From 3rd to 12th December, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum in Warsaw will be restoring a Pleyel grand piano from 1848 – the last instrument belonging to Fryderyk Chopin. The restoration work will be carried out by Paul McNulty – a prominent American expert on historical pianos. This renovation will be available for Museum visitors to observe.
At the end of November 1848, Chopin, already seriously ill, received from his friend Camille Pleyel, a piano maker, the newest instrument created in his famous Parisian factory. The piano with serial number 14810 was in Chopin’s last two apartments and was the last one the composer played and wrote on. After Chopin’s death, the instrument was bought by his pupil Jane Stirling, and then given to Fryderyk’s sister, Ludwika Jędrzejewiczowa. Transported by sea, it arrived at Warsaw in August 1850. The inside of the piano case still contains the wax seal of the Tsar’s customs office and a handwritten dedication “pour Luise” by Jane Stirling.
The piano, as one of the most important keepsakes of Fryderyk, was carefully preserved by successive generations of the family – Ludwika’s children and grandchildren. In 1924 it was sold to the National Museum in Warsaw, where it was exhibited until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.
After the fall of the uprising the instrument was taken by the occupants to Austria; it returned to Warsaw on 24 April 1946. In the 1950s, it was exhibited for a while at Żelazowa Wola, and in 1958 it was placed on deposit by the National Museum and later transferred to the Fryderyk Chopin Society and transported to the Ostrogski Palace, home of Warsaw’s Chopin Museum. Since 2005 it has been deposited in the Fryderyk Chopin Institute.
In 2018, the Fryderyk Chopin Institute commissioned a detailed examination of the instrument from LANBOZ’s Laboratory for Analysis and Non-Destructive Testing of Historic Objects, including scanning, X-rays, and chemical analyses. The inspection of the piano was also performed by Prof. Benjamin Vogel – musicologist, instrumentalist in the field of piano building and violin-making. The research confirmed the need for further restoration work, which was undertaken by American historical piano expert Paul McNulty.
The work of Paul McNulty’s team will take place in the museum space and, courtesy of the conservation team can be observed by visitors to the Fryderyk Chopin Museum.
The Fryderyk Chopin Museum in Warsaw can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 am to 7 pm. Free admission day is Wednesday.