The last piano on which FrÃ©dÃ©ric Chopin played and composed in Paris is being renovated by an American expert who is restoring it to its original characteristics from the mid-19th century.
Paul McNulty spent days at the Frederic Chopin Museum in Warsaw filling in a few cracks in the soundboard and putting on metal strings like those used by Parisian piano maker Camille Pleyel – Chopin’s favorite – in 1848.
âWe’re very, very close to the character and identity of this instrument when we put on the right strings, everything else being in great condition,â McNulty told The Associated Press Thursday.
Pleyel placed the instrument, with the serial number 14810, at the disposal of Chopin, already seriously ill at the time, in the fall of 1848. After Chopin’s death in October 1849, the piano was bought by his student and Scottish friend, Jane Stirling, who gave it to Chopin’s older sister, Ludwika Jedrzejewiczowa.
The piano arrived in Warsaw in 1850 – it still bears the red customs seal of Russia that ruled Warsaw at the time. He survived two world wars, including the destruction of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
Considering the provenance and condition of the instrument, McNulty said it was priceless.
McNulty, born in Texas, says it is the “best-preserved Pleyel piano in the world,” despite a rather dramatic history. It was performed, but treated well by Chopin’s family and was not used for concerts, also due to a failed renovation attempt.
He had most of his wire strings changed to much stronger and tighter modern strings during the renovation in the late 1950s which destroyed his tone and strained the entire structure.
McNulty and museum officials believe the current work will bring it as close as possible to the sound heard by Chopin.
“We hope he will sing for us again,” said Aleksander Laskowski, spokesperson for the FrÃ©dÃ©ric Chopin Institute which houses the museum.
âSo an opportunity to hear Chopin’s piano sound as he heard it when he composed is quite likely,â Laskowski said.
McNulty, who has restored and built replicas of hundreds of historic pianos over the past 35 years, says the new sound “will be within the builder’s expectations.”
The instrument will serve as a resource for research and possibly as a model for a replica, but is not intended for performance.
Among the copies made by McNulty is the Silberman piano from 1749 on which Johann Sebastian Bach improvised.
Chopin, Poland’s best known and beloved classical composer and pianist, was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola near Warsaw to a Polish mother and a French father. He left Poland at the age of 19 to deepen his musical training in Vienna and then in Paris, where he settled, composed, gave concerts and taught the piano.
He died on October 17, 1849 in Paris and was buried in the PÃ¨re Lachaise cemetery. Her sister Ludwika brought her heart to Warsaw where it sits in one of the pillars of the Holy Cross Church.