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Culture

Historians identify rare piano once played by Mozart

The asking price of a piano has increased more than a hundredfold following a discovery by music historian Andreas Beuermann. He believes the piano is a rare model once played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Several pictures showing details of the Mozart piano are arranged side by side

The piano was being advertised for far less than it was worth

Experts now believe a fortepiano in southern Germany may be a long-sought model played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during the composer's stays in Strasbourg.

The instrument currently belongs to piano maker Martin Becker, who purchased the piano around 25 years ago from an antique dealer in Strasbourg. He recently offered the instrument for sale.

"Somehow I came upon the idea of auctioning it on eBay and had a price in mind of around 30,000 to 40,000 euros ($39,500 to $53,000)," Becker told German radio broadcaster SWR.

Instead, the piano may be worth more than a hundred times its original asking price, and Becker has adjusted its listing online to five million euros.

The fortepiano - an early version of the modern piano - was built in 1775 and is likely one of just eight models known to be have been made by a piano maker from Zweibruecken named Christian Baumann. Experts are currently examining the piano's history.

With help from a painting

The night after auctioning the piano and failing to get bids at his original price, Becker said he was contacted by music historian Andreas Beuermann, who told Becker that Mozart may have once performed using the instrument.

Beuermann recognized the piano from an historical oil painting hanging in Vienna, in which Joseph Haydn is shown playing what may be the exact same instrument.

Music historians have long searched for the eighth piano built by Baumann, which Mozart mentioned in letters to his father.

The fortepiano, developed around the turn of the 18th century, differs from the modern piano in that it has a much lighter frame and smaller dynamic range. Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven all composed for the fortepiano, which was designed for smaller settings rather than large concert halls.

Author: Greg Wiser (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Kate Bowen

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