This incredible Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina Model B music cabinet is among the rarest and most advanced automatic music players of its time. The remarkable machine, crafted by the renowned Leipzig firm of Ludwig Hupfeld, is one of the most mechanically complex music players ever made, boasting three self-playing violins accompanied by a self-playing piano. Once made in the thousands to entertain patrons of upscale hotels, restaurants, and cafes, these extraordinary machines have become increasingly rare, and only 63 still exist today.
A large step above the popular mechanical piano of the day, the Phonoliszt-Violina was quite expensive to produce, and therefore was only available to the most exclusive clientele. The need for its expense is evident when considering the astonishing complexity of the instrument. Three violins playing strings tuned to D, A and E are bowed by a circular 1,350-strand horsehair bow cage, while a cross-strung Rönisch pianoforte accompanies the strings. Remarkably, both the piano and the violins are dynamic, allowing for a previously unheard of range of volume and tone. From the most delicate pianissimo to a crashing fortissimo, this unparalleled instrument has the ability to render musical pieces with all of the skill and vigor of a real musician. Over 900 rolls of music were created for the Phonoliszt-Violina over the decades, of which 50 rolls are included with the present machine.
The firm of Ludwig Hupfeld was established in Leipzig in 1892, when Ludwig Hupfeld, an accomplished musician, mechanic and businessman, acquired the musical instrument manufacturers J.M. Grob & Co. The firm quickly rose in popularity as its mechanical instruments grew more and more complex - products made by the firm included various piano-playing machine and orchestrions. The idea of creating an automatic violin came to Hupfeld in 1900, and by 1907 the firm displayed the “Klavier mit Streichton,” or piano with string tone, at the Leipzig Autumn Trade Fair. At the Brussels World’s Fair of 1910, a Photoliszt Violina was received with great acclaim and earned a medal, and renowned violinist Ephrem Zimbalist called the instrument “the wonder and marvel of our time.”
This remarkable Violina model is featured on the cover of The Violin-Playing Machines, 2012, by Q. D. Bowers
Leipzig, Circa 1910
106” high x 75” wide x 32” deep