Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina Model B, together withUpfeld roll cabinet
Lot 31W
The exhibition Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina, Model B, A unique and highly important commission-made model, reputedly built for the 1911 Exhibition in Turin, Italy;
Sold for US$ 658,000 inc. premium
Lot Details
The exhibition Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina, Model B,
A unique and highly important commission-made model, reputedly built for the 1911 Exhibition in Turin, Italy;
Identification numbers:
171 stamped to the back panel
76 on the tracker bar spring clip
305 on all violin finger boards
26255 on the printed labels seen inside each of the three violins.

The violin and piano playing instrument comprising three violins playing strings tuning to D, A and E and bowed by a circular 1,350-strand horsehair bow cage, with integrated cross-strung Rönisch pianoforte, full expression to both piano and violins, black-finished pneumatics to violins, roll-bar and frame in black finished metal bearing the Mechaniké-Musik oOo Sr. K. K. H. D. Kronprinzen circular gilt exhibition plaques below tempo slide control, in fabulous opposing fully figured mahogany case of rich red hue, the violin section top centre of typical bowed profile with the Hupfeld brass inset banner above finely fretted triple panels, each with beige cloth backdrops, opening to reveal the tuned stringed instruments, eleven-tap finger bars and vibrato effect, with the air pipe pneumatic chambers behind, flanked by double panels with shaped insets, bearing central oval cartouche infils of coromandel and stained fruitwood inlays of musical instruments entwined within geometric classical frames, the bowed violin chamber underside with carved Rococo support before meeting the main piano top, rare non-standard roll chamber slide door with enlarged horizontal fret arch and boss medallion centre, quadruple half-turned columns with acanthus-leaf interruptions and scroll heads, keyfall to the seven-octave keyboard and full brass inset maker banners inside lower field, the keyboard platform raised on tapering squared carved supports bearing stylised acanthus-leaf heads upon turned thread stem appliqués, under tier panel of plain form with double incised motifs, cage plate pedal escutcheon above matching shaped arched toe plate, sides with handles in gilt metal, and the whole embellished with various spandrels, appliqués and sconces, including the double electroliers for keyboard illumination, with colored beaded shades, on casters.

The separate roll cabinet with nine-division fret-square glazed front, pleated beige cloth backdrop, opening to reveal twelve adjustable tilted shelves, square plinth with inner gilt appliqué roundel above matching lozenge and support toes, all in matching transitional Empire taste.

With 50 rolls, including a good selection of re-cut examples.
Height: 8 feet, 10 inches (2.69 meters). Width: 6 feet, 3 inches (1.90 meters). Depth: 2 feet, 8 inches (0.81 meter).

Footnotes

  • References:
    The Phonoliszt-Violina has, in all its forms, been chronicled in many books and publications. Within the modern collecting speciality of automatic musical instruments, the more popular works are:

    Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, Q. David Bowers, 1972, pp. 430-441
    The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments, Arthur A. Reblitz, 2001, pp.185-192 and 365, 366
    Automatic Pianos, Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume, 2004, pp. 37-41 and pp.446-447
    Player Piano Treasury, Harvey N. Roehl, 1961, p. 197, 278, 279 Put Another Nickel In, Q. David Bowers, 1968, p. 170, 219, 239 The Marvellous World of Music Machines, San Sylmar, 1976, pp. 126-128, 1978, pp.230-1
    Treasures of Mechanical Music, Arthur A. Reblitz and Q. David Bowers, 1981, pp. 193-202
    Automatic Organs, Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume, 2007, p. 472.

    Restoration:
    Ron Cappel and Company

    Footnote:
    The story of products from Ludwig Hupfeld, A.G., in Leipzig-Göhlis, then in 1911 in Böhlitz-Ehrenberg, near Leipzig, has been told in the footnote of lot 24 (the Model 19 Sinfonie-Jazz.)
    To summarise the history, the company began in 1892, when Ludwig Hupfeld, an accomplished musician, mechanic, and businessman, acquired J.M. Grob & Co., musical instrument manufacturers and retailers established in 1880. Early products made by the firm included various piano-playing devices, then, in the 1890s, orchestrions, some of which were operated by pinned wooden barrels, others by paper rolls. Into the early 20th century, additional instruments were produced, most of which were created by Robert Frömsdorf and a team of mechanics. These include the Phonola player piano (1902), Phonoliszt expression piano (1904), Dea reproducing pianos, and Helios orchestrions.

    After Frömsdorf's passing in 1908, Karl Ernst Hennig took the mantle of chief inventor and also became head of the manufacturing business, although he had little experience in the last. After some adjustments and resolution of jealousies, all worked out well. In later years, to 1926, Hennig and others created many other instruments, including the Pan Orchestra, jazz-music pianos and orchestrions (among which was the Sinfonie-Jazz), and models for use in theatres.

    His most lauded involvement was with the Phonoliszt-Violina – a genius masterstroke.

