Historical Piano Study Center

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing two albums (from different record companies) that used vintage pianos on loan from the same historical piano collection. I had no idea there even was a historical piano collection in the country. Because it is an important and fascinating place, here are some details about it from their brochure.

The Historical Piano Study Center:
The Historical Piano Study Center, showcasing the Frederick Historical Piano Collection, is open to the public for individual and group tours. Its mission is to provide opportunities  for listening to, playing on, and learning about the piano, as known to important composers and pianists from Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven through Debussy and Ravel.

The Study Center can provide a forum for lecture-recitals, master classes, seminars, panel discussions, and such, on matters concerning the relationship of compositional style and performance practice to the instruments for which the standard repertoire was composed.

A tour of the Piano Collection takes three hours, due to the number and variety of pianos to be encountered, and the need to introduce each type with a few words, and with appropriate musical selections. Visitors may play the pianos.

The Study Center is open Thursdays, 10:00 to 4:00; Saturdays, 1:00 to 4:00, and at other times by appointment, year 'round. In winter, to maintain optimum humidity for the pianos, the temperature is kept at 50°f. Visitors are advised to dress warmly. Appointments may be made by phone or by e-mail (piano.fred@juno.com).

While there is no fee for a tour, the Study Center depends upon (deductible) freewill donations for maintaining its building and supporting its musical programs. The Piano Study Center is fully handicapped accessible.

The Frederick Piano Collection:
The Frederick Collection of historical grand pianos includes two dozen instruments by leading makers in Vienna, Paris, London, Leipzig, and the United States, from about 1790 to 1928.

Each piano represents a major type known to and played by a specific composer or generation of composers and pianists from Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, through the nineteenth to the early twentieth century.

Collection of Pianos on Display:
(By unknown maker), Vienna (?) c.1790-1795
Brodmann, Vienna c.1800-1805
Katholnig, Vienna c.1805-1810
Clementi, London 1805
Bösendorfer, Vienna c.1828-1832
Conrad Graf, Vienna c.1828-1829
Tröndlin, Leipzig c. 1830
Stodart , London c. 1830
Erard, Paris 1840
Pleyel, Paris 1845
Bösendorfer, Vienna 1845
Streicher, Vienna 1846
Chickering, Boston 1862
Steinway, New York 1866
Streicher, Vienna 1868
Streicher, Vienna 1871
Broadwood, London 1871
Bösendorfer, Vienna 1877
Blüthner, Leipzig 1877
Erard, Paris 1877
Mason & Hamlin, Boston c. 1885
Erard, Paris  1893
Blüthner, Leipzig 1907
Erard, Paris 1928

Historical Piano Concerts Series:
Established in October, 1985, the Concert Series is held in the spring and fall at the Ashburnham Community Church, 9 Chapel Street, at the corner of Main Street (Route 12).

Concerts have included music for solo piano, piano duo, piano with violin and/or cello, lieder, and French art songs, performed by outstanding professional musicians.

Each concert matches a single historical piano from the Frederick Collection to the repertoire best suited to it: For example, Chopin's music on the 1845 Pleyel or 1840 Erard; Brahms's on the 1868 or 1871 Streicher; Debussy's on the 1877 or the 1893 Erard or the 1907 Blüthner.

The church, built around 1835 and renovated in the mid-1960s, is a light, airy space with superb acoustics. It can seat two hundred people and is fully handicapped accessible.

The concerts, at 4:00 o'clock on Sunday afternoons in September-October and May-June, last about an hour and three quarters.  Admission is $10.00 per person, children and students free. There are no advance ticket sales or reserve seats. To learn of upcoming events, either consult our Web site (http://www.frederickcollection.org) or ask to be on the mailing list. Fliers announcing concerts are mailed only twice a year, in spring and fall.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to classicalcandor@gmail.com

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa