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#2320694 - Yesterday at 02:03 PM Chopin's Technician
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1381
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Folks,

Ed Foote led a very interesting and informative discussion on temperament on the pianist's forum. And it prompted a question on my part that I thought only you technicians could answer.

Who was Chopin's technician? How did he tune Chopin's piano(s)? I'm ashamed to say myself that I've never thought of this before, and I went to school and everything!

It's very likely that Chopin had a strong relationship with the instrument maker, and they provided technicians who took care of his piano in Paris....or so I would think. I have no idea how he managed on tour during that period.

What do you all think?
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2320724 - Yesterday at 03:40 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: laguna_greg]
SMHaley Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 556
Loc: Seattle
When concertizing its most likely Chopin played a number of different pianos which were taken care of domestically. During his time in Paris I believe he brought back a Broadwood, which I would imagine was maintained by such a person in town.
_________________________
AA Music Arts 2001, BM 2005
Pipe Organ Builder
Practitioner of piano technology
Church Music Professional
Curator of instruments - Chancel Arts
Baldwin F 1960 (146256)
Zuckermann Flemish Single

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#2320743 - Yesterday at 04:48 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: laguna_greg]
Ed Sutton Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/12/13
Posts: 41
In England his technician was Alex Hipkins, head technician of Broadwood.
Hipkins was a strong proponent of equal temperament, and also a fine musician and musicologist, performing Chopin's music at a time when it was not well-liked in England. He also performed Bach on clavichord and harpsichord.
His daughter, Edith Hipkins, wrote a book, _How Chopin Played_, which includes diary notes from her father. They do not say anything about the tuning of Chopin's piano, but they mention that Chopin liked playing smaller pianos and old square pianos he found in patrons' houses.
So far as I know, there is no documentary evidence of Chopin's preferences in tuning and temperament.

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#2320744 - Yesterday at 04:49 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: laguna_greg]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2362
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
It was quite common for musicians to carry a crude tuning lever with them in their travels at that time when technicians were not so widespread. The larger venues of course, likely had some nearby technician, or possibly someone on loan from the piano manufacturer supllying the instrument.

I remember seeing a photograph taken by a friend of mine years ago at the Chopin museum in Warsaw; one of the displays had a crude looking iron tuning lever in it. Not sure if it was Chopins or not, but given his ability to write works at an early age and compose pieces according to key color, I would not doubt that he was able to tune to some degree, when no one else was available to do so.
_________________________
Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

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#2320796 - Yesterday at 07:11 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: laguna_greg]
SMHaley Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 556
Loc: Seattle
It seems to be a forgotten piece of history that early keyboardists tuned their instruments themselves.
_________________________
AA Music Arts 2001, BM 2005
Pipe Organ Builder
Practitioner of piano technology
Church Music Professional
Curator of instruments - Chancel Arts
Baldwin F 1960 (146256)
Zuckermann Flemish Single

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#2320801 - Yesterday at 07:24 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: laguna_greg]
Gadzar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/15/06
Posts: 1677
Loc: Mexico City
Someone, I donīt remember who, has posted here that Beethoven used to tune his piano. And by the time he was almost deaf, his piano was really out of tune and he didn't notice!

I guess he heard music with in his mind, not his ears.
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rafaelmelo@afinacionpianos.com.mx

Serving Mexico City and suburbs.

http://www.afinacionpianos.com.mx

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#2320808 - Yesterday at 07:34 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: SMHaley]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1381
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Originally Posted By: SMHaley
When concertizing its most likely Chopin played a number of different pianos which were taken care of domestically. During his time in Paris I believe he brought back a Broadwood, which I would imagine was maintained by such a person in town.


So if I understand you, Broadwood had an agent or a dealer in Paris?
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2320823 - Yesterday at 08:21 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: laguna_greg]
Ed Sutton Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/12/13
Posts: 41
The grand pianos of the mid-1800s were more difficult to stabilize and tune than modern pianos.
The monochord tuning devices, such as Blanchet and Roller's tuning scale were calibrated in equal temperament. This is not to say they worked very well, but they were not calibrated in "Victorian" temperament, the intention was ET.
Somewhere I read that Chopin had complained that his tuner had left Paris, and he could not get his piano tuned to his satisfaction - no further details.
If George Sand's report is to be believed, Chopin's piano had a magical capacity to stay in tune, or he tolerated a less than in tune piano. She claimed it was shipped from Paris to Mallorca (via ox cart, ship and ox cart) and that when the crate was opened, in was in "perfect tune."
I think it is more likely that people tolerated pianos in a wide range of out-of-tuness. We can observe today that not all great pianists have very critical ears, yet some of them make beautiful music.
Interpret what you want from the music, but the documentary evidence is not very helpful.

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#2320826 - Yesterday at 08:24 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: Ed Sutton]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1381
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Ed,

While I have a lot of respect and even liking for Mme Sand and her writing, I simply don't believe her about that.
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2320883 - Yesterday at 11:20 PM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: laguna_greg]
MarkyRich Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/28/14
Posts: 5
Loc: South Australia
Great thread, of course the early keyboardists tuned there instruments, unless they were royalty. I've had my tuning hammer cpl months now. Love it. Nowhere near changing temperament yet but watching this space closely...

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#2320900 - Today at 12:19 AM Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: laguna_greg]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21426
Loc: Oakland
I tuned for Beethoven once.

Click to reveal..
Camper van Beethoven
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2321053 - 50 minutes 50 seconds ago Re: Chopin's Technician [Re: SMHaley]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1688
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: SMHaley
It seems to be a forgotten piece of history that early keyboardists tuned their instruments themselves.


Yes, it seems so. In the early years a tuning hammer or lever was often included with the instrument. Not sure when the practice stopped but I have seen a few grands from the late 19th or early 20th century that still had the fastener on the case, (Hammers were long gone.) How many pianist-composers actually used the hammer may be unknown. Have read where some did, but do not recall which. I assume that keyboardists from JS Bach and earlier tuned their own harpsichords.


Edited by bkw58 (49 minutes 39 seconds ago)
Edit Reason: typo
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