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Article

Michael Sayer

English firm of organ builders. It was established in Leeds in 1869 by Isaac Abbott, who had worked for 20 years with William Hill in London. William Stanwix Smith, also a former Hill employee, was the firm’s manager until Abbott retired, in 1889; thereafter Smith and Abbott’s son continued the firm, which subsequently passed to Smith’s sons and grandson. In 1964 the firm was sold to its foreman, J.H. Horsfall, and in 1975 it moved to the premises of Wood Wordsworth & Co. Up to 1964, Abbott & Smith built or rebuilt hundreds of organs throughout Britain, including some 250 in Yorkshire, and more than 60 around Leeds. James Jepson Binns was head voicer from 1875 until 1880. Their earlier instruments, using mechanical action through the 1880s, have a robust singing quality suited to Yorkshire Methodist congregations, though several were in town halls, including those in Leeds and Ryde. Their organ for St Mark’s, Manningham, had four manuals and 48 speaking stops. The firm also built organs in St Albans Cathedral (...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

German firm of piano hammer manufacturers. Helmut Abel GmbH was founded in 1982 in Frickhausen by Helmut Abel (b Sonneberg, Thüringen, 6 July 1936), who had earlier worked for Renner. His son Norbert (b Schalkau, Thüringen, 24 March 1957) has managed finances, marketing, and research since the beginning. In 1985 the business name was changed to Abel Hammer Company. Helmut Abel’s younger son, Frank (b Wernau, Baden-Württemberg, 21 Sept 1963), joined the firm in 1986. In 1993 the company moved to a larger facility in Frankenhardt. After Helmut’s retirement as technical manager, in 2001, Frank assumed that position. Norbert’s son Alexander (b Ruit, Baden-Württemberg, 14 March 1990) completed an apprenticeship as a piano technician and in 2001 entered a course to become a piano master, with the intention of joining the firm after completion.

The firm makes piano hammers based on historical methods, yet employing modern technology for consistent quality. Abel also restores and duplicates hammer parts and recovers original hammer heads, using an old Dolge hammer press imported in ...

Article

Adams  

James Holland

Dutch manufacturer of percussion instruments. Adams Musical Instruments was established at the end of the 1960s by André Adams at Thorn in the Netherlands. Adams has become one of the leading percussion manufacturers in the world. Its list of products range from lightweight, low-priced pedal timpani designed for schools and bands, through to top of the range professional timpani and concert marimbas. A great deal of thought is given to the adaptability and portability of the instruments, as well as to their quality. For example, playing height of their keyboard instruments is adjustable, and their tubular bells may be adjusted both for height and range. In the contemporary world of percussion these refinements are invaluable for the player. Adams now manufactures timpani, xylophones, marimbas, tubular bells, bell plates, concert bass drums, temple blocks and a range of sticks....

Article

Barbara Owen

French firm of reed organ makers. It was founded in 1829 by Jacob Alexandre (b Paris, 1804; d Paris, 11 June 1876) for the manufacture of accordions; in 1834 he exhibited a small reed organ (two sets of reeds) in Paris. With the purchase in 1841 and 1845 of reed organ patents (among them percussion and prolongement effects) from Alexandre Martin of Provins, the firm soon became one of the leading harmonium makers in the country, although their instruments were first called ‘orgue-mélodium’ to avoid conflict with the patents of A.-F. Debain. These early instruments had four sets of reeds, a five-octave keyboard, couplers, a Grand Jeu, and an Expression stop which bypassed the reservoir to allow control of intensity through the blowing treadles. The firm was awarded a bronze medal for the instrument in the Paris exposition of 1844; this was the first of many awards, including gold medals and culminating in grand prizes in Brussels (...

Article

Hans Klotz, Umberto Pineschi and Lorenzo Ghielmi

Italian family of organ builders, composers and musicians. They were active from the last decades of the 15th century to the second half of the 17th. A Lorenzo Antegnati and his son Giovanni, a lawyer, established themselves in Brescia, coming from Lodi, assuming citizenship on 17 February 1431.

Hans Klotz and Umberto Pineschi

Giovanni’s son Bartolomeo (d 1501, called ‘magister Bartholomeus de Lumesanis’ probably because he had his shop in Lumezzane) was the first organ builder of the family, and was organist at Brescia Cathedral. He worked on organs at S Maria Maggiore and S Pietro de Dom, Brescia (1484), Milan Cathedral (the small organ, 1489–91); S Maria Maggiore, Bergamo (1496–8); S Lorenzo Maggiore, Milan (1498), and Albino, near Bergamo (1501).

Bartolomeo’s son Gian Battista (b 1490; d before 1560) was a highly regarded organist, while Gian Giacomo (...

