The Welte Philharmonic at the David Salomons House is surely as much a
wonder today as when it was first built. Even in the 21st century the
instrument still remains a wonder of the age. I visited this week, and
it made a very lasting impression on me. The house and grounds are a
marvel, and visitors should certainly spend time wandering past the
Josef Engel marble bust of Salomons into two exquisite rooms crammed
full of history relating to this most noble of 19th century figures.
To be able to hear a Welte Style 10 roll (let alone see one!) is beyond
words. I listened to a set of "lancers" based on operatic themes from
Bizet through Sullivan. All five parts are complete on one giant ori-
ginal red roll. The musical arrangement dates from the late 1800s.
It must have been great fun for a dinner crowd to dance to these
melodies once upon a time in the distant past. The organ's pipes burst
into life in the chambers above your head, you can feel the rumble of
the drum roll, the castanets chatter away, and the huge crash cymbal
right on top of the case sizzles into life.
After that, moving to the Philharmonic system, we heard Edwin Lemare
(1865-1934) playing the well-known Bach D-minor Toccata And Fugue.
Lemare's performance is a musical revelation and conveys things in the
music most organists these days never clearly enunciate. The tone of
the organ is totally balanced and there's not a tremulant to be heard.
It's nothing like listening to an Aeolian. Tonally this Welte sounds
akin to the very finest of classical pipe organs, i.e. not just an
overblown (pardon the pun!) orchestrion. The reproducing rolls do come
across as entirely convincing live performances.
So, get over there when they have a concert and hear it for yourself!
Need more of an excuse than that? In 2009 the Player Piano Group cele-
brates its 50th anniversary. Our AGM celebrations will be held on the
May Bank-Holiday weekend, starting on Saturday at ... well, that might
be telling. I'll let you figure it out at this stage. More details
will follow in due course.
In the meanwhile here are some photos of what's in store:
(Scroll down the page and also onto the following page; otherwise type
"Sir David Salomons" into the search box.)