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Shirley S Kirsten

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A piano with a fascinating history..
by Shirley S Kirsten   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, December 05, 2011
Posted: Monday, December 05, 2011

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Shirley S Kirsten

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           >> View all

Haddy Haddorff sings Franz Schubert's Impromptu Op. 90 in Eb


<a target="_blank" href=""><img width=350 src="" alt="" title="frontviewlidclosed" width="640" height="360" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-20060" /></a>

I almost dared myself to play this gorgeous composition on my Haddorff console with its imperfect regulation and "temperament." (tuning) It's one of those rare instruments that has the ring of the Romantic era, as if maybe it was a period instrument. Pat Frederick, of the Frederick collection, had remarked that it had an emblematic "sweetness." I should have played it minus any sustain pedal, because the instrument has its own built in, "generic" reverb. Notes will almost run into each other because they are so "live" with resonance.

<a target="_blank" href=""><img width=350 src="" alt="" title="Aiden on Haddy back turned" width="300" height="168" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-20062" /></a>

This piano has a story. I saw its picture on Craig's list, and that alone drew me to it like a magnet. It had a cherry mahogany finish and beamed with beauty. I also knew the name "Haddorff," but couldn't exactly place the association I had with it. I owned an instant appetite to learn more.

As it played out, the piano was being sold by a woman who lived within a few short blocks of me, in the Northwest Fresno neighborhood where I lived for over 25 years in a two-story house. The owner would have been the same generation as my children, perhaps a tad older. And as she related, the piano had been passed down from her parents, musicians, for the grandchildren who took piano lessons. But sadly, it was not regarded as a precious heirloom, to be inherited by the next generation as would be expected. Instead, it was just sitting there, unplayed, in the den of the home, looking out on a lovely garden begging to have an extended life with a caring owner.

It beckoned me to play it. And after just a few sonorous chords, I was in heaven and had to have it. There were no questions asked, except that I had asked to invite a tuner in to check the strings, tuning pins etc. because it had a kind of pleasant sourness, not really offensive, that might require technical attention.

I don't think this piano, dating to 1951 had a good tuning history. Most sellers of these older, vintage instruments will say that "all it needs is a tuning," as if to boast about its inherent ability to thrive despite any adverse conditions one could imagine, including benign neglect. I don't think it was abused in any way, but it could have enjoyed better maintenance in the short and long run. It hardly mattered as it passed the initial tuner exam with flying colors.

Fresno is kind to pianos with its low humidity for most of the year. They have a longer life span here than in coastal areas of the US. In the Central Valley, a short, foggy season brings some moisture but nothing that warrants damp chasers. We're lucky to house decent pianos for many decades and beyond.


Once I had purchased Haddy for a mere $700, I had it moved by a Russian fellow who used to own Visalia Piano Gallery that sold Petrofs and other exotic pianos. After the  store suffered the pangs of a depressed economy, "Ghinaddy," did some piano moving, and took the assignment to get Haddy safely to my townhouse. Surprisingly, it was without a truck. As I recall the purveyance had a knotty problem. It just wasn't available for whatever reason, so the husky Russian brought a dolly, and single-handedly eased the big size console onto it. What a balancing act it was! He literally pushed it on the sidewalk to my place with my minor assistance. A few onlookers, on a business lunch break, helped nudge it over a few nasty cracks in the sidewalk. Curious drivers looked through car windows at this site to behold.

It was like the Laurel and Hardy piano moving spectacle minus the ropes out a window.

This was the one time I sadly regretted not having my video camera with me to chronicle the journey from the sidewalk, into the street, with a left turn onto Arthur Ave. It would have been an Internet sensation, to rival Nora the cat perched on a Yamaha bench pawing one or two notes ad nauseum.


So fast forward a year later.. I am recording late into the night:

<a target="_blank" href=""><img width=350 src="" alt="" title="recording track schubert" width="300" height="168" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-20065" /></a>

Here's what the bluebook of says about the Haddorff piano.


"The career of the Haddorff pianos is by many in the art world regarded as phenomenal. These famous instruments encompass every form and attainment, including the Artistic Grands, Reproducing Pianos, Grand Reproducing Players, Player-pianos and uprights every phase of high grade piano manufacture, and the name of Haddorff is always the symbol of musical attainment. The attainment of power in a piano's name is a matter of such complexity of elements that to describe the way to that result in words is almost impossible. Haddorff pianos have so long stood as representatives of fine achievement in pianos that to refer to the evenness of tone, the responsiveness of action, and the charm of expression possible to the performer, would be to repeat that with which the piano world is already familiar. Haddorff pianos are recognized as models of piano artistry. They are instruments whose workings out have been, as is always the case with ambitious instruments, gradual and progressive through the years. The Haddorff scale is so finely shaded, and its tonal results so graduated, that there is no ear so acute as to detect where the dividing lines occur. And that is one of the triumphs of the scale draftsman work. It is the work of a master acoustician whose entire life has been devoted to piano development and the finest attainment of inborn skill and experience has found a culmination in the instruments that bear his name. Mr. C. A. Haddorff designed and created the first Haddorff piano.

"The Haddorff sounding board is scientifically constructed with a view to obtaining the greatest resonance without in the least interfering with the clarity of tone and quality of tone power. Haddorff pianos are the results of the best material so carefully treated and adjusted and so finely finished in external and internal details that there is only reason for approval by the most critical. And this applies also to durability, giving to these instruments everything that the discriminating piano lover must demand, and insuring for the instrument itself the progressive career to which it was originally dedicated. The Haddorff player- piano is in every way the same creation as the Haddorff piano, equipped with the pneumatic action by which the utmost refinement of expression is easily possible. All of the effects possible to human interpretation are attainable with an accuracy absolutely dependable. The Haddorff Reproducing Piano is electrically controlled and is representative of the latest advance in this marvelous instrument by which the performances of the greatest pianist may be reproduced with fidelity to the most delicate tonal results of accent, tonal control and technique. Haddorff pianos have attained an immovable place in the world of art, and they are everywhere recognized for the influence they exert in musical life and in the business attainments of their representatives."

<strong> Slow, mindful practicing of the Impromptu:</strong>

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