Article

Barbara Owen

American firm of organ builders. Carl Barckhoff (b Wiedenbrück, Westphalia, Germany, 1849; d Basic, VA, April 16, 1919) was trained as an organ builder in Germany, presumably by his father, Felix (d 1878), and emigrated with his father and brother Lorenz to the USA, where they established a family firm, Felix Barckhoff & Sons, in Philadelphia about 1865. In 1878 the firm, under Carl’s direction, moved to near Pittsburgh and in 1881 to Salem, Ohio, where 54 workers were employed by 1889. The firm moved in 1895 to Mendelssohn (now Clairton), Pennsylvania, and after a fire in 1897 to Latrobe, Pennsylvania; in 1900 it moved again, to Pomeroy, Ohio, where Carl Barckhoff married about 1907. Following bankruptcy in 1908, a final move was made in 1913 to Basic, Virginia, where factories were built to make both church and theatre organs (including self-playing models). Reportedly, August Klann moved his organ supply business (founded in ...

Article

Bätz  

Barbara Owen and Adri de Groot

[Baetz, Baitz, Beets, Beetz, Betz]

Firm of organ builders of German origin, active in the Netherlands. The first organ builder of the family was Johann Heinrich Hartmann Bätz (b Frankenroda, nr Eisenach, 1 January, 1709; d Utrecht, 13 December 1770). Having learned cabinet making, Johann Heinrich was apprenticed to the organ builder J.C. Thielemann in Gotha for four years starting in 1729. In 1733 he joined the organ workshop of Christiaan Müller in the Dutch Republic and helped to build the organ in the Bavokerk of Haarlem. In 1739 he settled in Utrecht as an independent organ builder. His work shows many similarities with the work of Müller in its cases, pipes and mechanisms. He built at least 16 new organs, many of them quite large, with two to three manuals. The most significant instruments are: Grote Kerk, Gorinchem (1760; rebuilt by Witte), Evangelische Lutherse Kerk, The Hague (1761–2), Hoorn, Oosterkerk, (...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Australian piano firm founded by Octavius Beale (b Mountmellick, Co. Laois, Ireland, 23 Feb 1850; d Stroud, New South Wales, Australia, 16 Dec 1930). Beale came to Australia with his family in 1854. Having been sent back to Ireland for schooling, he returned and was working in a hardware store in Melbourne at age 16. Later he became a partner with Hugo Wertheim in a hardware business that imported sewing machines and German upright pianos. In 1884 he moved to Sydney to set up Beale & Co. Ltd, importing pianos labelled ‘Hapsburg Beale’. In 1893, in Sydney, he established the first piano factory in Australia. In 1902 he opened a new factory at 47 Trafalgar St, Annandale, which became the largest piano factory in the southern hemisphere, employing more than 300 skilled workmen by 1907. The firm also made sewing machines and exported veneers.

Beale & Co. emphasised that their pianos were built to withstand hostile climates and kept quality high and costs low through the use of local skilled labour, Australian timbre, and making most components on site. They promoted the tuning stability and longevity of pianos with their ‘all-iron tuning system’, also known as the Beale–Vader tuning system, patented in ...

Article

Cyril Ehrlich

German firm of piano makers. Friedrich Wilhelm Carl Bechstein (d Gotha, 1 June 1826; d Berlin, 6 March 1900), who founded the firm in 1853 in Berlin, served his apprenticeship with the Perau firm in Berlin, becoming foreman at the age of 22. He left in 1852 to work under Pape and Kriegelstein in Paris, and returned to Berlin the next year to start his own small business. Three years later he attracted considerable attention with his first grand, which was inaugurated by Bülow with a performance of the Liszt Sonata. Success at the 1862 London exhibition and the more important 1867 Paris exhibition consolidated a fast-growing reputation. Output was expanded vigorously, from 300 instruments a year during the 1860s to 1000 a decade later, 3000 during the 1890s and 5000 in the years preceding World War I.

Large-scale production and extensive use of machinery did not preclude the maintenance of consistently high standards. Bechstein’s concert grands were preferred by most leading pianists in Europe, and the firm’s smaller grands (notably the ...

Article

Margaret Cranmer

Russian firm of piano makers. Jakob Becker (Yakov Davidovich Bekker) (b Neustadt an der Haardt; d St Petersburg, 1879) founded a small workshop in St Petersburg in 1841, which was taken over by his brother Franz Davidovich 20 years later. The Russian piano industry developed later and on a smaller scale than the European, and several Germans played a large part in establishing the industry at St Petersburg. Becker became one of the best and most successful piano manufacturers, although its output was lower than that of contemporary English, American or German firms, producing 200 pianos in 1868, 400 in 1878, and 900 annually in the 1880s when 240 workmen were employed. The firm made 11,400 pianos between 1841 and 1891; the concert grands were used by leading virtuosos, including Anton Rubinstein, whose piano (no.4009) is still in his country home. It had been the custom until that time for foreign artists to take their own instruments with them on Russian tours, but the quality of Becker’s grand pianos made this unnecessary. Becker adopted the principal improvements introduced by European and American makers, including the American system of cross-stringing; in ...

