Philipps Pianella Paganini Model 3

Original Location: Budapest, Hungary

Original Catalogue Specifications:

61 Note Musical Scale:

Notes:

Philipps Model 3 Paganini pipe chest layout.

Chronological History:

Circa 1915
Manufactured by J.D. Philipps & Sons, Bockenheim, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.

In 1910 Philipps introduced the Paganini line of instruments, designed to replicate the playing of a string band and named after one of the world's greatest violinists, Niccolò Paganini (1782 – 1840). Paganini was one of the most celebrated violin virtuosi of his time, and he left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. Likewise, Philipps Paganini Geigen Pianos and Orchestrions were once similarly considered to be (at least by Philipps) one of the musical pillars in mechanically reproduced music. The sophisticated Paganini Geigen Pianos and Orchestrions with their refined musical qualities quickly became the flagship line of the Philipps company, superseding the older Pianella Mandoline (PM) and Pianella Caecilia (PC) orchestrions, although these earlier and mechanically much simpler styles continued to be manufactured for a few years alongside the complex Paganini instruments. The small PM type keyboard models, however, remained very popular right up to the end, circa 1929, with customers who were content with a relatively simple keyboard instruments with limited instrumentation.

From the Philipps Paganini-Geigen-Piano and Orchestrions catalogue, circa 1911-1912, the Pianella Paganini-Orchestrion Model No. 3 is noted as: "Oak case, prettily decorated with beautiful metal ornaments, and mirrored panels, forming an ornamental piece of furniture. It possesses a perfect and artistic equipment including Violin, Piano, Harmonium -- 44 tones -- (also with Harp, at extra cost) and occupies a worthy position amongst the Paganini Models, in respect to its wonderfully accurate reproduction of individual-technique. The revolving mechanism secures a continual musical performance, the music-rolls being changed automatically." Although this catalogue lists this instrument as an orchestrion, technically, it can be argued, it is not, and was alternately designated as a Paganini Geigen Piano, the term generally used throughout this text. Generally speaking, an orchestrion contains instrumentation representing an orchestra of one size or another, usually with a piano as its base, often including some kind of violin tone, sometimes it also includes clarinet and other woodwind tones for larger instruments, but generally an orchestrions contains some contingent of drums and other percussive trapwork.

It is unknown the exact year this beautiful Paganini specimen was manufactured. 1915 is an estimate based upon the mechanical improvements observed in relation to other Philipps instruments where the date can be more accurately assessed.

Circa 1935
Rezsö Weiser, Budapest, Hungary.

The book Muzsikálo Szerkezetek Tortenete (History of Musical Structures), by Horváth Árpád, circa 1967.
(Photograph courtesy of Jens Wendel)
The Book Muzsikálo
Szerkezetek Tortenete
by Horváth Árpád, 1967

From the book Muzsikálo Szerkezetek Tortenete (History of Musical Structures), by Horváth Árpád, published circa 1967, it is stated that Rezsö Weiser more than forty years earlier wanted to produce an electrically operated player piano. Considering that the book was published circa 1967 this statement implies that his interest in building electrical systems dates from the mid 1920s, when he was looking to construct a simple but effective and efficient electrically powered self-playing piano. But the electrical equipment, pull (solenoid) magnets, and other components proved to have some vexing shortcomings, and the electrical systems required expensive capacitors to help control arcing. In the end, Rezsö moved to what he considered to be the more reliable system of air, for which he stated: "This is still considered better than any kind of electrical control." Thus, it seems, Rezsö's attention turned entirely toward pneumatic systems, which had already been in common use for decades earlier as an efficient and commercially effective way to reproduce music by strictly mechanical means.

