The Philipps Pianella
a.k.a: The Wurlitzer PianOrchestra

Why the Name?

Philipps registered the Pianella name in 1903, but there is probably no way to know for certain why Philipps chose the names they did for various models of orchestrions. Typically in the 1903 to 1907 years, advertisements have been observed that used fanciful names (such as Brillant, Caecilia, Celesta, Harmonia, Ideal, Mandolino, Monopol, Special, Sylvana, Sylvia, or Victoria) to designate various orchestrions models. In contrast to these advertisements, the Philipps catalogues, at least by 1911 and onwards, used numeric designations to identify the various models.

Wurlitzer did not use names to identify any of the numerous orchestrion models they imported from Philipps in Germany, completely dropping any hint of their European origin. Wurlitzer designated and advertised the various models by style number alone, the original Pianella line as a whole being known as "The PianOrchestra." Likewise, when the "new" Philipps Pianella Paganini type machine*s came into production in 1910, Wurlitzer imported them, too, applying the term Paganini across the board to these new and more sophisticated Paganini Violin Pianos and Paganini Violin Orchestras. Individual Paganini types were, just like the PianOrchestra, designated by style numbers.

Philipps model (sic) numbers, at the very least, influenced the style numbers used by Wurlitzer. It appears as though Philipps might have applied a sequential model number to each newly designed and/or manufactured type of machine, using a distinct numbering series for each class of machine manufactured. What was known as a Regular, Mandolin, or Concert PianOrchestra was apparently one class of machine, while the Paganini series was yet another, using a new numbering system that started with the number one. Of course, there are numerous observable exceptions to this general trend, possibly keeping the same model number through one or more exterior case variations. There are other confusing deviations, too, such as a few examples of Philipps instruments in the same class, but of different vintages, that bear the same model number and that specify slightly differing musical specifications, as well as a different case design.

In any event, Philipps model numbers do seem to steadily increase as the years pass, with big and small orchestrions interspersed in the arithmetic sequence of numbers. In the 1911/12 Philipps catalogue, the largest Pianella ever imported by Wurlitzer (the Philipps Pianella Model 43, a.k.a., Wurlitzer style 43 Concert PianOrchestra) is followed by a style 46 "Castle" style orchestrion, made much like a dance organ, with an ornate, false facade. On the next page is a fairly small Pianella orchestrion, a Model 46, which is equivalent to a three rank Wurlitzer Mandolin PianOrchestra, which is in turn followed on the next page by a Model 47, which Wurlitzer sold as a style 47 Mandolin PianOrchestra, also a three rank orchestrion. Thus, one cannot accurately predict the size or complexity of the machine as the model number increases, except to the extent that most of the largest machines were made after the commercial success of the first, smaller instruments, and so consequently they do tend to have style numbers in the thirties or forties.

Wurlitzer seems to have taken to the Philipps numbering scheme, but at the same time modifying it to their own needs. The major departures from the Philipps system occur when there are two or more case variations of the same basic machine. Here are two examples:

The term PianOrchestra is a fairly obvious and simple contraction of Piano and Orchestra, a term Wurlitzer used extensively, and which also distinguishes the piano based orchestrions from earlier styles of orchestrions that were basically just pipework, with perhaps a modicum of trapwork effects, such as a bass drum, cymbal, and/or triangle. For example, there are surviving Welte and Imhof pinned-barrel operated orchestrions that exemplify the stunningly beautiful appearance and soft musical repertoire of the non-piano based instruments. But no matter how majestic the large Welte (non-piano) Cottage and Concert Orchestrions, it is the piano based machines, with their popular toe tapping melodies and readily available, easily changed paper music rolls, that captured the commercial marketplace. Thus, the automatic Piano Orchestra became Wurlitzer's Pian Orchestra, sometimes printed with a space between piano and orchestra, but more commonly contracted to the single term, PianOrchestra.

Originally, Wurlitzer offered the PianOrchestra without any prefix designation, such as Regular, style 17, Mandolin, or Concert PianOrchestra, as there was only one kind of PianOrchestra. The first PianOrchestras all played the same music roll, although there were several numbered styles from which to choose, each style being of different overall size and offering more extensive pipework. Then, along came two new and distinctly different types of Pianella / PianOrchestra, complicating matters somewhat, as these two new series of machines used their own special type of music roll, which was not interchangeable on any other kind of PianOrchestra. So, the early style PianOrchestras became the "Regular" PianOrchestra, as the newer "Mandolin" and "Concert" PianOrchestras became the popular favorites. Later the term "Regular" was mostly supplanted by the term "Style 17," probably because the style 17 PianOrchestra, which used the early "Regular" type of PianOrchestra music roll, was still being widely advertised and sold by Wurlitzer.

