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.”
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
remarkable original performances you will enjoy in the Denis Condon
* The Yamaha piano shown in the video tour
is not part of the Denis Condon Collection.
.. Artists .
Grainger (above) was a strong advocate for the reproducing piano, the
high fidelity recording instrument of its time. Here are some of his
"THE GREATEST WONDER
IN AN AGE OF WONDERS!" Sergei 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
WHAT THE ARTIST HAD
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
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
"...an artist can, for the first
time, hear his own playing exactly reproduced!" OSSIP GABRILOWITSCH,
“...an ingenious invention. It has struck me with admiration." EDVARD
“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,
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
THE CONDON COLLECTION
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. .
Collection . Instruments:The
Denis Condon Collection includes the following reproducing pianos.
How will the collection be used? . 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.
is an international presenting organization located in Prague, The
Czech Republic which is primarily focused on experimental music, new
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
worthy of preservation. Efemera produces Echofluxx, a new media and art festival in Prague.