Well, here we are again! I hope April has been a good month for everyone! Today, Lane County (Oregon) goes back to the "extreme risk" category for COVID-19, but the good news is that there have been no new cases in Florence the past several days, so we'll hope that holds.
Florence is known as "The City of Rhododendrons" and the rhodies are starting to explode in an amazing range of colors all over town - always a gorgeous sight! I'll have some photos for you next month.
In the meantime, enjoy issue #457 of Pianotes!
More than 100 descendants of J.S. Bach have been cathedral organists.
The original upright pianos were about 15% more expensive than the grands. They were also about 7 1/2’ tall, very top-heavy, and were inclined to tip over with a real crash! They were often referred to as "giraffes.”
The first damper pedal was a lever operated by the knee. The first foot-operated damper (sustain) pedal was built by John Broadwood of London in 1783.
We have a lot of new reviews for you this month! There are twenty new album reviews and four new songbooks from artists from around the world - some new and some longtime favorites, so there is plenty of variety to choose from! You can find links to all of them here
The first cast iron frame for the piano was introduced in 1825 by Alphaeus Babcock of Boston. This allowed for much greater string tension and higher playing volume.
Franz Liszt performed the first solo piano recital in Rome in 1839. Before then, pianists played between the acts of plays or between the performances of orchestras or chamber groups. Liszt also started the tradition of playing the piano on a bench rather than on a hard-backed chair.
Clara Schumann was the first pianist to make a practice of playing from memory in public, in about 1840. Before her, it was considered an insult to the composer to play without the written music.
New Interviews: Well, I didn't get any interviews finished in April, but I should have at least three of them for you during May. As usual, links will be on the homepage as soon as the interviews are posted. The interviews planned for the next few weeks are with Gregg Karukas, Robin Meloy Goldsby and David Nevue, so keep checking back!
Torakusu Yamaha built his first piano in 1899---the same year that Scott Joplin published "The Maple Leaf Rag."
In 1903, the Society of American Piano Manufacturers burned a 50' high pile of square pianos in Atlantic City. The reason they gave was that they wanted to stimulate the sales of the newer piano models. As a result, square pianos are now quite rare (and some piano tuners won't touch them!).
Wurlitzer introduced its first electric piano in 1955.
An Exciting Opportunity!
Robin Meloy Goldsby has become one of my favorite writers. She is also an outstanding pianist/composer who has spent much of her career playing the piano in lounges, piano rooms and German castles(!!!). Three of her five books have been memoirs of her colorful experiences and observations from the piano bench (and other vantage points). The third of those three books, Piano Girl Playbook
, is being published by Backbeat books on June 18, 2021 and Robin asked if I would review it. (Her previous books of memoirs are Piano Girl
 and Waltz of the Asparagus People
. Her other two books are a novel and a collection of short stories: Rhythm
 and Manhattan Road Trip
. I highly recommend all of them! There are reviews of all but the newest book here
. The new one will be reviewed shortly.)
Robin and I are also working on an interview about the new book, and her publisher will provide a sample chapter of the book that you can read. They have also offered a 35% discount on orders for the book that will come from a link on MainlyPiano.com. (Amazon and other online booksellers are offering pre-release sales, but at the full cover price, so this is an amazing opportunity to get a great book at a great price!) Robin offers warm and generous observations about life and music that are sometimes poignant and touching and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I'll send an email to the subscribers of Pianotes as soon as the interview, sample and links are posted.
When Napoleon III was married, Queen Victoria gave him a piano that was built in the shape of his hat. It is still in a museum in Tokyo.
The oldest piano still in existence was built in 1720 by B. Cristofori.
Arthur Rubinstein is the best-selling classical pianist in history. He made more than 200 recordings which sold more than 10 million copies.
May Birthdays: Here is a partial list of some of the musical May birthdays:
1: Lisa Downing, David Lewis & Joseph Nimoh
3: Kathleen Ryan
6: Louis Landon
7: Grayhawk David Gibney
9: Josh Winiberg
10: Luis Berra
11: Clifford Borg
16: Reis Taylor Dixon & Trysette Loosemoore
18: Gregg Karukas
19: David King
20: Michael Borowski
25: Adam Andrews
28: Peter Kater
31: Shambhu Vineberg & Jeff Oster
Happy Birthday to all of you!!!
At the London trade exhibition on 1851, there was a bed with a piano built into it that would play itself when someone laid on it.
Yamaha started making articles other than pianos out of leftover piano and organ parts. In 1932, Yamaha made 4000 pianos; 20,000 organs, almost 3 million harmonicas; and 369,000 square meters of veneer; as well as mantelpieces and airplane propellers.
No fewer than 1098 patents for items related to the piano were granted during the period from 1825-51. Most of the patents came from England and France, but there were others from Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, and the United States. Only 264 such patents were granted before then.
Music Holidays: In browsing around, I discovered several fun little sites that list musical "holidays" for each month. Here is what I found for May:
May is International Drum Month
1 - Mariachi Day (First Saturday in May)
2-8 - National Music Week
2- National Play Your Ukulele Day
3 - National Public Radio Day
4 - Dave Brubeck Day (Jazz Pianist and Composer)/ National Concert Day (first Tuesday in May)
5 - International Tuba Day
8 - World Belly Dance Day (second Saturday in May)
14 - National Chicken Dance Day/ The Stars and Stripes Forever Day
15 - World Fiddle Day/ Relive Your Past by Listening to the First Music You Ever Bought No Matter What It Was - No Excuses Day
22 - National Buy a Musical Instrument Day
25 - National Tap Dance Day/ Sing Out Day
26 - World Lindy Hop Day
27 - Old Time Player Piano Day
28-30 - Old Time Player Piano Weekend/ National Polka Weekend (Memorial Day weekend)
28 - National Title Track Day (fourth Friday in May)
29 - International Jazz Day (Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend)
Celebrate as much or as many as you want!!!
King Leopold I of Austria had a harpsichord in every room of his palace so that he could try out any musical idea that might occur to him.
Several devices have been invented over the years to automatically turn pages for pianists, but for some reason, none of them caught on - until the iPad.
There were no more than twelve music shops in London in 1750. In 1794, there were 30; and by 1824, there were 150!
Well, that should do it for the May issue. Happy Mother's Day to the moms out there! I'm posting a few photos below. We'll meet you here again about this time next month!
Thackery 10 months old.
Smokey and Pepper