A VERY SPECIAL GRAND PIANO NOW RESIDES IN AMBLER HALL
The Lyon Foundation’s generous gift facilitated the acquisition.
BARTLESVILLE, OK – Thanks to a recent gift from the Ted and Melody Lyon Foundation, OK Mozart has acquired an exquisite antique walnut piano with an incredibly interesting history. This particular piano is a five-foot, eight-inch Knabe grand piano, handmade in Baltimore, Maryland in 1908.
David Pettit at Saied Music in Tulsa, notes that walnut was the premier wood used for pianos at the turn of the century. This particular piano was owned by a Tulsa couple. “Older folks who were downsizing,” he relates, adding that the piano had been handed down through several generations in their family.
What makes the piano so special is that Knabes are a part of American history. There’s never been anything quite like a Knabe–completely handmade and created in the finest tradition. So, after completely refurbishing this one, Pettit called OK Mozart’s Executive Director, Dr. Randy Thompson, who recounts, “Since it is in exquisite condition, he thought it was one we should know about.”
The instrument has beautiful woodwork and — in spite of its age — is modern in design. Typical of that era, it has an ivory keyboard, which also makes it a very special instrument since ivory keys were outlawed in the late ‘50s.
Sitting down to play the newly acquired piano, Dr. Thompson notes, “The sound is a sweeter quality of tone than a modern day piano.”
Knabe’s rich history began more than 200 years ago with the birth of Wilhelm Knabe in Kreuzburg, Germany in 1803. Young Knabe learned the art of cabinet and piano making through apprenticeships. After immigrating to the United States and setting in Baltimore, he began working under Henry Hartye. Then, in 1835 William (Wilhelm) formed his own business, partnering with Henry Gaehle.
Knabe and Gaehle became a part of American history when in 1838 Francis Scott Key, composer of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” commissioned the company to custom build a piano for his home. In 1926, Knabe again made history when it was chosen to be the official piano of the New York Metropolitan Opera.
“The Knabe quickly became a favorite of Johannes Brahms, Hans von Bulow and others,” relates Dr. Thompson. “In 1908, the year OK Mozart’s piano was made in Baltimore, Knabe merged with Chickering to become the American Piano Company, which promptly went out of business. OK Mozart’s instrument is the last in a long line of venerated pianos. We are fortunate to have it in Bartlesville, and especially in Ambler Hall.”
There, passersby walking down Dewey Avenue, can see the piano on display through the large new window open to the street, which provides an unobstructed view of Ambler Hall and its historic piano.
OK Mozart’s Executive Director Dr. Randy Thompson sits
down to play at the newly acquired Knabe grand piano, on
display now at OKM’s Ambler Hall. (Photo by: Linda Keller)