    The Phonoliszt-Violina is provided with three genuine high grade violins placed within a rotating circular horse-hair bow. In rendering the different pieces (from highest classics to popular music) all the delicacies and peculiarities of the human playing are maintained; in fact, the variation in playing staccato, legato, glissando, vibrato, tremolo, &c. in its most artistic execution commands true admiration of every connoisseur. Such beautiful effects have so far been possible by individual playing only and never before in the way of mechanical imitation.
    All violin pieces are accompanied by the Concert-Phonoliszt in the most perfect manner, this representing another most appreciable feature in addition to the amazing invention of the self-playing violin itself. Another excellent quality of the Phonoliszt-Violina consists of being able to play the piano alone at any time, either by hand or by inserting perforated music rolls, of which there is a good selected assortment included with it.

    Franz Mikorey, conductor of the Court Orchestra in Dessau, wrote about the Phonoliszt-Violina:
    "...Your Violina is a marvelous invention which must be admired by every professional musician. It gives me great pleasure to express to you my sincere felicitation of so brilliant a success after twenty-three years of strenuous work.
    [dated]Dessau, May 27th, 1909.
    Franz Mikorey."

    In 1908, Farny Wurlitzer visited the Leipzig Trade Fair, was amazed with the Phonoliszt-Violina, and sought to gain the representation for it in America. By then it was already a sensation, the talk of the musical world. No arrangement was made, however. In the spring of 1911, representatives of Ludwig Hupfeld, A.G., came to the United States and set up a display that included a Phonoliszt-Violina, a Dea reproducing piano, grand and upright Solo Phonola player pianos, and a Helios orchestrion. These were shown to the trade and the general public in the Hotel Astor in New York City.
    On May 26, 1911, Ernst Böcker, who conducted the E. Böcker Organ & Orchestrion Company, of New York City, perfected an agreement with Hupfeld to be its agent in the United States, accomplishing what the Wurlitzer had not been able to do. With the new arrangement in hand. Böcker went with the Hupfeld contingent to the music trade show at the Coliseum in Chicago, June 3 to 10, where he set up the Hupfeld instruments and others in three spaces he had contracted for earlier, the second largest display (after the Aeolian Company). Four boxcars were required to ship these as well as two Weber Violanos and eight Imhof & Mukle orchestrions.
    To say that the Böcker display in Chicago attracted a lot of attention may be an understatement. Karl Hennig was on hand from the Hupfeld factory said that the crowd at that show "...far surpassed anything he had ever seen," further noting,
    "...I have exhibited in London, Paris, and pretty nearly every large European center."

    In the summer of 1912, a musicians' strike in New York City led to a lot of unexpected publicity for the violin-playing machine. The Music Trade Review included this on June 29, 1912,
    "...E. Boecker, sole agent in the United States for the various makes of orchestrions and other automatic musical instruments manufactured in Europe, announces that the Phonoliszt-Violina has been installed on both the C.W. Morse and Adirondack of the People's Line, running between New York and Albany"

    And in a separate article the following week:

    "...Theatrical managers were present at a demonstration of a new musical instrument at the Hudson Theatre Thursday afternoon. The instrument combines the tones of the piano and the violin, and its New York representative, E. Boecker, expects that it may be used to replace the orchestras that have been used in theatres heretofore. In fact, Cohan & Harris announced immediately after the demonstration that they would place the instrument in the Gaiety Theatre next Monday and do away with the musicians they have been employing. The instrument is called the Phonoliszt-Violina"

    Not said was that this was a stopgap measure during a walkout by orchestra members.
    Soon, several theatres installed them to play music, seemingly with acceptable results, although the melodies could not have matched the action on the stage. The presentation of Officer 666 at the Gaiety Theatre in the summer of 1912 drew particular comment in the press. Audiences "had an excellent opportunity to learn of the wonderful qualities of the Phonoliszt-Violina, which Cohan & Harris have been trying out with a view to its use in all their theatres following the strike of the musicians.

    It was noted:
    "...The automatic orchestra proved so effective that the live musicians were not missed."
    In reality, it is unlikely that there was ever any intention of permanently replacing the human contingent. On August 23, Variety gave related information:
    "...The Fulton, Lyceum, Garrick, Hudson, Liberty, Empire, and Gayety theatres, New York [all "Syndicate" houses] will have installed for this season a "Phonoliszt-Piano" orchestra. It is an all-string instrument, replacing the usual collection of musicians in the pit. It is said the Shuberts will place the same instrument in the Comedy, 39th Street, and Elliott theatres, New York. The Blackstone and other Klaw & Erlanger theatres, Chicago, playing dramatic shows or pieces not requiring music during the action, may also take on the new orchestrion...."
    It continued:
    "...The installation of these self-playing orchestras is an outcome of the recent musicians' strike in New York, also the present trouble in Chicago between the musical union and the theatre managers. With ten houses in New York City taking on an automatic orchestra, it means at least 125 musicians who formerly played in these theatres will have to seek employment elsewhere."