Article

Nicholas Thistlethwaite

English firm of organ builders. It was founded about 1794 by Henry Bevington, who had worked as a journeyman for Robert Gray (see Gray & Davison before establishing his own business in Greek Street, Soho, London. Bevington took over John Snetzler's old premises in Rose Yard (used by Ohrmann & Nutt after Snetzler's time) a few years later. He was succeeded by his four sons, Henry (b 1813), Alfred (b 1817), Martin (b ?1821) and Charles (b 1823), and the business later descended to a grandson, Lewis H. Bevington (c1859–1938). It was acquired by Hill, Norman & Beard in 1950.

The firm's early success was in the manufacture of barrel organs and small church instruments. They later became more ambitious, building a 30-stop organ for St Mary's Catholic Chapel, Moorfields, London (c1830), with duplication of the open and stopped diapasons, principal and trumpet on the Great and inclusion of a double in the Swell Organ. A number of other large instruments followed including a 41-stop concert organ for the Mechanics' Hall, Nottingham (...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Synthesizer module manufacturer founded by John Blacet (b 1946) in 1978 as Blacet Music Research in Lakeview, Oregon. Blacet initially made kits for analogue modules including a digital pattern generator, a voltage-controlled clock with event arranger, a phase filter, and a frequency divider, followed by analogue delay modules, the ‘Dark Star’ (a mini noise module) and the ‘Syn-bow’, a self-contained wand-controlled synthesizer. With the popularity of digital synthesizers in the 1980s Blacet’s business plummeted, but renewed interest in analogue synthesis in the 1990s enabled him to produce a full line of kit and assembled analogue synthesizer modules in the Frac format. These modules are noted for fitting a large amount of functionality into very small modules. In spring ...

Article

Margaret Cranmer

German firm of piano makers. Julius Blüthner (b Falkenhain, nr Leipzig, 11 March 1824; d Leipzig, 13 April 1910) began working as a cabinet maker. After working for Hölling and Spangenburg (piano makers) in Zeitz, he started his own small business in Leipzig in 1853, building grand pianos with the assistance of three men and a boy. He patented his ‘repetition action’ after his success at the 1854 Munich Industrial Exhibition. In 1864 he began making upright pianos. He expanded his business as he won prizes and medals at various exhibitions and attracted orders from royalty. He strove constantly to refine his instruments and this work culminated in the 1873 patent for the aliquot scaling of grand pianos. This added a fourth, sympathetic (‘aliquot’) string to each trichord group in the treble to enrich the piano's weakest register by enhancing the overtone spectrum of the instrument. The Aliquot...

Article

Enrico Weller

German brass instrument manufacturer in Graslitz (Kraslice), Czech Republic. Births and deaths (below) occurred in Graslitz unless otherwise indicated. The company was founded on 28 July 1870 by Gustav Bohland (b 13 Feb 1825; d 19 March 1886), who was an independent brass instrument maker from 1850, and the merchant Martin Fuchs (b Hirschenstand, 17 March 1830; d 13 March 1893). In 1886 Martin Fuchs became sole owner of the company, followed by his sons Johann (b 26 Nov 1852; d Meran, 29 April 1905) and Hermann (b 8 Sept 1856; d 1921), and later by his grandchildren Karl (b 25 Feb 1884; d Waiblingen, 29 May 1964) and Adolf (b 7 July 1889; d Waiblingen, 12 April 1969). In 1945 the factory was expropriated and in 1948 became part of the Czechoslovak state enterprise ‘Amati’. Attempts to rebuild the company in West Germany (Neustadt/Aisch) failed in ...

Article

Leon Botstein

Austrian firm of piano makers. Ignaz Bösendorfer (b Vienna, 28 July 1796; d Vienna, 14 April 1859) founded the firm in 1828 after an apprenticeship with Joseph Brodmann. He recognized the need for an instrument that could respond to the demands for volume and pitch stability made by the virtuosos of the 1830s. In a legendary incident only a Bösendorfer piano survived an evening of Liszt's playing. In 1830 Bösendorfer received the first ‘kaiserlich und königlich’ designation granted to a piano maker. The firm reached its technological zenith and greatest fame under Ignaz's son Ludwig (b Vienna, 15 April 1835; d Vienna, 9 May 1919), who trained with his father. Ludwig's patents from the early 1860s concentrated on improvements to the Viennese action. He was staunchly conservative on issues of piano design, resisting the innovations made by Steinway and Chickering between the 1860s and the 1890s in both the use of metal and the technique of framing. Ludwig moved and expanded the factory but retained an artisan system of production. The output between the 1860s and ...

