The rarest pianos of all

The rarest pianos of all


norman lebrecht

August 21, 2021

The curator David Winston is selling off his private collection of rare pianos next month – including the Pleyel double piano once owned by Madeleine Malraux, wife of the French writer André Malraux.

Details here.



  • John Borstlap says:

    It’s an instrument for a married piano duo that’s absolute in its determination to stay together, whatever terrible misbehavior may occur outside the musical realm.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Here is Madeleine Malraux in 2010, accompanying actor François Marthuret. Born in 1914, she was 96. (Cue to 1:35.)
    Her last public performance took place the following year, also with François Marthuret. She died in 2014, four months short of her 100th birthday.

    (Marie-)Madeleine Malraux, née Lioux, had a life that would be barely credible as a novel. She married Roland Malraux, André’s half-brother, in 1943. Roland Malraux, a true and early résistant, was caught by the Gestapo a few months later, and sent to Neuengamme concentration camp. During the last days of WW II, the SS evacuated Neuengamme in order to destroy evidence. The inmates were transferred to the former MS Cap Arcona, an ocean liner converted to prison ship, off Lübeck. Presumably they would have been murdered anyway, but an RAF air raid on May 3, 1945, sunk the ship and most of the inmates with it. Among them, Roland Malraux.

    Madeleine and her son Alain, who had never met his father, went to live with her brother-in-law André in 1945. André was separated from his first wife Clara Goldschmidt and had lost his common-law partner Josette Clotis in a train accident in 1944.
    Madeleine and André married in 1948. She supported him throughout his political career, notably as General de Gaulle’s trusted adviser and France’s first Minister of Culture. They separated in 1966. In an extraordinary gesture, Charles de Gaulle gave a gala dinner in Madeleine’s honour at the Élysée, to signify his displeasure with the behaviour of his otherwise most cherished minister. Madeleine resumed a discreet but distinguished international pianistic career.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    If I were a rich man
    Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum
    I would go and bid for Winston’s pianos,
    If I were a wealthy man…

    Everyday I’d practice
    Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum
    On a different piano
    Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum…

  • Heril Steemøen says:

    Perhaps two pianists can make a bid together.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Interesting. Older pianos need so much tender loving care …

    Piano technician and repairman Peter Nehlsen within the last few years created a new double piano, which he calls the Omega double piano. I have heard it in concert played by Inna Faliks and Andrew Armstrong, who played solo works on both ends, and duets. The string pressure on the double harp frame is tremendous and Nehlsen did not have metal casting capability so his frame is welded. The real challenge is moving this heavy monster.

    One interesting thing about a double piano of this sort is that unlike duo pianos in the usual arrangement, with a double piano the open lid directs the sound out towards the audience for both pianos. Of course on one side the treble end is closer to the lid and on the other side the bass end is closer, so the sound is still not totally even, but it is a clear difference that the audience, and presumably the performers, can hear.

  • Freewheeler says:

    I have five Casio Privias! A PX-100, their first digital piano from 2003, a PX-130, the mighty PX-500L and two magnificent PX-410Rs.

  • Bill Ecker says:

    These rare piano sales never bring in what they could, as private American buyers are generally out of the equation due to U.S. Fish and Wildlife ivory regulations and importation laws. Even 18th Century pianos and other keyed instruments would likely have to be stripped of the ivory key veneers to avoid painful paperwork and the ensuing bureaucracy that follows. It makes the purchase of instruments of this type tedious and not worth the time. No one wants to strip the ivory veneers, which is a way out for obvious reasons. There was a similar sale a few years back in Scotland which had a similar problem. among other pieces, that sale had one of Haydn’s pianoforte’s in the collection. The prices were way below general market values, as the buying pool was seriously reduced.