Fortepiano

1795 SCHANTZ FORTEPIANO COPY

Sharona Joshua’s Viennese fortepiano, by harpsichord and piano maker Christopher Barlow of Frome in Somerset, is based on a piano in the Holburne Museum in Bath. This instrument was built in Vienna around 1795 by Johann Schantz and is typical of the pianos of the day that were known as Viennese pianos to distinguish them from the heavier English ones. The Viennese action is light and fast and the hammers are covered in leather. There is no iron frame. The case is veneered in yew.

The compass is FF to a”’ with triple stringing for the top octave and a half, and the instrument is strung in brass and iron. It is one of the first examples of a Viennese fortepiano with a divided bridge – the brass strings in the bass have a separate bridge of their own. This allows for a smooth transition between the brass and iron -strung sections as both the tension and the inharmonicity of the strings match. There is a ‘bassoon’ stop for the lower half of the keyboard and knee levers operate the sustainer and moderator (a felt damper between hammer and string).

Sharona's Schantz fortepiano

Sharona's Schantz fortepiano

Haydn particularly liked pianos by the Schantz brothers. In 1788 he purchased a fortepiano by Wenzel Schantz and wrote to his publisher, Artaria: “In order to compose your three clavier sonatas particularly well, I was forced to buy a new fortepiano, and therefore may I presume to request of you, honoured sir, that you pay the sum of 31 ducats to the organ and instrument-maker Wenzel Schantz who resides at no. 22 Laimgrube at the Blue Ship.”

In two letters of 1790 to Marianne van Genzinger, Haydn again mentions Schantz’s instruments: 27 June – “Only a pity Your Grace does not own a Schantz fortepiano on which everything is better expressed.” 4 July – “I know the (Walter) fortepiano belonging to Herr van Nickl. It is very fine but far too heavy for your ladyship’s hand; one cannot play everything with the appropriate delicacy and for this reason I would like Your Grace to try one of Herr Schantz’s. His fortepianos have a quite special lightness and are very nicely finished.”

Johann Schantz joined his brother Wenzel in 1791, and a square piano by him was bequeathed by Haydn to a parlourmaid at Esterhazy! Haydn sold his Schantz grand fortepiano a few months before his death: “Today, 1st April (1809) I sold my beautiful fortepiano for 200 ducats, Joseph Haydn in my 78th year.” Beethoven also owned an instrument by Johann Schantz.