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Could the pedal piano be making a comeback?

It’s a piano that thinks, deep down, it’s an organ. I’ve never seen one in action, but that may change quite soon.

Roberto Prosseda, an Italian pianist, has acquired a pedal construction that can be attached to any grand piano and he’s off on a mission to demonstrate it in the world’s concert halls. Here’s how it works:

In addition to traditional repertoire, Roberto has several composers writing new pieces for his contraption. They include Cristian Carrara (Maghificat for pedalpiano and orchestra), Giuseppe Lupis (Variazioni di bravura for solo pedalboard), Ennio Morricone (Studio per piano-pédalier), Andrea Morricone (Hommage à JSB), Nimrod Borenstein (Fireworks), Michael Glenn WIlliams (Tip-Tap). Michael Nyman is also preparing a pedalpiano Concerto.


What excites me most, however, are his forthcoming revivals of forgotten Alkan pieces for pedal piano. Charles-Henri Valentin Alkan is a private passion of mine. Here are a few of his dates for the comig year:

January 17, 2013, Lahti Philharmonic (Gounod Concerto for piano-pédalier)
February 23, 2013 Rome, IUC, Pedalpiano recital
March 1, 2013, Livorno Teatro Goldoni, Pedalpiano recital
March 17, 2013 Lucca, Pedalpiano recital
April 7-8 2013, Weimar Staatskapelle, Leopold Hager Gounod, Concerto for piano-pédalier)
October 20, 2013, Venezia, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Recital (all-Alkan)
October 22, 2013, Pinerolo, Accademia di Musica, Recital (Schumann-Boëly-Alkan)
November 2013, Palermo, Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana (Mozart: Concerto K466, version for Pedalflügel).
Here’s an Alkan world premiere:

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  1. Brilliant! Now if someone would record the Liszt Fantasia and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” on the pédalier-pianoforte, we’d get the instrument with pedals a bit more notoriety, as Liszt gets some play-time being a “non-reclusive” composer.

  2. Good to see you (and Roberto) standing up for Alkan – 2013 is his bicentenary (along with those of musical midgets such as Wagner and Verdi). The Alkan Society events page – – carries a listing of forthcoming Alkan celebrations, and I shall add Roberto’s Alkan concerts. You might also note Robert’s website

  3. By the way, Alkan’s own pedlaier is in the Musee de la musique in Pris and is likely to feature in the major conference on Alkan being held there in November 2013.

  4. And last of all—Alkan’s name isdefinitively NOT Charles-Henri Valentin, just Charles-Valentin. The ‘Henri’ is as much an invention as the mode of Alkan’s supposed demise – probably arose because he always signed himself as ‘Ch-V Alkan’ and someone over-eager fellow felt a need to acount fo the ‘h’.

  5. Jean Desmarais says:

    I love Fazioli piano with una corda, sostenuto and tre corde pedals!

  6. This is something for David Letterman’s newest feature: “Stupid Percussion Tricks”. A piano has 88 keys, up to ten of which can be used at a time depending on the dexterity of the pianist, with three pedals that can be activated to modulate the effect of the keyboard. In four-handed piano pieces this is doubled, with the possibility that the second pianist might bring either additional musical talent or physical beauty to the stage. In this hermaphroditic construction you lose the three pedals for both instruments and the second pianist is not only no beauty but is limited to playing two notes at a time a la “The Celebrated Chop Waltz” (aka Chopsticks).

    Ingenious and impressive as the mechanics may be, what is the point beyond performing tour-hand piano pieces without the onerous burden of sharing the stage?


  7. Brian McLean says:

    My step-grandfather, who was organist at St Mary’s in Nottingham, England, had one at home for practising. Unfortunately my legs were too short to reach the pedals so I couldn’t try it out fully for myself.

  8. Michael P Scott says:

    Awwww! THANK YOU for this. Just wonderful. The Alkan is marvelous!

  9. You could also play Robert Schumann’s Studies (written for pedalflügel). Here’s Peter Sykes playing “snippets” of the latter:

    Not to mention the JSB Passacaglia…

  10. Thrilled to be a part of the pedalier revival led by master musician, frequent new music commissioner and music historian Roberto Prosseda

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