The first piano ever to be carried on a passenger aircraft was created by the Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik for the ill-fated Hindenburg airship.
The lightweight aluminum alloy grand piano weighed only 162 kg (356 lbs). The frame, rim, fallboard, and top lid were made of duralumin, and the legs, back bracing, and lyre were made of hollow duralumin tubing.
The piano was a prominent feature of the Hindenburg’s first flight to America in 1936, during which the pianist Franz Wagner gave several concerts for the passengers, playing works by Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, and Brahms as well as popular music.
The instrument was not on board for the Hindenburg’s fatal flight in 1937; it was removed before the beginning of that season and put on display at the Blüthner factory, which was destroyed during an air raid in 1943.
This according to “The Hindenburg piano” by Daniel Grossman (Airships: The Hindenburg and other zeppelins 2010).
Today is the 75th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster! Above, the piano in the lounge on board the Hindenberg; below, a tour of the Hindenburg’s “A” deck, with a few glimpses of the instrument.
Related article: The Britannic organ
The 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 2010 inspired the launch of a new Russian-language quaterly dedicated to piano, PianоФорум (PianoForum). Published by Международная Муызкально-Техническая Компания (International Music-Technical Company) and edited by the musicologist, pianist, and pedagogue Vsevolod Zaderackij, the journal covers diverse aspects of contemporary pianism, including instrument building, piano repertoire and interpretation, piano competitions and festivals, and piano pedagogy from the beginning level to professional training. A description of the contents of issue no. 3 (2010) in Russian is here.
Throughout the nineteenth century, parallels between the forms and contents of individual compositions and a variety of poems and prose tales were discussed. Liszt, Strauss, and other composers cited literary classics in the titles of their works and even published excerpts in their scores. As a consequence, certain critics came out in favor of musical programmism, while others advocated musical absolutism.
More recently, such discussions have been amplified by suggestions that certain works of fiction themselves employ musical structural principles, particularly sonata form. Doktor Faustus by Thomas Mann (above) can be viewed in relation to Beethoven’s piano sonata op. 111, and several of Jane Austen’s novels can be compared with Mozart concerto movements. This approach suggests new ways in which musicologists might acquire a deeper understanding of such issues as musical representations of gender, the ways in which instrumental compositions may be said to embody character, and the problem of music and narrativity.
This according to “Musicology and fiction” by Michael Saffle, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.
“Playing the piano with a rifle” in The Strand magazine 28 (December 1904, pp. 580–8) describes a performance by Colonel Gaston Bordeverry, who learned the intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana by ear and, having devised a system of bull’s-eyes to indicate the correct notes on a specially-built piano, performed the tune by firing 66 shots at the instrument with a rifle. The specially-made bullets were powderless and noiseless when they struck, which they did with enough force to pierce through a one–inch-thick plank.
Colonel Bordeverry and his daughter were variety show performers in the early twentieth century; his performance of the intermezzo was one of their most successful numbers. The article was reprinted as “Not the usual performance practice” in the American Musical Instrument Society newsletter 32/1 (Spring 2003, pp. 12–13, 16).
Carlo Minasi (1817–91) was a London-based pianist and concertina player who also taught both instruments, a prolific composer and arranger for the concertina and other instruments, the author of 21 instrumental tutors (13 for the concertina), and a talented inventor. He produced 42 albums of songs and tunes—22 for the English concertina, 10 for the German concertina, and 10 for general use—and he obtained patents on concertinas of his own design and on several specific improvements. He also patented improvements in firearm and furniture design, as well as one for a poultry incubator.
Despite his accomplishments, Minasi is not profiled in any of the standard music encyclopedias; as far as we know, the only comprehensive source for information about him is Randall C. Merris’s Carlo Minasi: Composer, arranger, and teacher, concertina and piano in Papers of the International Concertina Association volume 6 (2009), pp. 17–45.