Philipps Pianella Paganini Model 3

Original Location: Šternberk, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic)

Original Catalogue Specifications:

61 Note Musical Scale:


Philipps Model 3 Paganini pipe chest layout.

Chronological History:

Circa 1914
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.

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."

According to a date on the piano sounding board, this Paganini was manufactured on or about May 5, 1914, but confusingly a second number stamped in black ink on the piano sounding board suggests that by extrapolating a similarly stamped serial number on the large Paganini Orchestrion in Utrecht, Holland, the estimated date for this Paganini should be circa 1924-1925. More information and study is required here to understand this apparent disparity between the two distinctly different numbers and their relationship with each other.

Circa 1914-1915
Motion Picture Cinema, Šternberk, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic).

Reported to have been sold to a cinema in the beautifully picturesque small town of Šternberk, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), where the Paganini played accompaniment to motion pictures.

Circa 1974
Technical Museum, Brno, Czech Republic.

Bottom portion of the Paganini, with feeder pumps and shelf removed.In 1974 the Philipps Style 3 Paganini was purchased from the private collection of Mr. Karel Zak, located in the small town of Šternberk, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). With the Paganini was a large library of some ninety music rolls. Upon purchase, the Paganini was apparently hauled to the Technical Museum and partially disassembled, probably in anticipation of it being restored. The current Curator of Mechanical Musical Instruments, Petr Nekuza, has never seen the Paganini fully assembled. It was his colleague, the late Mr. Jiri Cisar, who passed away circa 2006, that bought the Paganini for the Technical Museum way back in 1974. Thus, the instrument has remained mostly unassembled and stored in a back corner of the museum--until recently.

In April of 2011, Petr Nekuza contacted the Mechanical Music Press, advising that the Technical Museum had a Philipps Model 3 Paganini, and was pursuing a restoration of the instrument, but needed some assistance in understanding more about the instrument. In subsequent emails photographs showing various parts of the disassembled Paganini were sent, and, in return, detail photographs of an identical duplex roll changer style 3 Paganini located here in the US were sent to the Technical Museum.

By mid 2011 restoration of the museum's Paganini was getting underway, and the museum was working with restorer Mr. Radek Janoušek, who operates his own piano and pianola restoration business, but was formerly a "technologist of pianos" at the Petrof Piano Factory in Hradec Kralove town. Petrof is widely recognized in Europe as a manufacturer of high quality upright and grand pianos. Responding to a request from Radek Janoušek in November of 2011, help in obtaining measurements for some missing case parts was provided by Ken Goldman, with the aid of Durward Center (a noted Welte restoration expert). All requested dimensions and detail casework photographs were sent by email to Petr Nekuza and Radek Janoušek. Thus, another rare Philipps Model 3 Paganini is gradually coming back to life.

Mr. Petr Nekuza, Curator of Mechanical Musical Instruments, is currently planning to have the Paganini Model 3 in a permanent exhibition, the Salon Mechanicke Hudby (Salon with Mechanical Musical Instruments). Along with the exhibition he plans to display a lot of information about each exhibit, both in the Czech and English languages, and aspires to have a web site regarding the museum's collection by the end of 2012.


Written by Terry Hathaway, with historical information provided by Petr Nekuza and Radek Janoušek.


Petr Nekuza, Head of Science and Technology Department, Curator of Mechanical Musical Instruments, Technical Museum in Brno / Czech Republic.

Radek Janoušek, collector and restoratior Authomatophons (sic).