It is easy to understand how the Mandolin PianOrchestra (a Philipps Pianella Mandoline series machine) got its name, since it contains a piano with a mandolin attachment. The Pianella Mandoline was the term Philipps used to designate its series of coin-pianos and large cabinet orchestrions which contained a mandolin attachment and that used the abundantly common Philipps P.M. music roll. Still, however, I do not have a good answer as to why Wurlitzer used the term "Concert" for the Philipps "Model Caecilia" series of machines, which were sold as Concert PianOrchestras in America. It is an interesting term, though, because having heard all three of the extant Concert PianOrchestras, I have noticed that they seem to be voiced softer than their smaller brothers, the Mandolin PianOrchestras.

Other people have noted this tendency toward softness, too. An excellent example of this voicing difference was noted at Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., circa 1968. A little style 12 Mandolin PianOrchestra, which belonged to Dave Bowers, and containing only one rank of 37 "wide-open" violin pipes, was set up in the spacious showroom. On the opposite wall of the showroom was a large style 32 Concert PianOrchestra, that belonged to me, Terry Hathaway, with ten ranks and a total of 314 pipes. The comparatively tiny style 12 PianOrchestra was nearly as loud and boisterous, if not equally so, as the immense Concert PianOrchestra, with its diverse assortment of pipes and trapwork.

Having restored both Mandolin and Concert PianOrchestras, I have had the opportunity to closely scrutinize and hear comparable pipework from both types of machines. It seemed to me, that the cut in the block (or languid, for metal pipes) that determines the thickness of the wind-sheet appears narrower for the Concert machines. And, if I remember correctly, the toes were bored with smaller holes. Also, it seemed to me that the Concert PianOrchestra pipework was perhaps a little more finely crafted, some pipes having a delicate quality, with more attention paid to the overall tonal blending of the various ranks of pipes. It is as though the Mandolin PianOrchestra was meant to be intentionally loud and noisy, voiced to carry over a large room filled with conversational chatter and background clatter, like a skating rink or ballroom. In contrast, the Concert PianOrchestra seems to have been meant more for "real" and attentive listening, voiced for musical tone, rather than for an indestructible and blaring musical noise.

I remember talking with someone, an old timer, during my Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., days, about the differences in voicing I was hearing. This person was not familiar with PianOrchestras per se, but something he said made me suddenly realize the difference in intent between concert and regular voicing. Regular voicing, it was pointed out, was meant to be loud, even raucous, while concert voicing was meant to be softer, soothing, and easy on the ears, something musical for an attentive audience in an intimate and refined setting. At this point, the Welte Cottage and Concert Orchestrions came to mind. I had long been puzzling over their voicing, they being so soft in nature, full of harmonious quality, while at the same time the stunning array of gleaming metal pipes look as though they might be quite loud.

I recently came across an interesting passage written circa 1905, by George Audsley. He was a prominent writer on Church and Concert Organs during the time period that both Welte Orchestrions and Concert PianOrchestras were being manufactured. He writes: "The importance of having the greatest possible variety and the most marked individuality of tone in the numerous families of stops in the Concert Organ cannot be overrated; but such variety and individuality are best arrived at by differences of form, scale, and voicing, and not by piling weights on the long-suffering reservoirs." In other words, he advocated a diverse variety of orchestral pipe voices, and was against overblowing pipes, pushing them beyond the point of being richly musical to achieve a full and varied sound. Even the smallest Concert PianOrchestra would easily fit Audsley's requirements for a Concert Organ, by depending upon variety of form, scale, and voicing to achieve refined musical results. I have no idea if there ever was an official, bona-fide "regular" versus "concert" voicing system used for certain Pianella orchestrions, but simple observation of the pipework in the surviving Concert PianOrchestras does seem to indicate that something suggestive of "concert" voicing is, in fact, the case.

Wurlitzer was very conscious of the value of advertising, overstating the qualities and refinements of the PianOrchestra on a regular basis. Catalogues likened the music from the PianOrchestra to the very best Metropolitan Symphony Orchestras, explicitly stating that "seated in another room, one would not be able to tell the difference ...." For anyone who has ever heard a PianOrchestra that kind of statement is straight away preposterous. Although the sound may be delightful and very enjoyable, having an irresistible mechanical quality that must be heard to be appreciated, it anything but resembles an actual human Symphony Orchestra. Wurlitzer was probably also very aware of the "value" of the already established term "concert" as applied to the refined Welte residence Cottage and Concert Orchestrions, which were expensive, yet very popular and prominent fixtures in the mansions of many well-known and wealthy American industrialists. And since the Pianella Caecilia models embodied "concert" voicing, featuring a wide range of orchestral tones and voices, as well as being very capable of subtle orchestral shadings and renditions, it does not take much stretch of anyone's imagination to envision why Wurlitzer might have substituted the term "Concert" for the Philipps model name "Caecilia."