10 incredible photos of composers’ original pianos

1 October 2018, 17:39 | Updated: 1 October 2018, 22:06

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

These pianos were first-hand witnesses to the composition of some of the most beautiful pieces in music history.

From Mozart to Mahler, some of the world’s greatest composers wrote their most beautiful music on these pianos.

  1. Mozart’s piano

    Mozart's piano
    Mozart's piano. Picture: None

    This is Mozart’s 1782 fortepiano, which he played and composed on from 1785 until his death in 1791. The instrument, which is two octaves shorter than a modern piano, was made by Anton Walter – one of the most famous Viennese piano makers of Mozart’s time. At just 2.23m long and weighing only 85kg, it is much lighter and smaller than the average modern piano.

    The instrument can now be found at the Mozarteum museum in Salzburg.

    Read more: Why do pianos have 88 keys?

  2. Wagner’s piano

    Wagner’s favourite piano, pictured above, is kept at the Richard Wagner Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland – along with the chair of Franz Liszt.

  3. Liszt’s piano

    Franz Liszt played on several pianos in his lifetime, including those made by Bechstein and Blüthner. But it was on this beautiful 1866 Pleyel piano that he first began composing.

  4. Beethoven’s piano

    Beethoven's piano
    Beethoven's piano. Picture: Broadwood

    This Broadwood piano is identical to one of the instruments Beethoven owned – specifically the one that inspired the composer to write one of his most famous pieces for solo piano, the ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata.

    The most obvious distinguishing feature of this piano is that the sustain pedal is split. The idea is that you could sustain notes in the bass while playing a clear melody in the treble (high end of the keyboard).

    Read more: Listen to Beethoven played on Beethoven’s own piano

  5. Elton John’s piano

    Elton John's piano
    Elton John's piano. Picture: Mario Toneguzzi/Studio Bell

    Elton John used this white concert number to compose some of his biggest hits. It can be found in Studio Bell in Calgary, home of the National Music Centre.

  6. Edvard Grieg’s piano

    Edvard Grieg's piano
    Edvard Grieg's piano. Picture: Getty

    Now found at the Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen, this piano came from the house in which Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) lived in Bergen, Norway, until he was 15 years old.

  7. Mahler’s piano

    Mahler's piano
    Mahler's piano. Picture: Getty

    Gustav Mahler played this piano at his composing cottage, the Hotel Zum Hollengebirge, from 1893 to 1896. There, he wrote much of his Symphony No. 3, which he composed as a response to the surrounding beauty of Lake Attersee and Hollengebirge, in Upper Austria.

  8. Johann Strauss II’s piano

    Johann Strauss II's piano
    Johann Strauss II's piano. Picture: Getty

    A regular Bösendorfer enthusiast, Johann Strauss II used to compose his music on this piano – and organ, pictured on the right – which can be found in the Johann Strauss Museum in Vienna, Austria.

  9. Chopin’s piano

    Chopin's piano
    Chopin's piano. Picture: Getty

    This Pleyel Company piano, now on display at the Fryderyk Chopin Museum at the Ostrogski Palace, Warsaw, was the last piano played by Frédéric Chopin. On it, he composed some of his Mazurkas.

  10. Lennon and McCartney’s piano

    A Bechstein piano used by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
    A Bechstein piano used by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Picture: Getty

    This incredibly valuable Bechstein piano was used by John Lennon and Paul McCartney while filming their movie Help! in 1965.

    The 1907 Bechstein Concert Grand piano, which McCartney used to compose the song ‘Yesterday’, was part of an auction of over 200 pieces of rare Beatles memorabilia and vinyl records in 2014. It sold for over £50,000.