Pictured in the book (on page 190) is an example of Rezsö's ambition to build a Monstre Orchestrion, the "Vizy Rezsó nagy (large) Orchestriona." Although not pictured in its entirety, the orchestriona was basically two large orchestrions interconnected, one being a Philipps Model 3 Paganini (with trapwork added) and the other, as shown in the book, the structural chassis containing all of the mechanisms and instrumentation belonging to a large Welte Style 6 Concert Orchestrion, sans the original casework and surrounded by a crude makeshift structural framework, and with a keyboard of small compass added. When he obtained the Welte chassis is unknown, but probably sometime after World War II and at least several years before 1967, the publish date of the book. It is obvious that the Welte orchestrion had been extensively modified, to which some extra instrumentation had been added, one item being what appears to be a Philipps xylophone mounted at the top of the instrument above the pipework. The photograph is not clear enough to detail exactly what other instrumentation might have been added, altered, or relocated, but, in addition to the original Welte roll frame, three additional roll mechanisms are clearly obvious. A Paganini single roll player has been installed to the upper right of the original Welte roll frame, below it is another single roll mechanism of unrecognized type, and another roll mechanism, also of unknown type, is mounted to the left of the Welte roll mechanism.

Vizy Rezsó's Large Orchestriona. Sternberg Invoice for Rezsö Weiser's Purchase of the Philipps Model 3 Paganini.What happened between Rezsö's thwarted attempt to build an economically viable electric piano and the acquisition of a large pneumatic self-playing instrument, possibly his first, is a mystery. But on December 19, 1935, Rezsö put 20 Hungarian Pengő down what was described as: 1 piece, Paganini Philipps type music box (instrument) in condition as is, personally selected by the buyer, including 5 music scores. It was on bill of sale #10372, with acknowledgment receipt #46254 for 20 Pengő. Then on December 22, 1935, another payment of 180 Pengő was paid. On December 28, 1935, an installment sale agreement was drawn up and executed between Rezsö Weiser (and his wife--maiden name of Maria Gyozo) by the well established Music Instrument Factory Sternberg, a musical emporium in Budapest, Hungary. The sale invoice amount was 1,000 Pengő, plus a bill receipt stamp of 1.60 Pengő, for a grand total of "one thousand and one and 60/100 Pengő payable according to the conditions of the letter of order, beginning from February 1st, 1936, 40 pengő due at the first of every month. For the unpaid balance is an 8 percent yearly interest payable. All disputes are governed by the promissory note signed by you." Also stated on the document: "According to the order of M.E. 4560/1931 the amount is payable to the Gold Pengő standard," and "the merchandise was to stay in the ownership of the Steinberg Musical Instrument Factory until the full payment of the purchase price."

There is nothing to indicate whether the Paganini was used merchandise, or was from new but unsold stock. Reportedly, however, circa 1935, the Hungarian Pengő was worth round 20 cents (or five per U.S. dollar). Thus, the Paganini's price of 1000 Pengő means that it sold for about $200 U.S. equivalent. This comparatively low value suggests one of two things: (1) The Paganini may have been a trade-in and/or repossessed used stock, or (2) it was new but unsold stock for which the value had been hugely discounted as compared to the value during the Paganini's heyday a decade or two earlier. In one sense this point matters little, what is pertinent to this story is that Rezsö bought the Paganini from a well establish dealer, and who advertised themselves as "Purveyors to the Royal Court."

Taking into account the subsequent release letter of September 21, 1936, which seems to be an acknowledgement that payment in full had been received, Rezsö probably took possession of the Paganini sometime in September or October of 1936. The evidence suggests that Rezsö moved the Paganini to his apartment in Budapest, where he erected it. At some point, exactly when is unknown, he added drums and other modified Philipps looking trapwork to the Paganini, turning it into a makeshift orchestrion. Where did the trapwork parts come from? If Sternberg had a Paganini in stock did they also have old Philipps parts lying around, too? This question cannot currently be answered, but it is known that Weiser did have access to some Philipps parts sometime around 1950, as is explained later in this page.

Circa late 1940s
Heinrich Voigt, Frankfurt-Höchst, Germany.

Heinrich Voigt never owned and probably never laid eyes on the Model 3 Paganini that is the subject of this story. Nevertheless, he did play a peripheral but pertinent part in what may have contributed to the survival of this particular Paganini in a rather 'round about way. Philipps was essentially out of the coin operated piano and orchestrion business by the end of 1929, although it is understood that the company continued producing music rolls for its former clientele up into the mid 1930s. Sometime during late World War II, or soon thereafter, Heinrich Voigt reportedly bought an unknown quantity of automatic musical instruments and leftover parts from the J. D. Philipps and Söhne company. These various instruments and a pile of parts where supposedly what remained of the company's then long defunct mechanical music business.

