Grand piano by Johann Fritz, Vienna, c1815

Compass: FF - f ''''
Viennese action.
Pedals for una corda / due corde, moderator, dampers and ‘janissary’ effects.
Kneelever for faggotzug (bassoon effect).

Grand Piano by Fritz

Distinctive in appearance, the pianos of Johnann Fritz represent an aesthetic high-point in 19th century Viennese taste and are decorated in a style that was relatively short-lived. The exterior of the instrument is veneered in figured mahogany and much of its interior is veneered in contrasting alder. The keywell is ebonised, which lends similar contrast to the gilded ormolu mounts, and the tapered legs supporting the instrument are decorated with gilded limewood mouldings carved in the form of acanthus leaves. The instrument’s lavish appearance is reinforced by its numerous expressive capabilities, which include ‘janissary’ (Turkish infantryman) bells and a drum. Other pedals operate una corda / due corde (that shifts the key frame and action so that the hammers strike fewer unison stings), moderator (which introduces a strip of cloth between the hammers and the strings to soften the tone) and damper-lift. A kneelever operates the faggottzug or ‘bassoon’ effect, lowering a roll of paper onto the strings to create a buzzing sound reminiscent of the arpichordium stop or ‘bray’ of some earlier plucked-string keyboard instruments, which comprised a batten fitted with metal hooks that could be made to buzz against the strings. These features represent almost the fullest range of mutational devices found in historical pianos, for which the instruments of Fritz are noteworthy. The lightly constructed action and shallow depth of touch are reminiscent of the earlier Viennese school and permit very precise articulation, whilst a heavier stringing, robust structure and large compass of notes render the instrument capable of greater sonority and brilliance.

I have never felt a greater pleasure than your honour’s intimation of the arrival of this piano, with which you are honouring me as a present

Beethoven to Broadwood

Johann Fritz fortepiano - c1815 Presenter : Maggie Cole