Rönisch Kastner Autopiano

Built: 1916
Serial number: 64646
Mechanism: Kastner 88 note autopiano
Height: 1.46 m

This rare and beautiful Rönisch concert piano was obviously made for the English market in 1916 and was equipped with a Kastner Autopiano pianola self-playing system. The turmoils of history seem to have prevented it from reaching England. Discovering it years ago in a somewhat air-conditioned barn in Saxony, I found the sound quality immediately convincing, in spite of the dilapidated state. Though the noble mahogany surface of the piano was almost undamaged, it was very unevenly aged, so that different red and brown tones were unfavorably discordant side by side. Even though the piano had never been badly set up, many metal parts were corroded and felts, axes and action parts clearly in need of renovation, due to mold stains. During the war time, copper had been hard to find - hence, the bass stringing had been made with a non-durable metal replacement and was now tonally mute due to ageing. All covered pneumatics elements were untight from ageing, so that the pianola did not operate any more.

Intending to revive the familiar original Rönisch sound, only the necessary parts of the piano were restored - for example the bass stringing - all other original parts were carefully refurbished, especially the original hammer felts. The pianola was also extensively overhauled by a specialist, all air-conducting bellows were covered anew, valves replaced where necessary and the whole system was cleaned, released and regulated. Besides, the missing pedal function was complemented by the installation of a suitable relay and a suction turbine was provided for automatic operation. After refurbishing, the piano impressed anyone present by the beauty of its sound beyond expectations. This piano really deserves the name concert piano. The self-playing equipment runs wonderfully, and by the additional installation of the suction turbine, the pedal function, a controlled air feed and shutdown it is very comfortable in use, without losing the charm of the real pianola. As examples of the challenges in authentic renovation I would like to mention that even a replacement for the rare and totally corroded original hinges of the folding under which the operating levers for the pianola are found was discovered and installed. Also the sound-proof box for the suction turbine was designed in mahogany and was provided with the garnish moldings of the piano, so that visual harmony was achieved. Now it can be played as a pedal-operated pianola, as a normal piano and also as an automatic self-playing piano. The wide variety of 88 note piano rolls permits almost unlimited listening in addition to active playing.

Today, after the renovation, the piano is in appreciative hands in Berlin.


Rönisch Kastner Autopiano

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