17 · Pyramid Piano

Full Description

Austrian, 19th century
By C. Mueller, Vienna, ca. 1820

Compass: six octaves and one note: FF to f’’’’
Height 230.5 cm; width 113.0 cm; depth 53.5 cm; octave span 15.9 cm
String scale: c’’ = 28.0 cm

A wooden plaque at the center of the nameboard is inscribed: “C. Müller. Wien”.   The case is veneered with bird’s-eye maple and is surmounted by a carved swan painted black, with gilt highlights.  The front elevation above the keyboard is covered with a veneered lattice backed with painted cloth. The mechanism is a vertical configuration of the Viennese action (hängende Prellmechanik).  The hammers are covered with leather.  The natural keys are covered with ebony, the sharps with ivory. There are three pedals which (left to right) raise the dampers; shift the keyboard to the left (una corda); raise the dampers; activate a “piano stop” (moderator).

The mechanism of an upright piano has never been as responsive as that of a horizontal, “grand” instrument.  Nevertheless, Vienna was a crowded city in the early 19th century, and uprights were suited to its often cramped apartments. Simply turning the curved case of a grand piano on end resulted in the so-called Giraffenflügel  (giraffe piano), while an oblique orientation of the string band allowed the tallest part of the case to be located in the center, as in the symmetrically designed cases of the Pyramidenflügel  and the Lyraflügel. In the second quarter of the century, these dramatic designs were superseded by the smaller rectangular upright instruments known as “pianinos,” which were considerably less expensive and more portable.

Gift of Morris Steinert                          
Accession No. 4994.1900