Article

Margaret Cranmer

English firm of piano manufacturers. John Brinsmead (b Weare Giffard, Devon, 13 Oct 1814; d London, 17 Feb 1908) founded the firm in Windmill Street, London, in 1835. His sons Thomas James Brinsmead (d London, 9 Nov 1906) and Edgar Brinsmead (b London, March 1848; d London, 28 Nov 1907) became partners in 1863, when the firm took new premises in Wigmore Street. The firm became a limited company in 1900, by which time annual production totalled 2000 pianos. Following John Brinsmead’s death, the firm was run by his grandson Henry Billinghurst until a long strike in 1920 led the firm into receivership and Walter Saville, a director of J.B. Cramer & Co., purchased the controlling interest in the firm for £4000 in 1921. Manufacture of the Brinsmead and Cramer pianos continued until 1964, when the firm was bought out by Kemble & Co, which retains the title purely as a brand name....

Article

Michael Sayer

English firm of organ builders. In 1868 the Bryceson brothers acquired the sole rights to use Charles Spackman Barker’s practical electric organ mechanisms in England, and the same year the firm, based in London, built organs with electric key action at Drury Lane Theatre, Christ Church, Camberwell, St Michael Cornhill and St George’s, Tufnell Park. The Camberwell instrument was first used at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester Cathedral, where the organ was placed in the south aisle and its console in the orchestra. The firm also supplied an instrument for the Three Choirs Festival in 1869 in Worcester Cathedral, where it was placed on the chorus platform in front of the west window, with the console next to the conductor. Bryceson Brothers was taken over by Alfred Kirkland some time after 1874, and the combined business was later absorbed by Hill, Norman & Beard. A contemporary account is given in ‘Electric Organ’, ...

Article

René Pierre

Wind instrument makers of Strasbourg. [Life data refer to Strasbourg unless noted.] Jean (Johannes) II Keller (1710–78) was admitted as a turner in the corporation of carpenters in 1736. His three sons were woodwind makers. Jean III Keller (b 14 Dec 1737; d 1785), his first son, was described as ‘Instrumentenmacher’ at his marriage in 1765 and upon the births of his four children. He used the mark ‘[fleur de lis] / KELLER / A STRASBOURG’. Isaac Keller (b 26 Jan 1740; d 11 June 1802), the second son, was received into the corporation of carpenters in 1785, at the death of his brother Jean III. He joined the third son, Jean Philippe Keller (b 10 Nov 1743; d 1 July 1794) by 1790 to create a new partnership, marking their instruments ‘[angel trumpeter] / LES / FRERES/ KELLER’. Etienne Ozi (...

Article

Challen  

Margaret Cranmer

English firm of piano makers. Thomas Butcher (fl 1804–47) started making pianos at 41 Great Titchfield Street, London, in 1804. William Challen (d London, 1861) was associated with Butcher from 1816, and by 1839 the firm had become Challen and Hollis. William’s son Charles went into partnership with (?Charles) Hodgson but when C.H. Challen joined, the firm became Challen and Son. They won a reputation for good-quality pianos at moderate prices. In World War I part of the firm’s woodworking machinery was commandeered and it was allowed to produce only four pianos a week. This led it to continue making relatively few models, thereby economizing in the range of machinery and raw materials required. Since the 1930s over 180 Challen pianos, from large concert grand pianos to small studio uprights have been used in BBC studios. Challen specialized in small grand pianos, and made the smallest on the market (122 cm long). The firm was acquired in ...

Article

Clavia  

Brandon Smith

[Clavia Digital Musical Instruments AB]

Swedish producer of virtual analogue synthesizers and digital organ and electric piano emulations. The company was founded in 1983 in Stockholm by Hans Nordelius (b1949) and Mikael Carlsson, and it sells its products under the brand name Nord. Clavia’s first product, the Digital Percussion Plate 1, introduced in 1983, developed into the ‘ddrum’ series of digital drum synthesizers. In 1995 Clavia produced its first keyboard synthesizer, a virtual analogue called the Nord Lead. Two years later Clavia developed a hardware synthesizer with a computer interface called the Nord Modular, which was fully patchable via the supplied editor software. In 2001, Clavia released the Nord Electro line of performance-oriented keyboards featuring realistic emulations of classic electromechanical instruments such as the Rhodes piano and Clavinet plus a virtual Hammond tonewheel organ. The Electro series (now in its second version) is used by many performing groups. The double-manual Nord C1 (introduced in ...