The musical instruments
1. Semi-automatic piano players and piano’s Among them, the museum’s namesake, the Pianola piano players, marketed from 1899 by the Æolian company, and imitators such as Phonola (Hupfeld) and Pleyela (Pleyel). Followed by a generation of pianos with built-in playing apparatus and hand and foot controls, from 1908 mostly with a device for the standard 88-tone roll type.
2. Reproduction pianos, and piano players These expensive self-playing systems were often built into grand pianos, but of course also into pianos. German manufacturers also supplied them as front sets, of which we have a completely unique example on loan, which was made to match a satinwood veneered Steinway grand piano with inlays, carvings and other decorations by a skilled decorator.
3. Automatic café pianolas We have beautifully decorated instruments, often with coin insertion system and one instrument with an automatic‘roll changer’ that allows several rolls to be played one after the other.
4. Automatic playing harmoniums In the late 19th century, most harmoniums came from the US. The pioneer of piano slide technology Æolian began by making small‘organettes’ (with harmonium reeds), the Celestina. This was followed by increasingly larger ones, which were also playable as harmoniums: the Princess, the Aeolian Grand and the Orchestrelle. The museum has self-playing harmoniums from America, France and Germany.
5. Automatic-playing pipe organ Æolian built several hundred automatic-playing pipe organs for the villas of the very rich, especially in the United States. There, they were placed in a specially designed music room or in the stairwell, giving visitors a spectacular musically accompanied entrance. In England, about 100 were installed in the grand country houses of wealthy families.
Several dozen of these organs found their way to continental Europe, for example to Krupp’s country house in Essen (Villa Hügel) and to the enormous castle of the Prince of Lippe-Detmold (uncle of Prince Bernhard).
Dutch businessman, mecaenas and music lover Julius Carl Bunge also had such an instrument installed in his villa Kareol in Aerdenhout (1910). Moreover, he had scrolls made of his own arrangements for this instrument, with music by Wagner, Richard Strauss, Mahler and Debussy.
The museum managed to save this unique organ from a certain doom (1992). We later acquired all kinds of additions, including rolls arranged by Bunge, documents, books and other items from his possession. As well as a roll apparatus to replace the missing one in the original console. The museum houses a scale model of his remarkable villa Kareol. There is enough space on the first floor of the museum building to build a replica of the music room with the organ in an arrangement almost identical to the original situation.
6. Precursors All kinds of (mostly) mechanically working precursors of the pianola and numerous other mechanically working automatic musical instruments.
7. Historical pianos A number of table pianos and other antique pianos from the 19th century.
8. Competitors A number of phonographs and gramophones, with an extensive collection of associated sound carriers, such as wax rolls, 78 rpm records and LPs of mainly piano music. Also one of Philips’ first radio sets, from 1927. With bakelite speaker, headphones and an impressive wire antenna, and with the original instruction manual.
The arrival of the radio, together with the disastrous effect of the economic crisis of the 1930s, soon meant the end of pianola manufacture. Radios were much cheaper to build and they made enjoying music in the home much more affordable.
9. Documentation The museum also has a very extensive specialised library and an extensive archive of documentation material. The museum also has many objects related to the history of the pianola, such as cases of music roll libraries.