Shanz was among the great piano makers in the early 19th Century and was favored by Haydn and Beethoven early in his career. Beethoven, who played a Schanz, often wrote to friends and, we’re told, talked to them and his students about the quality of a Schanz grand and would recommend the piano to them. Apparently, he received a little percentage from Schanz for his recommendation! Might be apocryphal but it’s wonderful in the telling. Schanz’s clientele was largely in Italy and most of his extant pianos come from that country, including ours. It still has its original leather hammers and almost all of its original strings and offers listeners the rare sonic experience of early romantic and late classical composers. (Thomas Strange’s book, Early Keyboard Instruments in the Carolina Clavier Collection, was used in preparing this excerpt.)
The Carolina Music Museum Schanz is also an example of a Janissary piano. According to Wikipedia, “Janissaries were elite infantry units that formed the Ottoman Sultan’s household troops, bodyguards and the first modern standing army in Europe.” Janissary pianos were unique because of the bassoon, drum and bell pedal–yes, one pedal that made those sounds– allowing those playing it to emulate the sounds of Turkish bands, a sound which became very popular in Europe, particularly in Germany, known for their bands. There was an uprising of the Janissaries in the early part of the nineteenth century, put down by the sultan, which ultimately resulted in the disappearance of this pedal on subsequent pianos. The pedal remained a bit longer among the German settlements in the United States.
While the name Schanz is still on our mind, the museum was contacted by Susanna Schantz a week or two before our Grand Opning on March 27, to ask if it would be possible for her musician parents to see the exhibit on the 26th due to their return flight to Bethlehem, PA, being schedule for an early morning departure on the 27th. Her mother, Monica, 87, was a keyboard player and her father, Robert, 89, a choral conductor, established the Bachelor’s of Music program at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. Their credentials are impressive: between the two of them they studied at Concordia College, Cleveland Institute, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Juilliard. Impossible not to say yes, yes? They came, they played, they conquered! Possessed of great energy, joy an enthusiasm they played the Shanz, the Broadwood Chopin, and the 1834 Nunns and Clark square. It was delightful hour spent with delightful and gracious people.
Thanking us for opening the museum for her parents Susanna gave the museum a very special gift, the sixty page program for the opening of the Music Hall in New York City in 1891–it became the world renowned Carnegie Hall. This will be added to a growing collection of scores and sheet music which will be put in our library, still under construction on our second floor. We want to thank the Shantzes’ for a memorable morning. And, in case you are wondering if they are related to Johann Schanz, they aren’t sure but are going to check and let us know.