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MMD > Archives > November 1996 > 1996.11.26 > 02Prev  Next

Speed of Hupfeld Rolls
By John Phillips

About 25 years ago, when I was new to the religion of pianolaism and still boring people rigid at parties with the importance of it all, the University of Tasmania included me in a number of staff sent to Launceston, Tasmania's second city (pop. as much as 80,000!!!) on some sort of image-raising exercise. Somehow we managed to have someone else look after the kids for a couple of nights, a very rare treat, so my wife, Beryl, came with me.

Of course, as soon as I decently could, I made tracks for Launceston's old-established music store. Did they have any old classical music rolls left? No, they hadn't seen any in years. But as I stayed chatting about players with the owner's son, who was much more interested in selling electronic organs, their piano repair man, who had been listening in, said "You know I think there is still a box of rolls under the bench out in the workshop." I didn't know much about rolls but I could see that they looked European and were indeed mostly classical and they were very soon mine at about 50c each.

As I was actually supposed to be working, I didn't actually get to look closely at the rolls until we got back to our hotel room just before dinner that evening. So I settled down on the floor for a really good gloat over them. It was quite a few minutes before I became aware that Beryl had draped herself over the bed in a very seductive fashion on the principle that for once there were no kids around. She has been dining out for years on the story of how she was almost (luckily I did look up before it was too late) passed over for a bunch of musty old piano rolls.

Anyway, among my trophies was a two-roll Hupfeld set of Xavier Schwarenka playing Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata. As soon as we got back to Hobart I tried it out and was amazed at how slowly Xavier was playing. I was impressed by how much the interpretation of the piece had changed since about 1910. Of course I read tempo 50 on the roll and set the tempo to 50.

And that is why I was so interested to read Dan Wilson's comment about a week ago in the Digest, that 50 on Hupfeld rolls corresponds to 70 to 75 on British and American rolls.

But what does the 50 on Hupfeld rolls actually mean? I know that speed 70 usually means 7 feet per minute, so working with the average value of 72.5 I got out my calculator and converted this to metric speeds. I got:

   3.68 cm per second
   221 cm per minute
   0.132 km per hour

None of these seem to have much to do with 50. Do you know any more about this, Dan? Did Hupfeld's just use a speed scale from 0 to 100 to span the range vary slow to very fast? I must say that I can't remember any of my Hupfeld or Animatic rolls having speeds much different from 50, but then I'm wasting the University's time by writing this at work.

John Phillips, Tasmania - possibly the Digest's Southern-most subscriber.

(Message sent Wed 27 Nov 1996, 00:42:29 GMT, from time zone GMT+1100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Hupfeld, Rolls, Speed

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