The late Alfred Dolge was one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the piano. First trained in the German piano industry of the 1860s, he continued to work and study under the great Mathushek upon coming to the United States. He went into business for himself, manufacturing hammers and other components (eventually founding the piano town of Dolgeville, New York), and achieved an international reputation as a manufacturer, designer, and inventor of piano-making machinery. In addition to being one of the top technicians in the world, he had a unique circle of business and personal acquaintance with everyone of importance in the piano world of both Europe and America, on a level that no outsider could ever attain. All this culminated in the 1911 publication of Pianos and Their Makers.
To prepare the reader for more technical exposition, Dolge first gives a brief history of stringed keyboard instruments, from the early pianoforte up through the square piano, the development of the upright, and the modern grand. After this, he explains the development of individual components: the full iron frame, the keyboard, various types of action, hammer, soundboard, as well as woods, felts, and wires.
The heart of this book, however is a close history of the development of the nineteenth-century piano, with full credit to the great designers and manufacturers. More than 100 pages are devoted to American advances alone, all highly specific. There are also profiles of important personalities. In addition to covering the standard piano, this volume is also one of the few sources to cover in some detail automatic instruments, including player pianos, reproducing pianos, transposers, and cabinet piano players.
The result of this incredible amount of data is a book that is both necessary and fascinating to anyone seriously interested in the piano of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whether in historical developments, background for an instrument that the reader may happen to own, restoration and repairs for unusual devices, and overall background. The diagrams and illustrations alone make this book indispensable, providing — as Grove's has noted — "invaluable data about American piano making."
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