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Forty - Siena Piano

The Siena Piano, also called the Immortal Piano and the Harp of King David, is a piano constructed at the beginning of the 19th century that became famous in the 1950s for its remarkable sound and its unusual history. In 1799, Sebastian Marchisio, a harpsichord maker in Turin, Italy began constructing the piano, but died before it was completed. Following the defeat of the Germans by the British in the Battle of El Alamein, 1942, the British found the piano, all plastered up, in a desert in North Africa. Pianist Pnina Salzman gave the first public recital of the Siena piano in Israel, a concert organized under the sponsorship of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, on the day of the declaration of Israel's independence. Marie-Jose de Savoia, after listening to the piano, gave her patronage for the piano to be played at a concert for the United Nations International Year of the Child in Jerusalem. The finishing touches and decorations on the piano were put on by Sebastian Marchisio's great-grandson, one of Italy's most famous craftsmen at the time, Nicomedo Ferri and a cousin. On the lid the creators of the piano are written in Italian - Fratelli Marchisio, Turino and Bartalozzi e Ferri, Siena. Artur Schnabel said this is the story of a "pianoman extraordinary, simply falling in love with the King's piano".
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Forty - Siena Piano

Siena Piano
The Siena piano in 1868
Other namesImmortal Piano
Harp of King David
Classification Chordophone
Related instruments
Piano, Fortepiano
Musicians
Camille Saint-Saëns, Franz Liszt, Charles Rosen[1]

The Siena Piano, also called the Immortal Piano and the Harp of King David, is a piano constructed at the beginning of the 19th century[1] that became famous in the 1950s for its remarkable sound and its unusual history. Its timbre is similar to both a piano and a harpsichord. Legend has it that it was partially built with wood from the pillars of the Temple of Solomon, because of its excellent sound and it being the spiritual descendant of the Harp of David.[2][3][4] Most critics say it is best for playing Mozart, Scarlatti and Debussy.[5]

History

In 1799, Sebastian Marchisio, a harpsichord maker in Turin, Italy began constructing the piano, but died before it was completed.

His family completed the first build and it was later given as a wedding gift to Marchisio's granddaughter. Several modifications later it appeared at the Paris World's Fair in 1867. It was then given as a wedding present by the city of Siena to the future king Umberto I of Italy, after which it fell into Nazi possession.[5][6]

Following the defeat of the Germans by the British in the Battle of El Alamein, 1942, the British found the piano, all plastered up, in a desert in North Africa.[7] It was then used by some British entertainers who toured camps and sang for the wounded. It found a home at a Tel Aviv piano workshop belonging to Avner Carmi Yanowsky by way of an Israeli merchant.[8]

Carmi renovated the piano and he tried it out with several renowned musicians on tour in Israel. Pianist Pnina Salzman gave the first public recital of the Siena piano in Israel, a concert organized under the sponsorship of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, on the day of the declaration of Israel's independence.[3] The piano then toured Europe finally finding its way to the United States, where it was shown at Steinway Hall and used for recordings.[5] During this time the piano was extensively repaired again and again, the ancient crumbling sounding board giving way due to its age. During these times Sohmer Piano Company also decided to help Carmi with the repairs for over a year.[9] Marie-Jose de Savoia, after listening to the piano, gave her patronage for the piano to be played at a concert for the United Nations International Year of the Child in Jerusalem.[3][10]

Carmi and his wife wrote a book about the piano titled The Immortal Piano. His daughter finally sold it in 1996 to a private collector for $1 million.[11][5] The most recent owner, who lived in the town of Caesarea, put the instrument up for auction in 2020.[3][6][1]

Description

The Siena piano is an upright piano with dual pedals whose wood carvings are characteristic of early 19th century Italy.[5] The finishing touches and decorations on the piano were put on by Sebastian Marchisio's great-grandson, one of Italy's most famous craftsmen at the time, Nicomedo Ferri and a cousin. They engraved laughing, dancing, playing cherubs and other designs such as harps, pipes, faces and lions.[5] Portraits of Händel, Mozart, Aretino, Cherubini and Gluck were also made.[12] The front face of the underbody has a bas-relief panel decorated with arabesques with a large laurel wreath in the middle of which is a harp of David surrounded by two griffins.[13] On the lid the creators of the piano are written in Italian - Fratelli Marchisio, Turino and Bartalozzi e Ferri, Siena.[14]