Sometime later, Voigt reportedly sold all or part of what remained of the acquired Philipps residue to a couple of collectors in Budapest, Hungary, and apparently, as the story goes, one of the men had the dream of building up a Paganini Monstre Orchestrion, using, at least in part, the pile of Philipps parts.

Circa 1950s
Rezsö Weiser and Janos Toth, Budapest Hungary.

Although the exact timing is vague, it is generally thought that it was sometime during the late 1940s or early 1950s when two avid Hungarian collectors, of Budapest, Hungary, purchased all or part of what yet remained of the Philipps mechanical music business residue from Heinrich Voigt of Frankfurt-Höchst, Germany. While it cannot be confirmed, it is highly likely that the two Budapest men in this story were Rezsö Weiser and Janos Toth, both of whom were longtime friends, they lived in close proximity with each having a flat in the same building, and both were very familiar with and interested in collecting mechanical music instruments. Thus, the Philipps residue could have been divided between these two men, but to what extent this might have occurred is unknown. It may be that they got nothing but some miscellaneous old parts, or maybe nothing at all. And, as the story goes, one of the men had the dream of building up a Paganini Monstre Orchestrion, drawing, at least in part, from the pile of Philipps parts. This bit of the story alone suggests that Rezsö Weiser was one of the two men, since he is the only person in Budapest known to have arguably built such an orchestrion.

Turning our attention temporarily to Janos Toth, he somehow acquired and, like the packrat he seems to have been, managed to store away in cramped and damp "reserve" spaces an astounding number of mechanical music treasures, right along with a tremendous heap of other unrelated stuff, including stacks of church organ pipes, old furniture, film projectors, reels of movie film, electric motors, and a lot of unrecognizable junk combined with heaps of miscellaneous bric-a-brac piled high to the ceiling. The locked and bolted stashes were so crammed full of stuff that entry into these so-called "reserves" was extremely difficult, so much so that a close examination of any entombed mechanical music instruments, variously submerged in moldy clutter, was nigh impossible, other than to see dim glimpses of them and confirm that they did actually exist. Included in this unlikely and poorly lit hoard were two complete Philipps Paganini Model 10a Violin Orchestras for cinema (movie theater) use, both with duplex (two side-by-side) roll changers; a Welte style 4 orchestrion; a Popper Clarabella orchestrion, a large Bruder fairground organ with a unique oriental facade, and much more, all of which were intact with the furniture casework and/or facade, and some of these long ago disassembled instruments were said to be in playing condition. All that was needed, said Toth, was to reassemble them and they would be ready to play!

But Rezsö Weiser, in stark contrast to his longtime friend, Janos Toth, was not a packrat who disassembled his acquisitions and secreted them away. Instead, he seems to have really enjoyed his relatively small collection, perfecting and listening to whatever instruments he kept in his apartment flat. How many mechanical music items Rezsö had in his possession at one time or another is unknown, other than it is known for certain that he owned the "Vizy Rezsó Large Orchestriona," which was essentially a Philipps Model 3 Paganini (with trapwork added) somehow interconnected with a Welte Style 6 Concert Orchestrion (sans the case) with three extra roll mechanisms, enhanced instrumentation, and a keyboard added.

Interior view of Rezsö Weiser's Philipps Paganini Model 3 Geigen Piano.Rezsö was apparently a very resourceful man. Postwar Hungary was a communist country with tight import/export controls, and materials were often scarce, especially those special items needed in the restoration of mechanical music machines. If, for instance, rubber cloth could not be obtained he would substitute a thin plastic film. Odd lengths of plastic tubing were substituted for metal tubing if and when necessary. He scrounged up bits of plywood and other wood scraps to make pneumatics, construct wind trunks, and craft other necessary parts. And he even devised a way to perforate new Paganini music rolls, but because he did not have access to any kind of mechanical perforator he concocted a way to burn the holes in the paper. After his death a box was found in his apartment that had a Paganini tracker bar, a scale stick marked with Paganini notes and control functions, along with a number of Paganini music rolls with perforations made by burning the holes in the paper, an ingenious albeit unconventional way of doing it. All in all, Rezsö seemed to have been a highly talented and respected person, one who gained notable stature in his home city of Budapest.

