so there was no automatic dynamic coding on Phonola rolls, but the Phonoliszt had three levels of loudness, and it was theoretically possible to capture at least something of a pianist's dynamic shading. When the Dea was introduced in late 1907, its six dynamic levels neatly doubled those of the Phonoliszt, and its mechanism provided variable crescendos and decrescendos in addition. Luckily, we have both a Leipzig patent from 1908, and a written description from a contemporary music theorist, so it is possible to work out with some certainty how Hupfeld recorded its rolls at this early stage.

Ludwig Riemann (1862-1927), from the Hupfeld Phonola Roll Catalogue, September 1912.

Ludwig Riemann, a music educationalist from Essen in western Germany, visited the Hupfeld studios on more than one occasion, not least because he recorded three duet rolls with Gustav Riemann, who was at one time the manager of Hupfeld's Leipzig showroom, and one suspects that the two men might have been related. Ludwig Riemann states that he was present when Grieg recorded his rolls, which we know to have been on 11 April 1906, and he co-operated with Dr Otto Neitzel of Cologne in the writing of a guide to Hupfeld's Phonola and Dea repertoire, Musikästhetische Betrachtungen. In one of his many other books, Das Wesen des Klavierklanges, Riemann describes how the Hupfeld recording system used pneumatic means for marking note lines on a master roll, while five further lines were available for dynamic recording. He then mistakenly concludes that five lines equates to five dynamic levels, but of course the absence of any lines would no doubt have represented the quietest playing, and so five lines fits neatly with the Dea's six dynamic levels.

A patent was awarded in January 1908, one month after the Dea was launched, to Walter Bernhard of Leipzig, for a recording system that used exactly this style of of dynamic line, though the patent drawings depict only four lines and five dynamic levels. At the time, Bernhard was a manager for the rival firm of Popper and Co., so his invention may well have had more to do with that firm's reproducing piano, the Stella. But he confirms the point about the absence of dynamic lines indicating the quietest level, and he also suggests that the mechanism might be split into different sections, for treble and bass, or as desired. As we have observed elsewhere, pneumatic reproducing pianos were only ever capable of producing two levels at any one instant, and those levels had to be split between treble and bass.

Walter Bernhard's Dynamic Recorder, showing Piano Action - Leipzig, January 1908.

The method Bernhard uses is certainly ingenious, and involves the piano key operating not just one, but two separate hammer mechanisms. The normal piano hammer hits the string in the usual way, while the second strikes a mechanism that causes an increasing number of sprung electrical contacts to be made, as the note is played more loudly. The sets of contacts in each half of the piano are connected in parallel with each other, and separate outputs for the treble and bass lead to electrically operated pens at the edges of a blank master roll. The net effect of this manner of recording is to preserve the peak levels at every instant, and for each half of the piano separately, in contrast to the Welte-Mignon, which recorded the averages. In all probability Hupfeld used a similar, though pneumatically operated system, where the dynamic signals from the piano were sent by tubes rather than wires, but the principles of the system remain essentially the same,

Walter Bernhard's Dynamic Recorder, showing Marking Arrangement - Leipzig, January 1908.

Once perforated, such a recorded roll would instantly have provided a performance with six basic dynamic levels, and the Dea roll editors could then have created gradual crescendos and diminuendos, in order to shape the music more subtly. It is easy to understand how the Hupfeld dynamic recording process managed to reduce the editing time that would otherwise have been necessary, in order to produce music rolls of a convincing quality.

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Pianists and Repertoire
The Dea catalogue was the smallest of the main reproducing piano systems, with fewer than 1200 titles having been produced by 1914, of which around 450 had already been deleted, to judge from the catalogue issued in that year. Many of the pianists who recorded for Welte also took the opportunity of setting down their performances at Hupfeld's studios, so there were few surprises in the listings, though the composers Max Bruch, Leo Fall, Franz Lehar and Gabriel Pierné made their first appearances on the reproducing piano, and for some reason Paderewski was absent.

A DEA Music Roll Catalogue - Leipzig, c. 1914.

Hupfeld's wide range of piano-based instruments, including the Phonola and Phonoliszt, was reflected in the Dea popular and operatic repertoire, a great deal of which was mechanically arranged, rather than hand-played. Much has been made, especially by modern-day recording companies who publish transfers of famous pianists on roll, of the determination of reproducing piano producers to preserve the performances of the great composers. This somewhat romantic notion is put into perspective by the correspondence between Hupfeld and Scriabin in January 1908, which makes it clear that the Russian composer was only being invited to play works of his that were not already in Hupfeld's catalogue. It was clearly the repertoire, and not the performance style, that was uppermost in the minds of Hupfeld's roll editors.

Despite the relatively small size of its catalogue, Hupfeld made a good effort to provide a representative choice of music, with eight Beethoven Piano Sonatas, at least twelve of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, the Liszt Sonata played by the composer's secretary, Arthur Friedheim, and several concertos, including the Grieg played by Wilhelm Backhaus, and the Chopin E minor played by the 70-year-old Francis Planté, who sixty years before had lived in Paris at a time when Chopin himself was still performing. Planté's interpretation must surely be the most authentic performance of the work that has come down to us, and perhaps Hupfeld's musical staff had the same thought, because it was used as the high-point of one of the Dea's first important public concert, on 25 November 1908, at the Hotel de Pologne in Leipzig, at which Planté played the solo part, in absentia, on a Meisterspiel Dea grand piano, while the accompaniment was performed on a Solodant Phonola grand, by the expert Phonolist and Dea recording producer, Fredy Prokesch.

Francis Planté (1839-1934) - from Hupfeld roll label, Leipzig, 1912.

Divided as it is into several sections according to musical style, the Dea catalogue's distinction between "classical" and "modern and parlor" music is at first sight rather strange to a 21st-century reader; Brahms counts as modern, while Liszt on the whole does not, and Giovanni Sgambati, who died in 1914, is treated as a classicist, whereas that unlikely champion of contemporary music, Johann Strauss, stands by contrast in the modern section. Perhaps these are merely slips of the pen from the hands of individual recording producers, but we do well to remember how transitory our perspectives of music can be in the long term. One may search without any success at all for Mahler or Bruckner, regarded nowadays as the highest peaks to which young conductors can aspire!

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Hupfeld DEA Instruments
Initially designed as an interior player in an upright Rönisch piano, the DEA was subsequently installed into Rönisch, Blüthner, Grotrian-Steinweg, Lipp and Schiedmayer grands, and was also available as a push-up, or Vorsetzer, with felt-covered fingers operating on the keyboard of a normal piano. The illustration below comes from a catalogue of the French piano firm, Pleyel, with which Hupfeld entered into a contract shortly before the First World War, resulting in a brand of instrument known as the DEA-Pleyela.

DEA-Pleyela Push-up, Leipzig/Paris, c. 1913.

Hupfeld upright pianos, based typically on Rönisch models, were remarkably substantial creations, with much of the internal workings overflowing at the back of the piano case. The lady in the advertisement below is perhaps not drawn to scale, giving the impression that the piano is more compact than was actually the case. It is often remarked that, given the choice between using one screw or a hundred, Hupfeld always chose the hundred, and the construction of DEA upright pianos is no exception!

The Hupfeld DEA, Upright Model (with listener) - Leipzig, Germany, 1907 onwards.

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