The pianoforte in the Beethovenhaus - Mödling
The pianoforte we can see today in the Beethoven memorial house, with the label "Carl Stein in Wien, Landstraße 94", (fabrication number 512), dates back to the late thirties of the nineteenth century. Beethoven already died in 1827, so he certainly never played on this particular instrument, though we do know that he was in close contact with ist makers.
When Beethoven left Bonn temporarily in 1787 in order to study in Vienna (among others also with Mozart), he made the acquaintance of Nanette (Anna Maria) Stein (1769 – 1833). She was the daughthter of the famous piano maker Johann Andreas Stein from Augsburg (1728 – 1792). She was to play an important part in Beethoven`s life, and it was she who was so often his factotum that he called her "my good samaritan". Stein was the inventor of the so-called Wiener Mechanik, and Beethoven very much appreciated his instruments - their light and yet full sound that was always of an extreme clarity, their well developed treble and their light touch. After her father`s death, Nanette, who was herself a remarkable pianist, carried on the piano manufacture together with her brother Matthäus (= Mathew, 1776 – 1842). After her marriage to Johann Andreas Streicher, she moved the manufacture to Vienna in 1794 (Frère et Soeur Stein). Her brother withdrew from the company whereupon J.A. Streicher himself joined it, followed by the couple`s son Johann Baptist. Matthäus established his own business and committed the manufacture to his son Carl Andreas (1797 – 1863). It was he who built the pianoforte exhibited here. Let us point out a few interesting details: The instrument has a relatively heavily built and massive corpus in order to achieve more volume of sound. It bears a resemblance to the great instruments of English makers, instruments that Beethoven loved because of their loudness, especially in the bass, and because of their greater range, maybe because Beethoven was, as we know, hard of hearing. Here the strings are thicker and strung tighter than in other instruments by Stein, in the bass the strings are even spun. All this leads to more volume of sound, greater tension and more force – more variety of play, something that Beethoven had always aimed at. And yet, we are still dealing with an instrument equipped with the Wiener Mechanik as favoured by Beethoven, and not with the Englische Mechanik that had already been invented, which increases the resistance to the impact and thus produces a greater sound volume. What also strikes us is an additional lid immediately above the strings, which was operated by means of an extra pedal on the far left. It is believed lost, and in 1996 it was reconstructed out of plywood by Firma Reisinger (Königsklostergasse) under the supervision of the Office for the Preservation of Historical Momunents, after the very latest scientific findings (at a cost of € 9450.–). This grand piano could have been made to measure for Beethoven, however, we have no evidence to prove any direct influence of the composer upon the making of the instrument. All we know for certain is that in March 1820, Matthdus Stein gave him the well-intended advice to accompany him to Mödling and go and have a look at a house offered for sale there. This can be read up in one of the diaries. We know for sure that one pianoforte was built specially for Beethoven, and this is an instrument built by the Viennese firm Graf in the year 1825. It is on loan. In order to compensate for Beethoven`s progressing deafness, the lid was opened to the front, the number of strings was increased and the strings were spun. But Beethoven`s illness was already so advanced, that all this was not of much help.
The instrument that Beethoven did indeed play on during his stays in Mödling from 1818 – 1820, was a present made by Broadwood, London. This surely shows how famous Beethoven was already during his own lifetime. Today, this instrument is exhibited in the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest.
Dir. Mag. Reinmar Wolf / Mag. Susanne Anzengruber