    And that was not all. The Phonoliszt-Violina was still a hit in New York City a year later in the summer of 1913. The Music Trade Review carried this account on July 19:
    "...The First Annual Exposition of the Moving Picture Art held at Grand Central Palace, New York, last week, was one of the most successful expositions for exhibitors ever introduced. Notwithstanding the summer season the exhibition hall was crowded day and night with interested visitors, and the most gratifying feature of this steady stream of visitors was the fact that a fair-sized percentage were interested in the exhibition from a trade standpoint and were there to carefully consider any ideas that were presented to add to the efficiency of the moving picture theater"

    A popular booth at the show was that occupied by Ernst Böcker, 26 W. Thirty-eighth St., New York, presenting a number of famous foreign makes of instruments which embodied many distinctive features. Mr. Böcker exhibited for the first time in public his new six-violin Phonoliszt-Violina which created strong country-wide interest.
    This new six-violin model was subsequently featured for three days in the ballroom of the New Hotel McAlpin at 34th Street and Broadway, for which private invitations were sent to the trade and notable citizens (none are known to survive today). As fortune would have it, Böcker's business failed in December 1913, by which time the Phonoliszt-Violina was very familiar to many Americans.

    The Model A, introduced in the early days, was discontinued in the 1910s. The Model B continued to be made until about 1928. Along the way nearly 1,000 different musical rolls were made for the Phonoliszt-Violina, embracing all classes of music, produced for all occasions and tastes. They did not seem to leave any detail out.
    Günther Hupfeld, son of Ludwig Hupfeld, and Carl Becke, formerly a director of Hupfeld-Gebr. Zimmerman, told Claes O. Friberg and Q. David Bowers that over 10,000 Phonoliszt-Violinas were made. Over time, nearly all were lost, as music in public places turned to the radio and electronic amplification of phonograph records. In the 1950s a new era of appreciation arose on the part of collectors, gaining great momentum in 1970 and 1971 when several well-restored instruments were played for collectors who had never heard one before.

    For example, the Murtogh Guinness Collection instrument, restored to perfection by Alan Lightcap, thrilled attendees of the East Coast Chapter of the Musical Box Society back in 1971 and more recently, the 2009 meeting when the chapter met at Morristown NJ. By the time of the first chapter viewing, one had been shown by Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., in California, and another had been restored to order for Alex Jordan, proprietor of the House on the Rock tourist attraction in Wisconsin.
    "I must have one!" became the call. Today, most historians consider this to be the most famous automatic musical instrument the world has ever known, with possibly the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano being the runner up.

    During the course of research for The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments, 2001, Art Reblitz interviewed Siegfried Wendel, proprietor of Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett a popular attraction in Rüdesheim on the banks of the Rhine River, who knew of 40 surviving examples of the Model B Phonoliszt-Violina. Of the Model A he was aware of 16, and of the Model C (late model in modern case, introduced in the 1920s) he listed just one. In addition there was a single Kino-Violina, a type built into two low-profile cases for use below a motion picture screen.

    Nearly all of the important books published on the general field of automatic musical instruments feature the Phonoliszt-Violina.

    The most famous Phonoliszt-Violina, Model B – a brief life story

    In Turin, Italy, a World's Fair was held in 1911. Tradition connected with the Yaffe Collection instrument is that this particalar instrument was on exhibit there. At a later time it played in the Café Kranzier in Berlin. An organ builder acquired it from the café, and in time it was sold to Mr. Johann Bartesch, who had a small museum in Arsgereuth, Germany.
    Q. David Bowers, Bonnie Tekstra, and Claes O. Friberg visited there back in the early 1970s and were impressed with its beauty. It was in a small room, nicely displayed, and was not for sale at any price!

    Later, it did come on to the market, and Mark Yaffe was the fortunate buyer. Restored to perfection by Ron Cappel, this is one of the very finest examples in existence anywhere, and in terms of its case, stands tall above any others known. Having a Phonoliszt-Violina seems to be a necessity for every advanced private collection and museum, with the result that this instrument is well known among enthusiasts today. The demand is such that whenever one appears on the market it sells quickly, assuming the price and restoration are satisfactory. The presently offered instrument is absolutely unique in its use of appliqués, creating yet another once in a lifetime opportunity.

    Aspects of Ownership and Appreciation:

    As related above, the fame of the Phonoliszt-Violina has no equal in the annals of automatic musical instruments. Today, the surviving examples are highly prized and admired. Many different original and re-cut (more durable) rolls are available, providing a wide selection of melodies from classical to popular. While tuning of the violin strings can be done with a button sounding a related piano note, many collectors have found that an inexpensive modern hand-held tuner of the kind used for stringed instruments is quick and easy to use. In their day the Phonoliszt-Violinas were very well made and saw long, often continuous use. A well restored instrument thus can perform today with a minimum of attention.

    Violinist and piano-reproduction through the finest expressive pneumatic action, rarely gets better than this.
    This, the finest and rarest of all automatic instruments, awaits you.
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