The Denis Condon Collection                                                                  contact
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Description
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It has taken over 50 years to assemble the 10 instruments and more than 7,000 rolls that comprise Denis Condon’s collection. All great pianists of the first 35 years of the Twentieth Century endorsed the reproducing piano as the medium of its time that could faithfully record the true technique and personality of their performances. 

“The reproducing piano renders the characteristics of the artist in the most perfect mannerl” - Giacomo Puccini, 1907.

Take a video tour of the collection* (hirez) (lorez).

Listening to these rare recordings, one hears a richness of tone and immediacy that was never .captured by early gramophone records. To hear Stravinsky, Ravel, Horowitz and others play their own music with the touch, accents and subtleties of long ago is quite astounding .... even ghostly. All works in the Denis Condon Collection are original recordings by both composers and pianists. You will be amazed by the quality and clarity of these performances which were recorded by the musicians for Ampico, Duo-Art and Welte Mignon reproducing pianos between 1904 and 1935. Not only for the historian, but for all lovers of music, the Condon Collection is an extraordinary experience.

THE WORLD’S FIRST AND EARLIEST RECORDINGS BY THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND PIANISTS. 700 MASTER PIANISTS FROM PADEREWSKI TO HOROWITZ.

The Denis Condon Collection encompasses the playing of more than seven hundred pianists. It includes, for example, every recording made by Percy Grainger for the Duo-Art piano as well as extremely rare orchestral and symphonic works as transcribed for piano.

In the 1920s customers visiting the opulent showrooms of Steinway, Bechstein or any of the great piano makers could listen to Debussy, Prokofieff or, indeed, every famous pianist of the day playing the best of their concert repertoire via the reproducing piano. The music rolls used by these pianos comprised some of the earliest recordings ever made by master musicians of the time, and these original recordings survive today because of historians such as Denis Condon.

The Denis Condon Collection is historically important for its vast representation of music from the four great piano roll manufacturers, namely: Welte Mignon (first marketed in 1904), Ampico (1911), Duo-Art (1914) and Hupfeld’s Triphonola (1919).

Artur Rubinstein said of his recordings “As the reproducing piano plays it, it seems to be that I am performing it myself.” Rachmaninoff said “The Ampico reproducing piano is superlative in its capacity to preserve beautiful tone.”

COMPARISON CONCERTS

Frequently in America and Europe the reproducing piano was heard in recital jointly with the living artists who had recorded for it. In this way, public comparison of the playing of the living pianist and its reenactment by the reproducing piano was offered for critical judgement. This observation from a music journal in 1920: “Audiences have not been able to detect the slightest difference between a great artist’s original playing, and the playing of the same composition by the reproducing piano. These comparison concerts have proved beyond any doubt that when the reproducing piano plays Liszt as recorded by Godowsky, it is exactly as if Godowsky in person sat at the piano and touched the keys with his fingers!"

“Comparison Concerts” by Godowsky and others drew wide critical acclaim.
Los Angeles Times - “Impossible to tell when Ornstein was playing with his own hands and when by means of the reproducing piano!"

New York Tribune - A listener could not have told that the piano was not actually being played by hand. The reproducing piano gave a faithful repetition of all the pianist’s moods and phrasing!" It is these remarkable original performances you will enjoy in the Denis Condon Collection CD.

Denis Condon Collection Brochure (pdf)

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About Denis Condon
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Articles about Denis and his collection
and other periphery.

Four Up, Two Down
Piano man keeping era alive
The Quest for Liszt
Master Pupils
Strauss and Stravisnky on a Roll
Music Seance with the Great
Old Instrument is Prized
Condon the Classic Collector
Three Denis (press photo)
With collection (press photo)
News Sunday Mail (press photo)
At the piano (press photo)
With Marion Arnold and Peter Egan
Complete Accord (review)
Clive Robertson Interview

* The Yamaha piano shown in the video tour
is not part of the Denis Condon Collection.

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Artists
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Percy Grainger (above) was a strong advocate for the reproducing piano, the high fidelity recording instrument of its time. Here are some of his recordings.