Lazare Lévy said of the piano after performing a recital with it, "This is the most astonishing piano I have come across. The works of Couperin and Scarlatti sound as if they had been written especially for the Siena piano. And playing Bach and Mozart is much more interesting than any other piano I've ever played on..."[15] American conductor and radio host David Randolph agreed that the piano sounds like a harpsichord at times and at other times like a lute, harp or guitar.[5] Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos said "I love the Immortal Piano, its sound and story equally".[5] Artur Schnabel said this is the story of a "pianoman extraordinary, simply falling in love with the King's piano".[9]

Recordings

  • The Siena Pianoforte, 1955, six sonatas by Scarlatti and two sonatas by Mozart performed by Charles Rosen, label Counterpoint/ Esoteric, Everest Records Production, CPT 3000/ 53000 (1958), Boston Skyline BSD 131 (1995).[16]
  • Bach on the Siena Pianoforte, 1956, five compositions by Bach including the Chaconne transcribed by Busoni, interpreted by Anatole Kitain, label Counterpoint/ Esoteric, Everest Records Production, CPT 53001.[17]
  • A Recital of Spanish music on the Siena pianoforte, 1955, compositions by Albéniz, Mompou, Turina and Villa-Lobos by Marisa Regules, label Counterpoint/ Esoteric, Everest Records Production, CPT 53002.[18]
  • The Siena Pianoforte, Mozart sonatas and variations on a Gluck theme by Kathryn Deguire, Counterpoint/ Esoteric label, Everest Records Production, CPT 53004.
  • Christmas on the Siena Pianoforte, 1956, nineteen Christmas tunes including Greensleeves and Adeste Fideles interpreted by Grace Castagnella, label Counterpoint / Esoteric, Everest Records Production, CPT 53005.[19]

References

Notes

Citations

  1. ^ a b c "The Immortal Piano of Siena. Turin, Early 19th Century | Winners Auctions". Winners Auctions. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  2. ^ "221-years-old 'Immortal Piano' to go under the hammer, likely to fetch over a million dollars". The Economic Times. PTI. March 2, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2020.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ a b c d Catherine Rosenheimer (21 September 1979). The Million Dollar Piano. Heritage Florida Jewish News. Accessed on 14 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Piano Said to be Made of Wood from Jewish Temple Up for Auction". The Jewish Voice. March 7, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Ken and Noël Gilmore, (September 1960). "The Fantastic Saga of the Siena Piano". HiFi Stereo Review. p. 60–66. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Seized by Nazis, found in Israel, 'Immortal Piano' expected to fetch $1m". Times of Israel. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  7. ^ Carmi & Carmi 1960, p. 237.
  8. ^ Carmi & Carmi 1960, p. 243.
  9. ^ a b Ken and Noël Gilmore, (September 1960). The Fantastic Saga of the Siena Piano. HiFi Stereo Review. pg 66. Accessed 14 March 2020.
  10. ^ "The Immortal Piano (aka The Siena Piano)". World Piano News. January 10, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  11. ^ "'Immortal Piano' offered for sale online". Rhinegold. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  12. ^ Carmi & Carmi 1960, p. 183, 198-200.
  13. ^ Carmi & Carmi 1960, p. 184, 203.
  14. ^ Carmi & Carmi 1960, p. 274.
  15. ^ Carmi & Carmi 1960, p. 12.
  16. ^ "Charles Rosen". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  17. ^ The Siena pianoforte: Bach., Counterpoint/Esoteric, 1955, OCLC 52863222
  18. ^ Regules, Marisa; Turina, Joaquín; Albéniz, Isaac; Villa-Lobos, Heitor Prole do bebê; Mompou, Federico; Villa-Lobos, Heitor Próle do bébé (1955), A Recital of Spanish music on the Siena pianoforte, Internet Archive, retrieved March 15, 2020
  19. ^ Castagnetta, Grace (1956). Christmas on the Siena pianoforte. Los Angeles: Counterpoint/Esoteric Records.

Bibliography

  • Carmi, Avner; Carmi, Hannah (1960). The Immortal Piano. New York: Crown Publishing Group.
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