Chopin’s last piano gets its 19th-century features back

Dec 9, 2021, 8:26 AM | Updated: 9:06 pm
Texas-born expert on historic pianos, Paul McNulty, renovates the last piano that Frederic Chopin p...

Texas-born expert on historic pianos, Paul McNulty, renovates the last piano that Frederic Chopin played and composed on, at the Chopin museum in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. The 1848 Pleyel piano was offered to Chopin's family after his 1849 death by Scottish pianist Jane Stirling, and survived two world wars in Warsaw, but had modern strings put in in the mid-20th century, that destroyed the tone. McNulty aims at bringing it back to its original characteristics. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The last piano on which Frederic Chopin played and composed in Paris is being renovated by a U.S. expert who is giving it back its original mid-19th century characteristics.

Paul McNulty is spending days at the Frederic Chopin Museum in Warsaw filling in some cracks in the soundboard and putting in wire strings like the ones used by Paris piano manufacturer Camille Pleyel — Chopin’s favorite — in 1848.

“We’re very, very close to the character and the identity of this instrument when we put the correct strings on, everything else being in very good condition,” McNulty told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Pleyel made the instrument, with serial number 14810, available to Chopin, already seriously ailing at the time, in the fall of 1848. After Chopin’s death in October 1849, the piano was bought by his Scottish student and friend, Jane Stirling, who then offered it to Chopin’s eldest sister, Ludwika Jedrzejewiczowa.

The piano arrived in Warsaw in 1850 — it still bears the red customs seal of Russia that ruled Warsaw at the time. It survived two world wars, including the destruction of the 1944 Warsaw Rising.

Given the provenance and the good condition of the instrument, McNulty said it is “priceless.”

Texas-born McNulty says this is the “best preserved Pleyel piano in the world,” despite having quite a dramatic history. It was played, but treated well by Chopin’s family and was not used for concert performances, also because of a failed renovation attempt.

It had most of its iron wire strings changed for much stronger and tighter modern ones during renovation in the late 1950s that destroyed its tone and put strain on the whole structure.

McNulty and museum authorities believe the current work will bring it as close as possible to the sound that Chopin heard.

“We hope it will sing for us again,” said Aleksander Laskowski, spokesman for The Frederic Chopin Institute that houses the museum.

“So an opportunity to hear the sound of Chopin’s piano as he heard it when he composed is quite likely,” Laskowski said.

McNulty, who has restored and built replicas of hundreds of historical pianos in the past 35 years , says the new sound “will be within the confines, the expectations of the builder.”

The instrument will serve as a resource for research and maybe as a model for a replica, but is not intended for performances.

Among the copies McNulty has made is the 1749 Silberman piano that Johann Sebastian Bach improvised on.

Chopin, Poland’s best known and beloved classical music composer and pianist, was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola near Warsaw to a Polish mother and a French father. He left Poland at 19 to broaden his musical education in Vienna and then in Paris, where he settled, composing, giving concerts and teaching the piano.

He died on Oct. 17, 1849, in Paris and is buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery. His sister Ludwika brought his heart to Warsaw where it is in one of the pillars at the Holy Cross Church.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Workers wearing protective gear direct arriving passengers to quarantine hotels in the Hong Kong In...
Associated Press

Hong Kong lifts flight ban citing ‘little effect’ on COVID

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong announced Thursday it is shelving a COVID-19 measure that has resulted in dozens of canceled flights in recent months and thwarted travel plans for thousands. Starting Thursday, the city will no longer ban arriving airline flights just because they’d brought in passengers infected with COVID-19, the government announced. “The […]
1 day ago
FILE - Lawyer Bernard Collaery, left, addresses the media as lawmaker Andrew Wilkie, right, looks o...
Associated Press

Australia drops charge against lawyer over spying claim

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s new government on Thursday dropped the 4-year-old prosecution of a lawyer over his alleged attempt to help East Timor prove that Australia had spied on the then-fledgling nation’s government in 2004 during multibillion-dollar oil and gas negotiations. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus maintained the longstanding government stance of refusing to confirm or […]
1 day ago
FILE - Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis arrives at 10 Downing Street, to attend a...
Associated Press

UK’s Johnson defiant even as opponents tell him time is up

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected clamors for his resignation from his Cabinet and across the Conservative Party, digging in his heels Thursday even as dozens of officials quit and previously loyal allies urged him to go after yet another scandal engulfed his leadership. A group of Johnson’s most trusted Cabinet […]
1 day ago
Painter Hassan Naderali greets a resident as he paints an old building in the historic neighborhood...
Associated Press

Iran’s outdoor painters seek to capture, preserve old Tehran

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Tehran residents accustomed to seething at slow-moving traffic, sweltering in summer heat and suffocating in smog may be surprised to find a growing number of outdoor painters reveling in the Iranian capital’s historic charm. The overcrowded metropolis may be dusty and in need of beautification, but the honeycomb of alleyways that […]
1 day ago
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquart...
Associated Press

Asian stocks higher after Fed says rate hikes may be needed

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets gained Thursday after the Federal Reserve said higher U.S. interest rates might be needed to cool inflation. Shanghai, Tokyo and Sydney advanced. Hong Kong declined. Oil prices edged higher after falling below $100 per barrel this week. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index gained 0.4% on Wednesday after notes […]
1 day ago
A girl reaches out from a window of her home built on squatted land that is occupied by hundreds of...
Associated Press

Inflation pushed 71M people into poverty since Ukraine war

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A staggering 71 million more people around the world are experiencing poverty as a result of soaring food and energy prices that climbed in the weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations Development Program said in a report Thursday. The UNDP estimates that 51.6 million more people […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Chopin’s last piano gets its 19th-century features back