Alan Whytock wrote in 021027 MMDigest about a 1912 advertisement by
the Melodia Company of Paris. Douglas Heffer sent me this explanation
of the "Virtuola"/"Melodia" expression piano system seen in pianos by
Römhildt (Roemhildt) of Weimar.
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Hello Robbie, The expression pianos were made in Weimar (or some place
around there) in eastern Germany. They were sold in France under the
label "Melodia" and in Sweden and Germany under the name "Virtuola".
The upright or grand pianos were often Römhildt, made in Weimar, but
I have seen the Melodia pneumatic action also in Pleyel pianos and sold
as "Pleyela". These pianos were before 1914-1918, and Pleyel made
rolls for these instruments too.
The original rolls used square punching, with a slot sometimes after
the note instead of chain perforations. The expression system is very
simple: sustaining pedal, a split hammer rest rail, and three or four
degrees of loudness in treble and bass. I think the older ones played
on about 65 notes.
The later instruments had an interchangeable tracker bar, and they could
read the original rolls and the standard 88-note rolls. I have restored
some of these instruments and I have seen the pedal operated ones as
well as the electric/pedal ones.
The music has the charm of Viennese café music, at least what I have
heard. The instruments were in general well-made in the "good German"
style, but they were never sophisticated like Hupfeld pianos could be
in the glorious 20th century. I think I have one roll from Virtuola;
they are not very common.
Best regards from France,