Steingraeber harpsichords

Has anyone heard of instruments made or designed by George Steingraeber around 1906? Information that I have suggests that he left the Steingraeber piano company in Bayreuth around that time and was a part of the harpsichord revival.

Any leads would be valuable.

Many thanks,

David

Wolfgang Zuckermann, The Modern Harpsichord, 1970, pp. 190-192. I type-copy:

"JOHANN GEORG STEINGRAEBER
Berlin, Germany
This former builder, who started making harpsichords in Germany at the same time as Neupert and Maendler, died in 1932. He never made very many instruments, but for some reason achieved the reputation of being a very fine maker whose rare instruments were of special value.

One of those rare instruments, which I saw in New Jersey, struck me as being very similar to pre-war Neuperts. It is possible that Steingraeber achieved his reputation because he died before he could incorporate in his work all of the worst features of the Serien Instrumente, although enough of them were already present.

From Skowroneck we learn that according to Friedrich Ernst, the formeer restorer of the Berlin Collection who worked for Steingraeber at one time, a third manual was added to a 1631 Baffo double-manual by Steingraeber himself, who covered the third manual naturals with ivory instead of the bone found on the other two keyboards."

I guess that was the 3-manual Italian-style instrument I saw back in 1970 in the Deutsches Museum in Munich, and was told that one of the manuals was a modern addition and another manual was an older addition, the original instrument being taken over by fake parts.

FOUND IT!!

I have just performed a Boalch-Mould search: there is no Baffo harpsichord dated 1631 and no Baffo harpsichord in Munich. However, I was able to produce a full list of instruments in the München Deutsches Museum and found the 3-manual instrument. This is BMO-2071.

It is actually a Zenti, with a fake Cristofori inscription debunked by Denzil Wraight. Further, Boalch-Mould states that it bears the inscriptions:
" * ‘BARTOLOMEO CRISTOFARI (sit) FECIT FIRENZE A D MDCCII’, (on nameboard, which does not belong to the instrument).

  • ‘Repariert 1906/G. Steingraeber, Hofpianofortefabrikant/München also Alle Steingraeber/Gretl Steingraeber/5. Nov. 1906’ (on the underside of the soundboard).

It is also documented that in 1907 Steingraeber donated this instrument to the Museum

Disposition: 1×16’, 1×8’, 1×4’ [one stop on each manual]

BMO remarks: The instrument has suffered a number of changes, principally at the hands of Franciolini. H. Henkel, ‘Sechszehnfuss-Register im italienischen Cembalobau’, in Das Musikinstrument, XXXIX (1990), pp. 6–10 suggests that it was originally a two-manual harpsichord with three registers, which had always been at 16’ pitch, while Denzil Wraight, in WraightZenti, adduces that it was originally a single-manual harpsichord, with two registers at 16’ pitch, and that at least 500 mm. must have been cut from the tail end, so that the original length was over 3 m.

Incidentally, I find it odd that any Italian instrument was originally at 16’ pitch: at 12’ pitch is a distinct possibility. Italian instruments were made in that length without having an unduly low pitch, just with thin strings: one such instrument is extant in a nobility palace in Rome.

The 1574 Baffo in the V&A was originally at 12’ pitch. Denzil gives a c2 of 400 or more.

Stephen

Thanks, Claudio and Stephen! I had forgotten that this name comes in Zuckermann’s book, which I have. My intererest concerns an small detail in the musical life of Mahler that deserves a footnote! I have also found some information on the internet, and now have all I need to wrap this up!

Many thanks!

David

I’m chiming in to correct the reference to my father’s writings earlier on in this thread. Claudio is referring to the article “Probleme des Cembalobaus aus Historischer Sicht,” HiFI-Stereophonie, part 1 in no 9/1968. The passage in question on page 701, right-hand column, ironically just above an ad for a high-end LP player called the “Transcriptor”.

The aim of the passage is to explain the existence of cobbled-together “historical” harpsichords à la Franciolini in German museums at the point of writing (1968), by means of listing a few such items. My quick translation:

“Other collectors, hobbyists or, simply, profiteers forged or altered historical harpsichords or assembled new “old” instruments from scraps. Thus, according to Friedrich Ernst (former restorer at the Berlin collection), the third keyboard of an unusual Italian harpsichord that now stands in the Deutsches Museum in Munich was made by Steingräber, where Ernst worked at the time. This keyboard is in fact clearly identifiable as new and has ivory keycovers, as opposed to the other ones with bone covers.
[Here a new paragraph should begin, because the instrument mentioned now is a different one]
The two-manual harpsichord “Johannes Antonio Baffo, Venetus, MDLXXI” in the Basel collection is with good reasons seen as doubtful. A[nother] two-manual harpsichord by Pertici in the Leipzig collection shows traces of massive changes and does not at all correspond to the italian building style. And in the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte we find an unsigned Italian harpsichord (18th century?) whose 4’, carefully covered by means of felt rings, is hitched to a so-called “Inselsteg”, a construction for which the Neupert firm once had a patent that now has expired. This list can be continued at will.”

So, the builder of the 3-manual Munich instrument is here not identified, while a two-manual instrument in Basel was (at least at the time) attributed to Baffo, however, experts were doubting this attribution even then.

Cheers all,

Tilman

Sorry, autocorrect struck (in Roman numerals? Gimme a break!). I meant MDLXXXI, which would be 1581.

/Tilman

Dear Jackrailers,

Let me reorganise my last two posts (which you got in your emailss ) and edits (which you did not), into this single post.

Dear Tilman,

A) There seems to be some confusion. You write "Claudio is referring to the article “Probleme …”, but in no post in this thread has anybody ever mentioned this article.

