Weber Maestro Orchestrion
Lot 26W
A Weber-Maesto Orchestrion, German, circa 1926, exceedingly rare late model,
Sold for US$ 434,000 inc. premium
Lot Details
A Weber-Maesto Orchestrion,
German, circa 1926, exceedingly rare late model,
Identification numbers:
181096 stamped on the piano pin block
2638 stamped on the roll frame
4622 stamped on the player stack

With a total of 112 pipes, including twenty-eight each for violins, flutes, clarinets and trumpet/saxophones, 3-speed vibrato system, the piano with mandolin attachment, twenty-eight note xylophone, a bass drum along with tympani effect, snare drum, cymbal, triangle, castanets, woodblock and tambourine, with a solo capacity to the pipes and xylophone, in grande-armoire oak cabinet, with plain flat pediment top above deep stepped cornice moulding, Weber-Maesto inset brass banner title, main front panel with subtle Arts & Crafts taste features, central shaped dividing spar with shell and C scroll form, smaller arched detail to the flanking pressed and fretted gilt metal inserts and pleated green cloth backdrop, a pair of brass opened-winged swans holding three-section drop for wire to Adam-style frosted opal glass shades, above very slightly tapering three-quarter turned columns with brass capping to centre and bases, central roll bar sliding door with matching panel detail, above double doors, side storage doors in twin doors with pleated-backdrop to top and fielded panel bases, on part-shaped plinth base, on wheels.

With 50 rolls.
9' 8"high 11'5"wide 3'6" deep

Footnotes

  • References:
    Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, Q. David Bowers, 1972, p.629
    The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments, Arthur A. Reblitz, 2001, pp.113-114

    Restoration:
    Ron Cappel and Company

    Footnote:
    It is commonly understood that only seven of this type of Weber-Maesto are known to exist today. Hiding behind one of the more subtly-designed orchestrions is one of the best-made and best-sounding German orchestrions ever to stand on this earth.

    In the annals of automatic musical instruments, one of the most respected names is Gebr. Weber, or Weber Brothers, founded in Waldkirch, in the Black Forest area of Germany, in 1880. The company in the early years made barrel-operated organs and orchestrions, many of which had mechanical figures. The was in an era when electric power was not readily available, and spring-wound motors and weight-driven motors were used. By the early 20th century, Weber had available a very sophisticated line of instruments played by perforated paper rolls. Orchestrions were the main line of the firm, and in the 1960s, when Q. David Bowers visited Waldkirch several times to do research, WEBER ORCHESTRION was still lettered on the end of the original factory building. Just one instrument remained in local use, a Styria orchestrion in the Felsenkeller, a café, and on Kandelstrasse, Carl Frei, an organ builder and repairer, had a Weber Otero in his shop as an attraction.

    Music arranger Gustav Bruder, interviewed by Bowers in Waldkirch, stated that in the 1920s Weber endeavored to produce several orchestrions of true concert quality. This was accomplished by fitting them with very sophisticated expression mechanisms and, equally important, having a repertoire of rolls, arranged by himself, to showcase their abilities.
    Looking at the roll mechanism and the general structure of the chests and frame, one sees that everything appears to be built more substantially than was required. The excellent sound quality is partly due to the layout of the ranks and the efficient use of space within the case.

    In the 1920s Weber described their Maesto:
    "Unequalled concert orchestra, dance, and jazz band. An incomparable electro-pneumatic artistic orchestrion comprising a piano of the first order [by Feurich], violin, violoncello, flutes, clarinet, trumpets, saxophone, lotus flute, jazz trumpets, complete xylophone, and assorted percussion instruments including bass drum, castanets, snare drum, tambourine, triangle, cymbal, and wood block."

    The clarinets were enclosed in a special chamber, giving additional expression in combination with the expression provided by the regular swell shades. Decades later, Harvey N. Roehl, founder of the Vestal Press, said this:
    "The Weber Maesto is considered by many to be the outstanding example orchestrions because it was built very late in the game and every known device was incorporated to insure that it would resemble as closely as possible a human orchestra. To say that they succeeded would be a gross understatement! Nothing can compare with the artistic renderings of the Maesto."

    The Maesto and Solea used the same Maesto roll, but the Solea lacked the trumpets and jazz trumpets, thus giving the music a slightly different character. Rolls were generally one tune, such as an overture or classical number, which played for 10 to 15 minutes, or of multiple popular tunes, with four melodies on each. It is believed that about 60 to 70 Maestos were originally made, which considering the quality was a good number. About 10% of that number exist today.
    This instrument was brought by Bowers to America and was displayed in the showroom of Hathaway & Bowers, Inc. (Terry Hathaway and Q. David Bowers), where it and other automatic musical instruments were played for visitors and customers, including regional meetings of the Musical Box Society International and the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association. On occasion, concerts on the Maesto were given, lasting an hour or two, playing requested melodies. The instrument was featured on recordings, including on the cleverly pun-grabbing titled album 'Music Maesto, Please.'

    To hear and see the Maesto was to desire to own one, and for several collectors that dream was fulfilled. Today there are perhaps a half dozen Weber Maestos in existence from the 1920s—the later style with advanced expression and other refinements. These include those in Bruchsal, as noted; one in the Baud Museum in L'Auberson, Switzerland; and an example in the San Sylmar Collection formed by the late J.B. Nethercutt—meaning that for all practical purposes it is unlikely that these will ever come on the market. The others are in private collections.

    The interesting and unique feature on this particular Maesto, is the position of the swell shutters. Located at the center-front of the orchestrion and on both sides as well as the top. The standard swell layout varied but rarely included both front and top.

    All makers could design and build these instruments, but Weber would also add that little bit extra which in turn earned them the collector's nickname, 'The Magicians of the Orchestrion'.
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