Hello MMD. About twenty years ago I won from an auction a copy of
Hupfeld piano roll No. 51214, a transcription by Liszt of the song
"Adelaide" by Beethoven. I was very pleased to observe that the
roll seemed to be in almost perfect condition. However on playing it,
my delight was drastically modified.
About halfway through, when I came across an arpeggio running most
of the way across the span of the piano, from bass to treble, which
had been covered over with onion skin paper. Immediately after the
arpeggio, the roll had been cut and rejoined very neatly.
I suspected that some of the music was missing, but not knowing the
music very well, couldn't be sure, without borrowing the manuscript
from the local library. I never did this, secretly hoping that maybe
nothing was missing, and that the previous owner had a deep-seated
dislike of arpeggios. The join in the roll looked as good as the
deliberate joins one sometimes finds in Hupfeld rolls; presumably
these were made to save paper when a supply roll was about to run out.
So the roll sat on the shelf for years, never being played.
About three weeks ago, I received a 'phone call from a past colleague
of mine. He had passed the family pianola on to his daughter, and
she had sorted through all the rolls and picked out those she wanted.
Would I like the remainder, all classical music rolls?
Well, there was only one possible answer to that question, and
a fortnight ago, my friend arrived with two big cartons, containing
a total of about fifty to sixty rolls.
I have never encountered a batch of rolls in such good condition.
Many of them look as if they have just come off the shelf in the music
shop. Even the boxes, on the whole, are in remarkably good shape.
The icing on the cake was another copy of Hupfeld roll No. 51214.
The "new" roll is in fact the older of the two. It's watermark is
1913, whereas my "original" roll is watermarked 1924. I was pleased
to note that the pianist, Ferruccio Busoni, a line drawing of whom was
on both leaders, didn't seem to have aged a bit during the eleven year
interval, despite the intervention of the horrors of World War 1.
I finished sorting out all the other rolls yesterday, and today I laid
out both Hupfeld rolls along our table tennis table, to compare them.
I immediately discovered that my original roll had suffered a major
amputation; about 490 cm (16 feet) is missing.
I also noticed that there had been some editorial changes. The 1924
roll has a great many more snakebites than does the 1913 one, especially
on the bass side. Further, whereas most of the 1913 snakebites seem to
be only two perforations long, the 1924 ones are made with treble or
quadruple perforations. Some are even longer.
The sustain track is not the same in the two rolls. Some of the sustain
perforations in the 1924 roll are longer and there is a large number of
short sustain perforations where there is no perforation at all in the
The music mostly is identical, although I did notice one short section
where there are extra notes in the treble and fewer in the bass in the
At least I now have a roll that I can play, although I wonder why
anybody would have wanted to butcher such a beautiful piano roll.
John Phillips in Hobart, Tasmania