Stephen Birkett

Piano Design
Physical Systems
Animal Growth Modelling
Environmental Systems

Linear Algebra
Numerical Methods
Computational Mathematics
Musical Instruments

Marcia Hadjimarkos

Sebastien Erard (1752-1831), the founder of the Erard firm, built the first piano in France in 1777. Despite his fame as one of the pre-eminent piano builders of the 19th century, he initially directed his efforts primarily at building harps. He was a precocious inventor, patenting many innovations in harp and piano technology. When his Paris establishment was destroyed in the French Revolution, he set up an English factory in London. Sebastien, and his nephew Pierre (1796-1855), shared the operation of this London factory, and newly re-built Paris factory. Erard pianos were ubiquitous throughout Europe and sought after by many pianists.
Erard's most important contribution was certainly the double escapement action, which he invented and first produced in about 1823 - essentially the same design is still used in the actions of all modern pianos. The introduction of this new action coincided with Liszt's first trip to Paris at age thirteen, and the young pianist was overcome by the new type of piano which he saw. The Erard family fussed over Liszt throughout his career, providing instruments, and the Salles Erard, for his concerts. Liszt was a regular visitor to the Maison Erard whenever he was in Paris.
Erard's second version of the double repetition action ca1840 is shown in the photo above.

The entrance to the Erard premises ca1960 is shown in the photo at the left. Sebastien's nephew Pierre continued to operate the two branches of the Erard firm until his death in 1855. A curious fact is that both Sebastien and his competitor Ignaz Pleyel died in the same year 1831, and both Pierre Erard and Pleyel's son, Camille, died in the same year 1855.

Some 19th century Erard pianos
Erard 1803 FF-c4 5.5 octaves
owned by Beethoven

Erard 1836 CC-a4 6.5 octaves
concert piano

Erard 1840 CC-f4 6.5 octaves
salon piano
Erard 1857 AAA-a4 7 octaves
Erard 1860 AAA-a4 7 octaves

mp3 samples

Hausmusik; Cyril Huve fpo (Erard, 1822). EMI CDC 7 54264 2

La Gaia Scienza; Federica Valli fpo (Erard, 1842). Winter & Winter 910-052-2

External links

Jean Louchet, Pianos Pleyel et Erard

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©2004 Stephen Birkett