|A surprising number of Erard grand pianos were taken back to the
factory at a later date to be modernised : actions and dampers
replaced, notes added in the treble, metal hitch plate added, etc…
These modifications, that would bother a purist, aren’t really a
problem to my eyes, so long as they weren’t done too long after the
piano was built, with bigger hammers and a much heavier touch.
Take the example of the metal hitch plate : Erard were experimenting
in the 1830’s, and didn’t find the perfect solution first time round.
Trying to attach the bars straight into the wood was not an ideal
solution, and on some of the existing models this has created all sorts
of problems, with the bars pushing forward into the hitch plank, and
away from the pin block. When Erard took these pianos back in the
1840’s and added metal hitch plates, they knew what they were
doing, and made the instrument more durable and reliable. If
approving something that preserves the piano’s structure means
being called a heretic, I’m prepared to take the risk….
The question of changed actions is more debatable, as the early
actions are particularly attractive and work very well, although they
are more delicate than the later ones. But in this case, any damage
can be easily repaired.
A couple of pianos on the site are good examples of these
Erard London n° 16x (1832): This piano is remarkable by the amount
of work that went into modifying it to bring it up to date. In 1843 (date
marked on the action, corresponds to the new number stamped on
the piano, n° 16100 Paris) it was taken into the Erard factory to be
extensively rebuilt. The stand (the piano was originally of the same
type as n° 7x and 177) obviously wasn’t in fashion any more and was
removed, which entailed replacing the legs : these were taken off
another London Erard, probably mid-1830’s. The same piano was
probably completely cannibalised, as it is likely that the veneer and «
Patent London Erard » inscription of the fallboard came from the
The base of the lyre is original, but the lyre itself was remade (or
pinched from another piano?).
The action was replaced by a Paris action, with extra notes compared
to the original, the damper mechanism was changed, the bridges
were cut down to half their height and a wider piece glued on top,
and the pin block was thickened and fitted with 1843 agrafes.
The soundboard was painted in imitation wood (I’ve never seen this
before) and a Paris « Par brevet d’invention » logo added.
Finally, a new metal hitch plate was added and fitted to the old bars.
In spite of all these modifications, Erard London 1832/Paris 1843 is
an extremely beautiful instrument, and will sound as nice as it looks
(I’m not just saying this because it’s mine..).
If you consider the amount of work and expense that must have gone
into modifying this piano, you wonder what the thinking behind all this
was. Was the owner particularly attached sentimentally to the piano,
or couldn’t he afford a new piano?
The other possibility of course is that Erard took back a lot of their
pianos in part exchange, and picked out the pianos whose case was
beautiful enough to justify the expensive rebuild.
The other modified Erards I have seen were much less extensively
rebuilt (extra notes in the treble for example and changed action on n°
14731), and the modernisation was obviously worth investing in,
either for the owner, or for the Erard factory if it was a part exchange.