Re: Reproducing Pianos in UK Collections (981217 MMDigest). On Julian
Dyer's article on this subject yesterday, it should be noted that quite
a few collectors in the UK have chosen not to submit a list to the PPG,
so the list is only of officially "known" instruments. The statistical
spread of types is probably representative, though.
Along with the listing he mentions, the PPG under his editorship has
just put out a beautifully-presented booklet memorializing Reginald
Reynolds who was the chief London editor for Duo-Art. Reynolds started
writing his memoirs in the 1950s but did not live to complete them.
Along with a big folder of rare photographs showing well-known pianists
at the Duo-Art recording piano in the top-floor studio at Aeolian Hall,
Bond Street, London, with Reynolds behind at his mysterious "inter-
preting" desk, they remained with his daughters Vera Reade and Yvonne
Hinde-Smith who were to play an important part in setting up the PPG in
the same year of his death, 1959.
The memoirs appeared in the PPG Bulletin in 1976 but now fresh material
has been added and a really good job has been done of reproducing the
more important photos. The booklet doesn't seem to have an ISBN or a
price and apparently has been issued as a freebie extra to the December
1998 Bulletin; no doubt Julian will tell us what procedure there is, if
any, for obtaining one by itself.
Reynolds, born in 1877, has an old-fashioned and pernickety style of
writing but had strong opinions about the player-piano which are
adequately ventilated. There are a couple of mysteries in his account
which he does not clear up. One is that he started his career with
the "Farrand Company" in London as a demonstrator of the (US-made)
Cecilian, an instrument sold in America by Bush and Lane along with
their own green-paper "Connorized" 65-note rolls. But the Farrand
Organ Company, was surely, the precursor to the Aeolian Company !
What was it doing with its own office in London ? Was this a case
of selling two brands of soap to mop up the market ?
The second mystery relates to his time at Aeolian after Farrand ran
into financial problems. A Pianola pushup had been traded in for a
Cecilian and he found its controls easy to master, so after a short
period at Chappell's (music publishers and piano-makers) he was able
to cross Bond Street and start demonstrating for the Orchestrelle Co
(the London subsidiary of Aeolian which took its parent's name in
1920). In due course when the Duo-Art was launched he had the musical
background to take over the management of public demonstrations, with
and without orchestra, and become the chief editor of rolls recorded
In his description of the Duo-Art studio he mentions, as of 1924,
160 wires running from the Weber recording piano to the real-time
punching machine hammering away in the basement: 80 led from the keys,
but the other 80 from "positions near the point at which the hammers
strike the strings".
This suggests that, only 10 years into the Duo-Art's life, a rudiment-
ary timing process was taking place between the start of depression of
the key and the passage of the hammer past some arbitrary point just
before it struck the strings.
I've not heard anything of this before, or of what use was made of this
additional information within the real-time perforator or elsewhere.
Can anyone fill us in ?
We've had a couple of descriptions on MMD of Duo-Art demonstrations
using live orchestras in recent years. Reynolds's tale of one such
demo in the 1920s with that stormy and imperious figure Sir Thomas
Beecham on the podium, by itself, is worth getting the booklet for.
Oh yes, the title is: "Reginald Reynolds - 'The Paderewski of the
Player Piano'" !
Dan Wilson, London