About 1987 Rezsö Weiser, at the age of 80, suffered a terrible and tragic accident. He was attempting to light his gas heater when his clothes caught fire and he was badly burned, whereupon he died of his burns a short time later. Joseph Meyer, a friend, was helping Rezsö at the time of his death, and Rezsö left him his apartment and all of its contents. For Joseph, the apartment was the only thing he could use and/or sell, and it was filled with the two monstrous orchestrions -- the Philipps Paganini and the Welte Concert Orchestrion chassis. Nobody would buy them. Joseph wrote to museums in Hungary, but they were not interested due to the immense size. Even for free nobody would take them. But because they were part of Hungary's cultural heritage disposing of the two big instruments required government approval. So the instruments were placed on a list and in due time Joseph was able to dismantle and store them elsewhere. The Welte was taken apart, with the pumps and reservoirs literally dumped on Rezsö's woodpile. (An insert for a record album which included this instrument mentions it was powered by blowers, and so the original pumps might have been removed and stored separately and thus unrecognized as part of the big Welte when it was put in storage.) The rest of the Welte, along with the Philipps Paganini, was "professionally" disassembled so that the instruments could be moved through a doorway, and then stored in one of many similar damp cellars situated under the local railroad station.

Circa 1981
Art Reblitz, Colorado.

Although Art Reblitz never had a direct hand in the saga of the Model 3 Paganini, he did, nevertheless, play an indispensible role in its ultimate survival. In 1981 a record collector offered him a box of vinyl LP mechanical music recordings, to which Art finally agreed to buy them sight unseen. In the box was a copy of the Hungarian record album LPX 13702, entitled “mechanikus hangszerek magyarorszagon,” or in English “Mechanical Instruments in Hungary.” The album includes various mechanical and automatic musical instruments, including one called “Orchestrion,” which is recorded on two bands: “Popy: Suite Oriental – excerpt” and “Pauso: Un Baiser de Paris.”

Front Cover of the Hungarian record album “mechanikus hangszerek magyarorszagon.”An insert in the record album includes this text: “Perhaps the most complicated among all the instruments mentioned so far was the Orchestrion. One such instrument is still functioning in a district of Budapest called Kőbánya, in the home of the retired Rezső Vizi. It is manipulated by blowers. It works with the often mentioned paper rolls, but here many more can be inserted thus making it possible to switch automatically from one piece to another. It produces the sounds of many instruments from the most varied whistles to all the percussion instruments, and even a pianino. It automatically regulates tempo and dynamics, but these can also be worked by hand. The interesting feature of the Vizi orchestrion is that the mechanism can be operated from a separate keyboard as well. Thus any piece can be performed and full use can be made of the unique sounds produced by the instrument.”

Art Reblitz first heard the album while working on a Hupfeld Super Pan Orchestra for Q. David Bowers, and thought the recording sounded something like an even larger Pan Orchestra. Art told Dave Bowers about it, and Dave wrote to Rezsö in November of 1981, who returned one or two post cards, but nothing more came of the inquiry. The Vizi Orchestrion was configured to play four different types of music rolls, including Paganini and Welte rolls. On the vinyl LP record it was playing Paganini rolls.

Since nothing had come of Dave’s brief contact with Rezsö, Art Reblitz later told Tim Trager about the large orchestrion residing in Budapest, Hungary. In time Trager mentioned the instrument to Jasper Sanfilippo, who commissioned him to go to Budapest and find the great machine. Tim went to Budapest, located Rezsö's flat, and having done this he photographed the Paganini through the front window, but Rezsö Weiser was dead by the time of his visit. Armed solders were patrolling the streets and so Tim choose not to linger and draw attention to himself, and because of the strict and oftentimes difficult Hungarian export process nothing more came of this visit. But this is not the end of this part of the story, as it was to be Tim Trager who would eventually pass on the tip that would result in saving the two instruments from destruction.

Circa 1984
Siegfried Wendel, Mechanisches Musikkabinett, Rüdesheim, Germany.

