When purchasing an old piano, one obviously wants to know as much as possible about its original piano maker. Some early fortepiano builders are still very famous today, at least among those who are interested in piano development! Two examples would be Anton Walter, who built the last fortepiano Mozart owned, and Sebastian Erard, who patented the double-escapement action in 1821.
Then, there are fortepiano makers who are famous because they produced a great number of solid instruments, which means that many of their instruments have been restored to playing condition in recent years. Pianos by Muzio Clementi, John Broadwood, Conrad Graf, Nannette Streicher and Pleyel et Cie are some examples of companies producing a high number of pianos. If you have been to an instrument museum or a piano collection, chances are that you have come across some of these.
Are pianos by lesser-known makers less good?
Finally, one comes across pianos made by people who are lesser-known today. Does that mean that their instruments are less good? Simply put: no, not necessarily! One of the best examples I know, is a stunningly beautiful fortepiano built by a certain Salvatore Lagrassa in 1815, and masterly restored by the Dutch piano restorer Edwin Beunk. I have never seen any other instrument by this builder anywhere, but still, this piano is so good that it has been used in recordings and concerts for years and years. Everyone seems to love it! But for some reason, not many of the instruments he built has ‘survived’ until now.
To be honest, I had not heard of Daniel Dörr until I got a phone call about this particular piano being for sale. I was intrigued. Who was Daniel Dörr? Could I risk buying a piano by a relatively unknown maker? Knowing about Lagrassa and several other relatively unknown makers, I was not really concerned about the celebrity factor. But I still wanted to know who he was.
So far, I have not been able to find out much, but a few crucial facts are known. Daniel Dörr was born in 1788 and died in 1837. Interestingly, he had a leading role in the workshop of Nannette Streicher, possibly after having been her student (I will tell you more about Nannette Streicher next week). Moreover, the pianos he built under his own label, were oftentimes mistaken for being made by Nannette Streicher. This can only mean that his pianos were of equal quality – which is very assuring!
The once-so-famous Daniel Dörr…
Obviously, I went to see the piano! I have to say that it exceeded my expectations. An unrestored piano can often look like a real wreck, but this one was in decent condition – although only a few notes could be played – and looked solid and sturdy. From the pictures in my last post, you can admire the beautiful craftmanship! I can really imagine a stunning musical instrument from this starting point. The coming months will be exciting, when I get to follow the restoration process. I truly hope we can get back the sound of 1830!
The last little piece of information I could dig up about Daniel Dörr, was that he was referred to as ‘the famous Daniel Dörr’ in the 1830s. Maybe we can make his famous once again? I will do my part, at least – by playing his piano as soon as it is brought back to life!
A great restoration of a Streicher 1826 piano wreck
Are you curious about how such an early piano is revived? A few years ago, Edwin Beunk & co restored a wreck of a piano made by Nannette Streicher in 1826, and documented the entire journey in this incredible video for you to watch. Enjoy! And welcome back to my blog next week to read more about the amazing woman Nannette Streicher.
(The photo in this blog post is not the name plate of my piano, but of another piano by Daniel Dörr, which was in very bad shape. Hopefully, it, too, has been restored by now!)