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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Historic Chopin piano renovated in Warsaw

10.12.2021 19:00
Visitors to the Chopin Museum in Warsaw are this week being offered a unique opportunity to watch the renovation of the Romantic composer’s last instrument.
Audio
Sounds of the past: In a major renovation effort in the Polish capital, a team of experts has undertaken to restore the original timbre of a 19th-century piano once owned by the famous Romantic composer Frdric Chopin (1810-1849). The historic instrument has been part of the collection of the National Chopin Institute in Warsaw since 2005.
Sounds of the past: In a major renovation effort in the Polish capital, a team of experts has undertaken to restore the original timbre of a 19th-century piano once owned by the famous Romantic composer Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849). The historic instrument has been part of the collection of the National Chopin Institute in Warsaw since 2005.Photo: J. Mozolewski/NIFC

A team led by Paul McNulty, an outstanding American specialist in historical pianos, is renovating the Pleyel upright piano, which Fryderyk Chopin received in late 1848 from his friend Camille Pleyel, the famous piano maker in Paris.

After Chopin’s death in 1849, the instrument was purchased by his student Jane Stirling, and then given to Chopin’s sister Ludwika.

Chopin's grave at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Photo: DIMSFIKAS [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Chopin's grave at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Photo: DIMSFIKAS [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Transported by sea, it arrived in Warsaw in August 1850. Inside the case of the piano, there is still a stamp of the czar’s customs office and the handwritten dedication "pour Luise" made by Stirling.

The piano was kept by the subsequent generations of Chopin’s family. In 1924, it was sold to the National Museum in Warsaw, where it was displayed until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944.

After the fall of the uprising, the instrument was taken by Poland's Nazi German occupiers to Austria, from where it returned to Warsaw in April 1946. It has been part of the collection of the National Chopin Institute since 2005.

A previous renovation of the instrument in the late 1950s was not fully successful. The replacement of the original strings with modern ones, made from high-tension carbon steel, distorted the original timbre of the piano.

The current renovation project, preceded by the instrument’s scanning, X-ray photographs and chemical analysis, includes the adjustment of the mechanism and a change of the strings to ones more similar to the original version.

Chopin experts have described the project as a historic event and voiced hope that music lovers will soon be able to hear the original sound of the instrument on which Chopin played.

(mk/gs)

Source: PAPnifc.pl

Click on the audio player above for a report by Radio Poland's Elżbieta Krajewska.