In the spring of 1984 a journalist from Hessischer Rundfunk (a German public broadcasting organization) visited Siegfried Wendel's Mechanisches Musikkabinett Museum, and asked permission to broadcast some tunes from the CDfchestrion, in an exchange program with the Hungarian Radio in Budapest, Hungary. Siegfried agreed, and that was seemingly the end of this story. However, almost two years later a post card bearing an imprecise addressed arrived at the museum, it having been forwarded from Sweden to Switzerland to Germany, finally landing at the museum in Rüdesheim. The card was from a Jonas Toth, who had heard the orchestrion music over Radio Budapest. In what Siegfried described as "almost undecipherable German" Toth stated that he had several instruments that he wanted to sell. Siegfried set the card aside, reasoning that Toth probably had nothing more interesting than a Phonola player or the like. One year later Toth's card was the only unanswered item on Siegfried's desk, and so he decided to reply. About a week later a letter arrived from Jonas Toth, written entirely in Hungarian, but Siegfried was quickly able to discern the names of German manufacturers, such as Philipps, and eventually had the letter translated. Siegfried replied and two years later he was finally invited by Jonas Toth to come to Budapest, where Siegfried was finally able to confirm the existence of the instruments, and then one by one over time buy them and start the long and involved process of obtaining permission from the Hungarian government to export the mechanical music items, in what turned out to be an exciting Hungarian adventure.

The full "Hungarian Adventure" story, along with illustrations, detailing Siegfried's odyssey and how he learned about the Budapest horde of parts and instruments is available in Siegfried Wendel's book: Datenspeicher-Musikinstrumente (Data storage musical instruments), by Siegfried Wendel; ISBN 3-00-000836-5; Published in 2002.

To purchase the book please go to http://www.siegfrieds-musikkabinett.de and then navigate to the "Museums - Shop" page.

Siegfried Wendel's book: Datenspeicher-Musikinstrumente.

It was on Siegfried's last trip to retrieve an instrument from Jonas Toth that he finally mentioned a deceased friend who had wanted to build a big Paganini and had added parts from other orchestrion to build a gigantic orchestrion, but he never told Siegfried where to find the instrument. (Rezsö Weiser, his deceased friend is believed to have died circa 1987.) So, Siegfried returned to Rüdesheim with the last of the Jonas Toth hoard, but without knowing the whereabouts of the still mysterious Paganini orchestrion alluded to by Toth. Ironically, not long after Siegfried was to learn of the new owner of the Paganini, Joseph Meyer, who had inherited Rezsö Weiser's flat and all of its contents, Jonas Toth met his own end after falling while clearing a path through his apartment, therein inescapably wedged in between piles of artifacts stuffed throughout his flat. Unable to extricate himself, three days later he was found trapped, but still breathing. After the ambulance arrived and he was removed from the wreckage he was dead, surrounded by the helter-skelter of treasures that had finally been the very cause of his demise.

Siegfried, attending an MBSI convention here in the U.S., mentioned to a friend, Tim Trager, that he had heard of a Paganini that he would like to hear. Tim responded, "You're not talking about the Philipps Paganini of Budapest? I went to Budapest about three years ago and I photographed it through a window. If you wish I'll give you the address." Needless to say, when Siegfried got home he immediately made arrangements to travel to Budapest, and was able to locate the home of Joseph Meyer, who lived in the same building as the late Jonas Toth. However, the Paganini was no longer there, having been recently disassembled and moved into storage in a cellar under the local railway station.

Siegfried arrived just three weeks after the Paganini had been dismantled and put in storage, but in one sense his timing could not have been better. Meyer was eager to dispose of both the Paganini and Welte 6 Concert Orchestrion, and the Welte pumps and reservoirs that had been tossed onto Rezsö's woodpile were saved by Siegfried before they had been burned for heat. When Siegfried and party entered the damp cellar hundreds of pieces of the Paganini and Welte could be seen lying scattered over the cellar floor. There were boxes full of music rolls piled in a corner, and stacked up pianos with their mechanisms were leaning against one wall. It was evident that the Paganini had been dissembled in great haste, carelessly cutting some of the metal tubing in the process, instead of separating the tubing manifolds, resulting in the Paganini now resembling a large pile of tangled parts. It was also clear that due to the extreme humidity of the cellar the Paganini and Welte needed to be rescued quickly to avoid utter destruction. Joseph Meyer promised to get the export papers quickly, and five months later the export papers were in hand.

