23 · Grand Piano

Full Description

American, 19th century
By Steinway & Sons, New York, 1867

Compass: seven octaves and four notes: AAA to c’’’’.
Length 257.2 cm; width 143.5 cm; depth of case 34.3 cm; octave span 16.5 cm
String scale: c’’ = 33.4 cm

The nameboard is stenciled: “Steinway & Sons. / Patent Grand. / New York.” The serial number “13457 is stamped on the pinblockThe case is veneered with rosewood and is supported by three massive carved legsThe tension of the strings is born by Steinways patented complete cast iron frame with fanned overstringing.   The instrument is single-strung from aaa to dd#; duple strung from EE to GG; and triple strung from GG# to c’’’’.  The mechanism is the repetition action. The hammers are covered with feltThere are two pedals: the left shifts the action to the right (una corda); the right raises the dampers. [Survives in playing condition]

Henry Engelhard Steinway emigrated from his native Germany to New York in 1850.  He and three of his sons worked briefly for American makers and then established their own firm in 1853.  Their instruments made an immediate impression for their quality, and what is more remarkable, they showed a complete assimilation of the most advanced aspects of American piano-making. The Steinways vigorous programs of experimentation and innovation resulted in a series of important patents. More important still, their instruments caught the imagination of performing artists and the public alike.

Steinway shared with Chickering and Sons an epochal victory at the Universal Exhibition at Paris in 1867, the year this instrument was made.  The triumph of the American system of piano building was complete and was a shocking revelation to Europeans of the “coming of age of American art and industrySubsequently, European firms were obliged to imitate the American advances to survive.  The Steinways success allowed them to expand, which they did with a mastery of business and industrial practices equal to their superiority in design and craftsmanship. Perhaps the most eloquent testimony to the Steinway firms accomplishments is that this instrument built in 1867 is essentially the modern piano. No major developments in its evolution have taken place in nearly a century-and-a-half since.

The Estate of Susan Dwight Bliss
Accession No. 4993.1964

Musical Example:

Dorothy and Nicholas Renouf performing Pas Espagnole from Dolly Suite, by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, 23 February 1986