B) I guess you are referring to the text by Zuckermann that I quoted? Please note that he does mention your father, but he does NOT clarify the source article or quotes directly from it either. I guess you actually meant “Zuckermann (quoted by Claudio) is referring to the article …” ?

C) Let me clarify that Steingraeber’s addition of the third manual and subsequent donation of the instrument to the Munich Museum are not any ideas of mine: I just reproduced statements by both the Museum and BMO.

D) You quote the article as stating that the attribution of two instruments including the 3-manual in Munich is doubtful. In the case of the latter instrument, as I noted in my post, the instrument is unambiguously attributed to Girolamo Zenti c1658 by both the Museum and BMO.

E) Your quote from your father’s article, Tilman, is very interesting. But you state that you wish “to correct”. I fail to understand this either: in no way the article is in contradiction with my quotes from Zuckermann and BMO: there appears to be general agreement that the 3-manual instrument in Munich had the 3rd manual added by Steingraeber. (The only and obvious contradiction is that Zuckerman says your father says it was by Baffo, and your father’s article does not say that: however, Zuckerman may well have been quoted something else by your father? He does not mention the article.)

F) You appear surprised by Roman numerals? Just in case somebody has any doubt, they were in wide use in Italy until the 18th century for all dates, are still used today in labels in monuments and buildings, and are widely used to denote centuries: in Italy they do not write “secolo 18º”, but “secolo XVIII”. And of course Roman numerals are In this particular case consistent with the rest of the inscription being in Latin.

Thanks for translating your father’s article anyway!

Claudio

Claudio, I think it is obvious that Tilman is not reacting to the bare existence of Roman numerals, but rather to his device trying to ‘autocorrect’ them and coming up with nonsense.

There is no need for you to presume to ‘educate’ us further about them. No-one here is saying they are weird or surprising.

1 Like

Just to make sure, I’m not confused. It’s all also a matter of no great consequence.

A and B) Duly noted, and my excuses for not being clearer. I should indeed have written “Claudio’s quote from Zuckermann’s book refers [indirectly, without reference] to the article of my father.” It’s actually an almost-quote, but with flaws, and these were what I intended to point out.

C) I wasn’t suggesting that these were your ideas and the context should make that clear.

D) What I wanted to clarify is that nobody ever said that the Munich instrument was by Baffo. That’s just Zuckermann mis-reading M. Skowroneck’s article. I’m not disputing the (later, correct) attribution to Zenti.

E) And as said above, yes, the added third manual by Steingräber is correctly translated by Zuckermann, but the Idea that the instrument should be a Baffo is not. Also Zuckermann seems to mis-transcribe the number board’s Roman Numeral MDLXXXI (which is of no consequence since it’s wrong anyway).

F) And indeed (thanks Thomas). While I have been known for mis-typing Roman numerals more than once (once embarrassingly in the quite different context of Beethoven’s Diabelli variations), I am not confused as to the fact they exist on historical and a fair number of modern harpsichord nameboards.

Have a nice workday, all,

Tilman

Thanks for your detailed clarifications, Tilman.

Unfortunately, as good as Zuckermann’s “The Modern Harpsichord” book is as a mine trove for information about the harpsichord revival and its makers, it is fatally flawed by the almost total lack of bibliographical references.

If indeed Zuckermann took the “Baffo” idea from your father’s paper, then he was certainly misquoting it, probably in a cursory reading mixing up the Basel and the Munich instrument. (It is doubtful that he took any other source for the misattribution: for example in Boalch 2, and presumably Boalch 1 also, the instrument is listed under Cristofori, with no mention of Baffo at all).

Thanks for your patience! :slight_smile:

Claudio

Dear Claudio

There are many kinds and styles of writing. Zuckermann’s The Modern Harpsichord — 20th century makers and their instruments is a wonderful record of the author’s impression of the diverse instruments he encountered, along with the material makers were able to send him on his request. It’s not the sort of book I would expect to see footnotes on the footnotes, so I think it’s a little unkind to say it is “fatally flawed”.

In my workshop, I have the original jacks which Wolfgang collected from makers around the world, most of which were photographed for inclusion in the book:

CBH Wolfgang’s Jacks

Regards

Carey

I agree with you, Carey, but only up to an extent.

Zuckermann’s book was certainly an eye-opener at the time it was published, and for this he could only be praised. Bédard was very happy with it and we discussed the book at length for hours and hours in Paris’s coffee shops. The book was soon out of print, and years later I was lucky to find a second-hand copy.

Unfortunately, to write all sorts of negative (99% true but still negative) remarks about the main makers of the time, without a single reference, is not what any peer-reviewer or book reviewer would consider accceptable.

Had Zuckermann correctly quoted Martin Skowroneck article, and included the details of the source, it is most likely that the discussions and clarifications we had above between myself and Tilman would not have happened.

For what it is worth: Zuckermann’s book was THE determining factor for me to go to Frank Hubbard. It gave me the best overview of the situation in 1971, though I was no impressed with his straight side example.

A curio: I just went to check my Zuckermann book: published by Peter Owen, London 1970. I got it many years later: I was at the time living in Argentina but every few years I travelled to England for work, and it is most likely that I got it in London.
I certainly did not get it from Australia, where the postage would have been prohibitively expensive. YET, I can see a small stamped thing that reads:
“Canberra Public Libray Service, 8 JUN 1971” followed by some library codes.
I hope the Library just got a surplus gift copy and sold this one, and not that I was actually sold in England a stolen copy! :thinking:

Edit: on the binding page, hardly legible in red ink over dark-red-coloured paper, there are two stamps: “CENTRAL LIBRARY” and “CANCELLED”. It looks like this book was effectively sold by a Library.