"THE GREATEST WONDER IN AN AGE OF WONDERS!" Sergei Rachmaninoff

 Rachmaninoff and all noted pianists of his time endorsed the reproducing piano. The “reproducing piano" was, in practice, a highly sophisticated version of the foot pumped player piano or pianola. It was installed by the great piano makers into their upright and grand models*, which were in no way compromised when played by hand.

The brilliance of the invention was its use of special paper rolls coded to operate the sustaining and soft pedals of the piano as well as the striking force of individual keys. The rolls, and an ingenious system of pneumatics, enabled the device to reproduce on its host piano an artist’s playing as perfectly as though his hands were on the keys. The device was a sensation with great musicians of the day such as Paderewski and Horowitz who publicly endorsed the rolls they made for the reproducing piano as being exact and true copies of their masterly playing. Steinway, Bechstein, Bosendorfer and other world class manufacturers soon included the invention in their famous pianos whilst Ampico, Duo-Art and Welte Mignon - makers of the most popular reproducing piano systems - competed fiercely to place under contract major musicians such as Hofmann, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Rubinstein, de Pachniann and Grainger. Hardly a renowned composer or pianist from the first 25 years of this century failed to make a recording for the reproducing piano. It is these rare and original performances which are brought to you in the Condon Collection. “With the reproducing piano the technique and touch, and all the personality of the artist’s interpretation are most faithfully rendered.“ - Artur Schnabel, 1905.

*ln its earliest fomat the device was installed in a separate cabinet and placed before the piano to play the keyboard with felt covered "fingers".


WHAT THE ARTIST HAD TO SAY
ABOUT THE REPRODUCING PIANO

“How deeply affecting it is to hear one’s own playing rendered with the utmost perfection... My art will be transmitted to posterity." EUGEN D' ALBERT, 1913

“... an invention quite important and wonderful for the skilled musician."
FERRUCCIO BUSONI, 1905

"lt is impossible to attain a greater perfection of reproduction than that of the reproducing piano. I am astonished!" CLAUDE DEBUSSEY, 1913

"My recordings ...are true portraits of my playing!" ERNST VON DOHNANYI, 1906

"...an artist can, for the first time, hear his own playing exactly reproduced!" OSSIP GABRILOWITSCH, 1905

“...an ingenious invention. It has struck me with admiration." EDVARD GREIG, 1906

“I am astounded ...  and join all the admiration and praise for this instrument!" GUSTAV MAHLER, 1905

“...reproduces the living soul of the artist, and has not an equal" VLADIMIR DE PACHMANN, 1906

“...an instrument of immense effect and great artistic importance!" IGNACE PADEREWSK|, 1906

“...renders the characteristics of the artist in the most perfect manner." GIACOMO PUCCINI, 1907

“...all the personality of the artist's interpretation is most faithfully rendered." ARTUR SCHNABEL, 1905

“My recordings... possess the quality of flawless re-enactment." LEOP0LD GODOWSKY, 1916

"Hearing the great pianists on the reproducing piano, I detect therein those minute details which individualise their interpretations."
JOSEF LHEVINNE, 1927

"I have played my own works for the reproducing piano because of its absolute faithfulness and capacity to preserve beautiful tone painting." SERGEI RACHMANINOFF, 1919

“As the reproducing piano plays my ‘Triana' it seems, really, that I am performing it myself!" ARTUR RUBINSTEIN, 1918

“The reproducing piano is genuinely artistic in its rendering and I am delighted to perpetuate my works in this way." RICHARD STRAUSS, 1906

“The reproducing piano reproduces my playing exactly!" PERCY GRAINGER, 1925

The original recordings on piano roles by these composers and pianists, the high definition recording instrument of the early 20th Century, are held in the Denis Condon Collection.