When Siegfried, and his wife, Gretel, got back to Budapest and entered the cellar they could see that the Paganini and Welte parts had become very mildewed, which caused Gretel to pause and doubt Siegfried's enthusiasm for gaining possession of the two instruments. But many hours later the last truck from Budapest arrived in Assmannshausen, Germany, where the Paganini was stored until Siegfried was ready to move it to his workshop in Rüdesheim. When the Paganini was finally arrived at Siegfried's workshop, according to Jens Wendel: "I remember when it arrived in Rüdesheim, and I started to work on it. It was a gigantic puzzle! But, at least, all parts where there, so we were able to bring it back to life." Jens further wrote that the original color was a black oak with white pores. I think you call it "silver fox," he commented. Actually, for the American market, Wurlitzer termed this case finish "silver grey" or "silver grey oak," and went so far as to produce an instruction leaflet on how to repair the finish in case of damage.

Circa 1998
Yaffe Collection, Florida.

The Philipps Model 3 Paganini in the Yaffe home.
(Photograph courtesy of Ron Cappel)
The Paganini in the Yaffe home.

For years before acquiring the Model 3 Paganini, Mr. Yaffe had been building up an impressive collection of superbly restored mechanical music instruments. He would purchase choice examples and have them sent directly to Ron Cappel's restoration shop in Atascadero, California, for a complete and meticulous interior and exterior restoration of the highest caliber. This meant that each restored instrument must not only be perfect mechanically, but it must also be cosmetically beautiful, too. Ron Cappel had been further instructed that he was to do 20-year restorations, i.e., Yaffe wanted all of his instruments to play trouble free for a minimum of 20 years. Moreover, if the completed restoration required supplemental items or supplies, such as special period light bulbs, etc., these were to be shipped along with the instrument in quantities that would also last for at least 20 years. Then, once restoration had been successfully completed, the instrument would be loaded onto a special van and oftentimes Ron Cappel and one of his staff would personally transport the like-new instrument to Yaffe's home in Florida, where it would be erected and join the growing mechanical music collection.

Yaffe bought the Model 3 Paganini from Siegfried Wendel in 1998. In 1999 both Yaffe and Ron Cappel saw it at Siegfried Wendel's Mechanisches Musikkabinett Museum, in Rüdesheim, Germany, as part of the MBSI tour of England, Germany, and Switzerland, although they did not hear the Paganini play. It would be several years later, circa 2002, when the Model 3 Paganini, finally arrived at Ron Cappel's workshop. But once there, sitting amongst other work in progress for Yaffe, a rush soon ensued to get the Paganini rebuilt and in the immaculate condition required by Mr. Yaffe, and do this in time for the 2004 MBSI Convention to be held in Tampa, Florida.

Originally finished in silver grey, the oak case was now a natural oak finish, which was deemed by Mr. Yaffe to be more fitting for his collection, he having no other silver grey oak cases in his large collection. Apparently the Model 3 Paganini was a great hit musically, and was an often played instrument in the Yaffe collection. To this Ron Cappel made an interesting comment: When servicing other large instruments in the Yaffe collection, most of which Ron had restored, he would often have the Paganini playing in the background, enjoying its refined and restful musical qualities. He had even fallen asleep while taking a brief rest, lulled into pleasant dreams by the sublime Paganini music--a testament to the enduring quality of the Philipps Paganini Geigen Pianos and Orchestrions.

2010
Goldman Collection, Massachusetts.

The Paganini's furniture chassis being transported on a fork lift to the Goldman music salon.Way back in the early 1980s, while visiting collections in Southern California, Mr. Goldman heard and enjoyed his first Paganini concert on partially restored Philipps Model 3 keyboard style specimen in the Ames collection. Inspired by the experience, and able to see the great potential in a fully restored machine, he set out to own a choice Philipps Paganini instrument for himself. Soon thereafter he contacted the Nethercutt collection, inquiring to find out if they would sell one of their restored Paganini instruments, but to no avail. Undaunted, Goldman would have to wait until the ideal opportunity was to eventually come his way. Over the ensuing years several opportunities had shown themselves, but again nothing came of them. One of these opportunities occurred at the 1993 MBSI Convention in downtown Los Angeles, California, where Siegfried Wendel advertised a Paganini Model 1 with keyboard for sale in "perfekt" condition. But it was not until 2005, months after another prominent collector, Mr. Yaffe, had taken delivery of his newly and fully restored Model 3 Paganini cabinet style instrument, that Mr. Goldman was successful in making a deal to buy Yaffe's smaller and also beautifully restored Philipps Model 1 keyboard style Paganini. And so, now, finally, the Goldman collection had its long sought after Paganini, albeit a modest sized specimen. End of story -- or so Mr. Goldman thought.

