The first time I saw this Philipps Paganini Geigen-Piano was circa 1968, when I walked into Leonard Grymonpres' shop in Brussels, Belgium. The instrument was in pristine condition, save for a few scuffs on the casework. Although it was destined to be in my personal collection for a couple of years, I only tinkered with it, and never actually restored it to good playing condition. To hear it joyfully perform now, some 32 years later, after it has been carefully and thoroughly restored by Ron Cappel & Company, brings back a flood of cherished old memories.
The Philipps Paganini type instruments were introduced circa 1910, and represented a great leap forward in technology. They were much more sophisticated and musically expressive, compared to the earlier Pianella Mandoline and Pianella Caecilia style instruments. These older and much simpler models used a straightforward 88 hole tracker scale, while the new Paganini instruments used a 130 hole multiplexed tracker scale, and were, by comparison, very complex machines. The Paganini models were basically a Philipps Duca expression piano with added orchestral voices. In its most basic form there was a quality piano and one or more ranks of beautifully toned violin pipes, along with a 44-note harmonium. In the large machines there were variations available up to a full orchestrion with all kinds of violin, flute and reed pipe tones, along with extensive percussive trapwork as well. Paganini instruments are known to have been sold by Philipps up through the very late 1920's, demonstrating the exceptional longevity of the Paganini's superb technology, as well as its long term ability to render musical tastes spanning more than twenty years. In the U.S., Wurlitzer sold the Paganini style instruments alongside the popular, and less expensive, Mandolin and Concert PianOrchestras (imported from Philipps), but Paganini sales never gained any real momentum, limiting the Paganini to little more than a showroom novelty in America.
Very few Paganini Violin Pianos survive today, and only one Paganini Orchestrion is known to exist. Perhaps this rarity is due in part to their relatively high price, as well as their late introduction into the marketplace for big automatic musical instruments. Another factor might have been the sophisticated and sensitive pneumatic mechanisms, which must have presented a maintenance challenge in later years. Whatever the case, here is the opportunity for you to hear an exceptionally well restored and regulated Philipps Model 3 Keyboard style Paganini-Geigen-Piano.
The exceptionally fine stereo Minidisk recording used to master this CD was made by Ron Cappel on December 11, 1999. Absolutely no noise processing or equalization has been applied to this recording, although I was tempted to remove the low-level background pump noises. But I did not do this, because I was unwilling to sacrifice one iota of the beautiful detail important in many musical passages that are very softly and delicately played, some of which are just slightly louder than the normal pump and other unavoidable mechanical noises.
The selection of music on this CD ranges from classical to popular. Except for the last five tunes, which are popular tunes arranged by Wurlitzer for the U.S. market, all the musical arrangements are by Philipps in Germany. Although the Wurlitzer tunes are charming in their own way, they do not begin to do justice to the Paganini style instruments. The difference between the German and American formats is stunningly dramatic. One must hear the difference to appreciate it. While I enjoyed the nostalgic mechanical sound of the Wurlitzer arrangements, I found myself, in contrast, listening to the Philipps renditions as though I was attending an actual concert, smiling and looking deeply into the music, while enjoying its feeling content, as well as its complexity.
Photos: Ron Cappel
Philipps Paganini Model 3 Geigen-Piano (Violin-Piano)
|1.||Orpheus In The Underworld|
|4.||Nocturno Op. 9, No. 2 - Chopin|
|5.||Introduction U. Ronde Cappriccioso|
|7.||Heinzel M�mchens Wachtparade!|
|9.||Violin Solo Op. 20|
Wurlitzer Paganini roll #324
|11.||Wang Wang Blues, Fox Trot|
|12.||Where The Lazy Mississippi Flows|
|13.||Anna In Indiana, One Step|
|14.||Sweetheart, Fox Trot|
|15.||Make Believe, Fox Trot|
Listen to a sample...
"ORPHEOUS IN THE UNDERWORLD"
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