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MMD > Archives > October 1999 > 1999.10.31 > 09Prev  Next

Hupfeld Solophonola
By Paddy Handscombe

Dan Wilson and Julian Dyer have pretty well covered this subject,
but a few points:

Solophonolas (solophonolae?) intended for the UK, Australia, etc.,
were mostly 65/88-note.  Solophonolas with 73/88-note capability are
common on the continent (the rest of Europe!) where such rolls were
widely available.

Models whose controls swing up from under the keyboard date from before
WW1, though some appear to have been sold after.  Roger Waring's piano,
serial 49515, dates to 1909.  New designs with controls behind the
keyslip came out sometime after 1920.

In grands the older design can incorporate a unique and splendid
"tram-handle" una corda lever pressed by the right wrist to shift
the action.  The sustaining pedal mechanism is invariably pneumatic --
which pianolists usually dislike -- but, typically for Hupfeld, can be
adjusted to work very well.  (There are other subtleties to Hupfeld
controls which I can expand upon if anyone's interested.)

The Carl Roenisch Hofpianofortefabrik was in Dresden; the company had
an illustrious history by appointment to many of the European royal
courts even before it became the house piano of the Hupfeld company of
Leipzig.  Roenisch pianos are notable for superb design, construction
and materials.  I'd venture to say that they are as good as or better
than anything produced by Steinway or Bechstein.  The Julius Bluethner
piano company was not owned by Hupfelds, but had an arrangement with
them much as Steinway did with Aeolian.  There are some lovely
'Aliquot' Bluethner Hupfeld grands around.

Roenisch grand players were highly integrated, with windways fabricated
within the keybed for the over-action.  (These can get leaky with age
and may need re-sealing with varnish.)  Bluethners seem to have been
reluctant to alter their keybeds, so long rubber and proofed cardboard
tubes can often unfortunately be seen hanging down, finding their way
about under their beautiful grands.  I suspect indeed that Bluethners
did not even provide the longer cases necessary, and that Hupfelds
scarfed on longer cheeks and refinished (sometimes you can detect the

I have a particularly nice 7'6" "tram-handle" Roenisch Solophonola
grand in a plain, six-legged rosewood case.  It has a small lever above
the tracker bar to change from 65- to 88-note mode.  But on many you
change over by pulling out the tracker bar, inverting it and re-
inserting it.  The detent system must be well-lubed and the rear seal
in good condition, otherwise -- yes -- notes will cypher.

As with Themodist Pianolas, it's not appropriate to call Solophonolas
"pumpers".  They are the most beautifully made complex and subtle
instruments designed for unhindered expression by the phonolist.

Value?  Priceless, but every year I encounter too many bodged by
rebuilders which play indifferently.  Due care, please!

And finally, since this is a written forum whose concern is information
and accuracy, though I hesitate, a few words on English grammar.

With the apostrophe, it's is a contraction which only ever means it
is or it has: "it's hot", "it's been cold", "it's a Hupfeld".  The
possessive its, as in my, thy (archaic), his, her, its, our, your,
their, never has an apostrophe: "polish its pedals", "without its
tracker bar".

However, "Paddy's Pianola" (literally Paddy his Pianola), "the man's
name", "the boys' address" (more than one boy).  But, "the men's names"
(already plural), "the people's president" (one people), "the peoples'
countries" (more than one people), "children's books" (already plural).

All quite logical.

Paddy Handscombe
Wivenhoe, Essex, UK

(Message sent Sun 31 Oct 1999, 12:12:25 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Hupfeld, Solophonola

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