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2014/66/1 Concert grand piano, timber / metal / ivory, made by Carl Bechstein, Berlin, Germany, 1878, exhibited in the Sydney International Exhibition, New South Wales Australia, 1879. Click to enlarge.

Bechstein piano exhibited in the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition

1878
This piano is of great significance as one of the few remaining artefacts that can be positively identified as having been exhibited in Australia's first international exhibition, The Sydney International Exhibition of 1879-1880. The exhibition has great historical and cultural importance as it brought world attention to Australia and its wealth of natural and cultural resources. It was also the first time that many Australians had an opportunity to see new products and innovations from around the world. The exhibition was also a major political, commercial and cultural event for the colony of New South Wales, which was recognised as being the "foundation colony" of European settlement in Australia.

The piano is also significant at several other levels. It was brought to Australia by Bechstein in 1879 expressly for exhibiting in the Sydney International Exhibition. There it won First Prize in the musical instruments section of the exhibition and has remained in Australia ever since. At the time it was claimed that this was the first time Bechstein pianos had come to New South Wales and the first time Bechstein had exhibited internationally since the 1867 Paris Exhibition. The piano was also used in performances during the exhibition and played by several of the colony's leading pianists including the exhibition's Musical Director, the composer and musician, Paolo Giorza.

The piano's association with the Sydney International Exhibition is also of great significance to the Powerhouse Museum (The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) which was founded in 1879 and its original collections were specifically drawn from the International Exhibition.

The Sydney International Exhibition building and some of the collection of exhibits that were retained for the early museum were totally destroyed by fire in 1882. The piano therefore has great significance to the Museum, the State of New South Wales and Australia in its context at the nation's first international exhibition.

Michael Lea
Curator, music & musical instruments
August 2013

Summary

Object No.

2014/66/1

Object Statement

Concert grand piano, timber / metal / ivory, made by Carl Bechstein, Berlin, Germany, 1878, exhibited in the Sydney International Exhibition, New South Wales Australia, 1879

Physical Description

Concert grand piano, seven and a quarter octaves from A to C. Rosewood case with highly figured keyboard fall. Iron frame. Spruce soundboard. Double check action. Case features griffin or winged lions head carvings either side of the keyboard. The name "Bechstein" is printed in large gold leaf letters on the underside of the lid. The name of the Sydney exhibitor and Bechstein agent, William Ezold, is also marked on the piano.

Marks

Nameboard: "C. Bechstein / Hof-Lieferant Sr. Maj. [coat of arms] des Kaisers u. Konigs / Berlin."

Under main lid: "C. Bechstein".

Under front lid: "Sydney International Exhibition / 1879-80. / First Prize / Represented by W. Ezold."

Serial No: 10471

Frame: "C.Bechstein / Berlin".

Hammer Rail: "SCHWANDER 140244".

Dimensions

Height

975 mm

Width

1540 mm

Production

Notes

Serial number 10471, made by Carl Bechstein, Berlin in 1878. The type of action used was the Schwander action and is stamped and numbered 140244.

Newspaper reports of the time mention that the Sydney International Exhibition was the first time Bechstein pianos had appeared in New South Wales and the first time Bechstein had exhibited internationally since the 1867 Paris Exhibition. (See: Sydney Morning Herald 18/11/1879 p.7)

History

Notes

This piano was one of a group of four Bechstein pianos which won First Prize at the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879. The Reports of Judges and Awards for the exhibition states Bechstein were judged on Grand and Upright Pianos and were awarded "Two First Degrees of Merit Special". The report from the jurors stated "These pianos deserve special mention on account of the richness of tone and skill displayed in their construction". (Official Record of the Sydney International Exhibition, 1879, Thomas Richards, Govt printer, Sydney 1881, p.425).

As a concert grand piano this instrument was the largest model exhibited by Bechstein and so was their flagship instrument and accounts for the C. Bechstein name being printed in large gold leaf letters on the underside of the lid. This group of Bechstein pianos are well documented in the press of the time and this piano, the concert grand was used in most if not all of the 19 documented performances during the period of the exhibition.

The piano was played by a number of prominent musicians during the exhibition and later, including the Musical Director of the Exhibition, Paolo Giorza. Giorza's original exhibition pass is in the Museum's collection as is an autographed copy of the Opening Ceremony Cantata he composed for the Exhibition.

The piano was exhibited by a local German agent for Bechstein living in Sydney, William Ezold. Although Bechstein's agent, Ezold also exhibited a cottage piano of his own manufacture which also won a first prize for a piano of colonial manufacture. Newspaper reports of the time claim that the Sydney International Exhibition was the first time Bechstein pianos had appeared in New South Wales and the first time Bechstein had exhibited internationally since the 1867 Paris Exhibition. (See Sydney Morning Herald, 18/11/1879, p.7)

Michael Lea
Curator, music & musical instruments
August 2013

Source

Credit Line

Purchased with the assistance of the Australian Government through the National Cultural Heritage Account, E A and V I Crome Bequest, and Powerhouse Foundation, 2014

Acquisition Date

5 June 2014

Cite this Object

Harvard

Bechstein piano exhibited in the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 6 July 2020, <https://ma.as/471894>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/471894 |title=Bechstein piano exhibited in the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=6 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Icons: From the MAAS Collection at the Powerhouse Museum.

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