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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 (...

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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

Barbara Owen

American organ building firm. It was formed in 1931 when the firm of Ernest M(artin) Skinner & Co. acquired the organ department of the Aeolian Co., which had made its reputation building organs with self-playing mechanisms for private houses, changing its name to Aeolian-Skinner. In 1933 there was a reorganization in which G(eorge) Donald Harrison, who had joined Skinner in 1927, became technical director and Skinner’s activities were curtailed. In the same year Skinner, after increasing disagreement with Harrison over tonal matters, began a new company in Methuen, Massachusetts, with his son, Richmond, who had purchased the former Methuen Organ Co. factory and Serlo Hall the previous year.

During the 1930s the Aeolian-Skinner Co. continued to rise in popularity, and in 1940 Harrison became president, succeeding Arthur Hudson Marks (1874–1939), a wealthy businessman who had become its owner and president in 1919. Under Harrison the firm became a leader in the trend away from orchestral tonal practices and towards a more classical sound. It was Harrison who coined the term ‘American Classic’ to refer to this more eclectic type of tonal design. On his death, Joseph S. Whiteford (...

Article

Cynthia Adams Hoover

American firm of piano makers. Charles Albright (Albrecht by 1864) is listed in Philadelphia city directories from 1863. He was in partnership with Frederick Riekes (as Albrecht & Riekes, 1864–5), with Riekes and Richard T. Schmidt (as Albrecht, Riekes & Schmidt, 1866–74), and with Riekes and Edmund Wolsieffer (as Albrecht & Co., ...

Article

Cynthia Adams Hoover

American firm of piano makers. Charles Albright (Albrecht by 1864) is listed in Philadelphia city directories from 1863. He was in partnership with Frederick Riekes (as Albrecht & Riekes, 1864–5), with Riekes and Richard T. Schmidt (as Albrecht, Riekes & Schmidt, 1866–74), and with Riekes and Edmund Wolsieffer (as Albrecht & Co., ...

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 (...

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Article

Andover  

Barbara Owen

American firm of organ builders. It was founded in 1955 by Thomas W. Byers and Charles Brenton Fisk in North Andover, Massachusetts. It moved shortly afterwards to Methuen, Massachusetts, and in 1961 to Gloucester, Massachusetts, being renamed C.B. Fisk, Inc. A new Andover Organ Co. was formed in Methuen by two former employees, Leo Constantineau (b Lawrence, MA, 1 Nov 1924; d North Andover, MA, 1 Feb 1979) and Robert J. Reich (b Urbana, IL, 15 Dec 1929). Beginning modestly with rebuilding and restoration work, the firm soon began attracting contracts for new organs such as that for St John’s Lutheran Church, Northfield, Minnesota (1965). This organ, like several subsequent instruments, was designed by Constantineau and voiced and finished by Reich. In this same period a small continuo positive was designed, several examples of which have been built. The firm later became a multiple partnership with Robert Reich as president, Donald Olson as vice-president, and Donald Reich as treasurer. In ...

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, (...

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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 (...

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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

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’, ...

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Barbara Owen

American manufacturers of reed organs. The firm was founded circa 1846–1850 in New York by Jeremiah Carhart and Elias Parkman Needham. Carhart had previously learned the trade from George A. Prince of Buffalo, and is credited with the development of the suction bellows system that would distinguish American reed organs from their European counterparts, using the term “melodeon” to designate such instruments. Carhart’s patent of the suction system was the first on record, and for some time he was able to receive royalties from other firms using it, until competitors were able to prove that use of the suction system by others had predated his patent. He eventually patented other improvements in the design and manufacture of reed organs, and his machine for producing reed cells helped to open the door to the concept of mass production in the entire reed organ industry. Carhart & Needham manufactured both complete reed organs and reeds to sell to other makers. By ...