Full interior of the Paganini Model 3 Geigen Piano.About mid 2010 part of the Yaffe collection was consigned to Bonhams in New York for auction, an event that finally came to fruition on October 7, 2010. Mr. Goldman had not thought of buying anything at the sale, but he was active, along with Dave Bowers and Art Reblitz, in helping to write and illustrate the Bonhams catalog, which was supposed to be the finest mechanical music sale ever. Unfortunately, it is said, that Bonhams did little or nothing to advertise the sale, and so there were no new collectors at the auction event. Consequently, a magnificent Hupfeld Helios III/39 sold for what was considered an exceptionally low price--whereupon Mr. Goldman wondered, "What is going on here?"

Full exterior view of the Paganini Model 3 after its erection in the Goldman music salon.His interest peaked, when the meticulously restored cabinet style Philipps Model 3 Paganini, with duplex roll changers, came up for sale (Lot 29) Mr. Goldman happily bought it for what he considered to be a very reasonable, if not cheap price. Certainly it was and still is a superb and handsome specimen for anyone wanting a Philipps Paganini instrument, and Goldman was elated to have been able to unexpectedly obtain such a gem for such a favorable price. So it is that the beautiful Paganini with duplex roll changers, along with a superb repertoire of expressive music, now enjoys a prominent place in the Goldman music salon, alongside other mechanical music specimens also of a grand and stately nature.

When asked how he enjoyed the Model 3 Paganini, Goldman (who also has a keyboard style Model 1 Paganini), waxed glorious with carefully worded praise, and mentioned that it even sometimes sounded more "stringy" than his Hupfeld Model A Phonoliszt-Violina, which plays three real violins with expression piano accompaniment, and that stood a mere paces away from the tall Model 3 Paganini. What a testament this was to the refined musical power of a properly restored Philipps Paganini. This suggests that maybe the flowery Wurlitzer catalogue description describing the Wurlitzer branded Philipps Paganini line sold here in the U.S. might have been more factual than fluff.

Here is an excerpt regarding the Wurlitzer (Philipps) Paganini from the 1916 Wurlitzer catalogue:

... The work of the Paganini Solo Violin Piano will be best appreciated by musical persons who understand and appreciate refined music. This instrument reproduces the actual playing of a piano and violin by artists of the highest rank, the violin leading and the piano playing the accompaniment.

The Paganini will play everything in music from the popular hits to the big classical numbers with a correctness of technic and musical shading that will positively amaze the listener.

Take a position in another room or turn your back on this new musical wonder and you will find it impossible to say that you are not listening to the best work of a finished pianist and violinist, thoroughly accustomed to playing together in concert.

The Paganini has been tried out in the most exclusive places and in every case it has caused a sensation, so different is it in every respect.

A visitor in a fine cafe or hotel restaurant of today notices that the music comes drifting in, so to speak, not loud, but in soft, delicate strains that can be plainly heard and enjoyed by those who wish to stop their conversation to listen, while it is so soft as not to interfere with low conversation by those who wish to talk.

That is the exact niche the Paganini fills. It really seems made to order for just such refined places. Put the Paganini in the place of the hidden orchestra and your diners will never know but that they are listening to the finest violinist and pianist they ever heard. When they discover that the artist musicians are entirely automatic, their interest deepens. The charm of the music grows and grows with repeated hearings.

In a word, the Paganini Violin Piano is a thoroughly dignified, refined musical instruments of the highest grade, suitable for the finest metropolitan hotels and cafes. It will not only make good under the most exacting conditions, but it is no exaggeration to say that it will carry the most critical audience by storm. ...

Credits:

Written by Terry Hathaway, with information provided by Siegfried Wendel, Jens Wendel, Ron Cappel, Ken Goldman, Durward Center, and Art Reblitz.

Photographs:

Ken Goldman, Siegfried Wendel, Durward Center, and Ron Cappel.