Duo-Art Grand Player Piano by Steinway and Aeolian

  • This custom-crafted Duo-Art grand player piano was created by Steinway & Sons and Aeolian
  • Immensely rare and exquisite, this piano is able to accurately recreate a live piano performance
  • In terms of both mechanical and aesthetic artistry, this piano is a true masterpiece
  • The piano was part of the collection of supermarket giant Barney Henry Kroger
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-4274

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Immensely rare and mechanically complex, the Duo-Art reproducing grand piano is considered to be the most technologically advanced player piano made in the early 20th century. This particular instrument is further distinguished as having been owned by the “father of the modern super-market” American businessman and founder of Kroger Supermarkets, Barney Henry Kroger.

This automatic musical masterpiece is the culmination of an exclusive relationship between two international leaders in their respective fields: The Aeolian Company of New York City, and Steinway & Sons of Manhattan. Aeolian was a trailblazer in automatic musical instruments and sheet music, while Steinway & Sons are one of the most prominent “big four” piano manufacturers in the world. It is the combined gifts of these renowned companies that resulted in this incredible piano – one of the only Steinway Duo-Art player pianos in this pristine level of preservation and perfect working condition. 

The Mechanism
Player pianos were nothing new by the time Aeolian introduced their Duo-Art mechanism in March 1914. Several factors, however, separate Aeolian’s innovation from all others of the period. First, its pneumatic system is incredibly multifarious, essentially using forced air via a bellows to activate various switches, valves and expression boxes that together, are capable of recreating the most true-to-life sounds and nuances associated only with a live performance. Adding to the sound quality is the inclusion of several adjustment switches located behind a panel above the keyboard. The elements of bass, treble, tempo, accompaniment and theme graduation, as well as adjustments for the motor and roll can all be controlled through manipulation of these switches.

Second, the paper rolls the mechanism “read” were also much more detailed than those of any other player piano. Unlike competitors, the Duo-Art used a real-time perforator connected directly to a piano to produce an original roll as the artist played. Exclusive to Aeolian, this machine could create an estimated 3,600 perforation rows per minute, accurately capturing every element of an artist’s performance on the first try with an accuracy of 1/60th of a second! 

Because of the poor sound quality of the phonograph, the biggest pianists of the day shied away from recording and distributing their music using the medium. But the stunning quality of the Duo-Art captivated both classical and popular pianists. Artists such as Percy Grainger, Vladimir Horowitz, Teresa Carreño and numerous others gladly recorded their music for the Duo-Art. 

Aeolian realized the importance of implanting their mechanism within only the finest of pianos, and they petitioned Steinway early in the manufacture to partner with them. Initially, Steinway refused, but after much back-and-forth and deliberation, the firm agreed and the legendary Steinway & Sons Duo-Art Grand Piano was born. 

The Case
While the majority of Steinway Duo-Arts were housed in a more traditional and streamlined exterior case, this particular model features an incredibly rare and undoubtedly custom-crafted art case. The entire piano is sumptuously gilded and polychromed in the Neoclassical taste. Majestic carved elements including sweeping acanthus leaves, reeds and garlands surround all angles, while the hand-painted imagery of musical instruments and charming putti adorn the facade. The instrument rests upon classical, reeded columns, while the pedal board takes the form of a graceful lyre. 

Ingenious working mechanics, opulent workmanship and important provenance make this Steinway Duo-Art Grand Piano a tour de force of automatic musical instruments. 

Marked with the Steinway company seal

Circa 1920

58 1/2" wide x 74" deep x 40" high
Lid open: 71" high

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Duo-Art Grand Player Piano by Steinway and Aeolian
Period: 20th Century
Origin: America
Depth: 74.0 Inches
Width: 58.5 Inches
Height: 40.0 Inches

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