Historic Trondlin Fortepiano Lives in Worthington

A Tröndlin Fortepiano, built in the early 1800's, can be seen at the Orange Johnson House in Worthington.(Photo: Boyce Lancaster)
A Tröndlin Fortepiano, built in the early 1800's, can be seen at the Orange Johnson House in Worthington.(Photo: Boyce Lancaster)

Concert grand pianos are imposing instruments with huge voices.  They have evolved into an instrument designed to fill vast concert halls and be heard over symphony orchestras.  Such was not always the case, however.  For me, one of the fascinating things about the music world is looking at the incremental changes which resulted in today’s instruments.  In the case of the piano, one of the best people with whom to discuss this is Benjamin Wiant, who is currently restoring a historic Tröndlin fortepiano.

You may recall a blog written by Classical 101′s Jennifer Hambrick entitled “The Piano Whisperer: Local Piano Restorer Calms Cranky Keyboards,” in which she describes Ben Wiant as something akin to a musical surgeon.  He has rescued many a patient which others might have declared not worth the effort, or simply too far gone.  If you spend some time in conversation with Ben, you quickly realize that there is an even deeper purpose behind his passion.

Modern materials are different.  Trees today suffer from the effects of acid rain and other pollutants which change the makeup of the wood.  Many of the old-growth forests have long since disappeared…taken with little thought as to what would replace them.  Even when instruments are painstakingly reproduced, they sound different, because they are different.

So when asked why he invests so much time and energy into saving one instrument, he says it is because they are irreplaceable.  That people today need to hear what these instruments sounded like in the environment for which they were built.

That is why I found my visit to the Orange Johnson House so fascinating.  It was built around the same time as the Tröndlin fortepiano, offers the perfect environment in which to hear it played, and it sits right on High Street in Worthington, Ohio.  When Ben played a few chords on the fortepiano, the difference was immediately apparent.  Where modern pianos have a bright, powerful sound, the Trondlin’s voice has soft edges which are rich and smooth.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit the Orange Johnson House, it’s a step into yesterday which will make your today a little better.

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