THE FOLLOWING ARTISTS CAN BE HEARD
IN THE CONDON COLLECTION


MISCHA LEVITSKI ~ ARTUR SCHNABEL ~ FRITZ KREISLER ~ JOSEF LHEVINNE
~ TERESA CARRENO ~ CARL FRIEDBERG ~ RUGGIERO LEONCAVALLO ~ RICHARD STRAUSS - ALFRED REISENAUER ~ BELA BARTOK ~ ALEXANDER GLAZOUNOFF ~ RICHARD BUHLIG ~ MARIA CARRERAS ~ MANUEL DE FALLA ~ WALTER GIESEKING ~ ERNEST SCHELLING ~ MORIZ ROSENTHAL.
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Collection
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Instruments: The Denis Condon Collection includes the following reproducing pianos.

~ Keyboardless Steinway Welte
Mignon (red),
view1, view2

~ Marshall & Wendell Ampico
(model A),
view1
, view2
~ Duo-Art vorsetzer (push-up),
view1, view2
~ Rönisch Hupfeld Animatic
Phonoliszt Tri-Phonola,
view
~ Behning Artecho, view
~ Steinway Welte Mignon (red) with Welte Mignon vorsetzer (green/licensee),
view1, view2

A Chickering Ampico (model B) and
Ampico vorsetzer (model A) are also part of the collection and not pictured above.

See the ANU Condon Collection
brochure for a complete list.



Piano Rolls: The Denis Condon Collection consists of over 8000 piano rolls exquisitely preserved. Here are some photos.

one, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
eleven, twelve, thirteen,
fourteen, fifteen, sixteen,
seventeen,
eighteen, nineteen,
twenty,
twentyone, twentytwo,
twentythree, twentyfour,
twentyfive,
twentysix,
twentyseven, twentyeight,
twentynine, thirty, thirtyone,
 
thirtytwo, thirtythree,
thirtyfour,
 
thirtyfive.  


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Articles: Miscellaneous press coverage. Some pdf examples follow.

The Player Piano
The Dead Pianist Society
Dusty Rolls of Music History
Dr Frankenstein
The Siena Piano
Master Pupils
The MIDI-Compatible Piano
Musical Seance
Rave from the Grave
Old Instrument is a Prized...
Paderewski Cartoon
Piano Man...
The Quest for Liszt Means
Strauss, Stravinsky
Recording the Soul...
Time Magazine, 1963
Cofinanced Project for Radio



Booklets: Print and ad materials for
 Ampico, Duo-Art and Pianola.
Examples follow.


AudioGraphic Music
The Ampico
Supremacy of the Ampico
The Condon Collection
Duo-Art, August, 1927
Duo-Art, July,1927
Duo-Art, May, 1927
The Flowered Path for Children
The World's Supreme Artists
What the Duo-Art Means
Wonder of AudioGraphic



.Technical Manuals: An array of mechanical instrument reference materials. Here are some of them.

Player-Piano Mechanisms
Tubing Diagrams
Tubing Charts for Welte Mignon
Welte Mignon/Upright Player Action


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Denis Condon Collection videos.


Eugen d'Albert plays Liszt Sonata
Clive Robertson interview with Denis
Denis on Taiwan Televisions



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How will the collection be used?
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The Denis Condon Collection will be housed at the Australia National University School of Music and used in two broad contexts, public and academic.  Public concerts will be given on the pianos from the Collection featuring 'performances' of its reproducing piano rolls. On the research side, the Collection is a treasure trove of recordings through which late-19th and early-20th century performance may be studied in depth. As such, a wide cross section of the academic and musical community will have access to the most comprehensive and prestigious collection of its type in the world. Research outcomes will comprise traditional academic publications, performance editions, and recordings. The Collection will also be a valuable resource to students in the School of Music's undergraduate programs, enriching the resources available to them in their performance and historical studies.


Efemera of Prague
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Efemera  is an international presenting organization located in Prague, The Czech Republic which is primarily focused on experimental music, new media and art projects. It is assisting the placement of this exemplary collection because is considers the invention of reproducing pianos a significant milestone in the development of high fidelity audio and is worthy of preservation. Efemera produces Echofluxx,  a new media and art festival in Prague.