Custom Instruments

Viennese 18th Century Fortepiano

After Johann Andreas Stein (1784)
Now Retired

Vienese FortepianoFor over twenty-five years it has been generally accepted that the only appropriate instruments for the performance of renaissance and baroque music are replicas of instruments made during the period. Few musicians today would consider representing the modern piano as the instrument most suited to the rococo writing of Duphly or Scarlatti. But only relatively recently has it begun to be conceded that the keyboard literature of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was written specifically for the fortepiano and is not ideally suited to the modern piano. The brilliant keyboard literature composed between 1765 and 1825 by the descendants of Bach, by Clementi, Hummel, Field, Mehul, Paesiello, Cherubini and many others is hardly known to modern audiences, a loss due in large measure to the lack of appropriate instruments for performance. Even the perfunctory deference accorded the keyboard works of Haydn and Mozart has not resulted in the frequency of performance or the pleasure of response this music deserves. Just as baroque music achieves its true color and splendor when played on the harpsichord, so does the classical literature acquire its natural brilliance and grace when played on the fortepiano. The ideal instrument for this music is the Viennese fortepiano of the type made by J. A. Stein, a maker whose instruments were the particular favorites of Mozart and the young Beethoven.

The classical fortepiano differs from the modern piano in the lightness of its construction and stringing as well as the principles underlying its action. The tone color is easily identifiable as a piano but lighter, thinner and more transparent, less emphatic and sustained. Articulation and phrasing are more easily perceived. The shallower and lighter action demands and develops a crisper style of performance which is inherently appropriate to the music of the period. The original pedalings as well as effects such as szforzando and subito piano acquire new significance when executed on the fortepiano and one is not left wondering what otherwise good musicians, such as Mozart and Beethoven, had in mind when indicating their use.

Our fortepiano is a careful replica of a Stein instrument of 1784 and closely reproduces the tone and action as well as the details of construction of this early piano. It is offered with its case and lid veneered in cherry or walnut. The instrument stands on turned and fluted legs of the same species. Two lid options are available at additional cost. The lid, flap and fallboard can be supplied constructed from solid wood in the traditional frame and panel manner which nicely mirrors the shape of the instrument on the underside of the lid. A more opulent treatment of the lid, flap and fallboard is to veneer the exterior of these parts in a diamond marquetry pattern.



I wish to thank you for your interest in our Viennese fortepiano. I regret to announce that, after 30 years of its availability, I have become convinced of our need to retire this instrument from production. It is a very simple matter. The amount of activity for this design recently has dwindled to the point where it is no longer particularly profitable to produce and yet keep affordable. In contrast to our harpsichord offerings, it demands both different stocks of wood, material and parts (much of which must be stored ahead, some at the risk of spoilage), as well as a markedly different skill set. Consequently the difficulty in scheduling work and producing a satisfactory product has passed my tipping point and I have reluctantly made the decision to terminate the fortepiano's availability. I would prefer we do things well rather than otherwise. We will, of course, continue to support and repair existing kits and finished instruments. If you wish to inquire further about finished fortepianos (or kits) or explore possibilities, please feel free to contact me at
Hendrik Broekman

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