14 January 2020
By Ellie Palmer
A 19th Century Marchisio piano, also nicknamed the ‘Immortal’ piano, has been put up for sale on eBay for an astonishing $2,000,000
As one can assume from its name, that the Immortal Piano has survived many many years of hardship, during which time it has passed hands multiple times, travelled overseas from its home in Italy to the USA, and even appeared among Nazi Plunder during World War Two. It’s had quite the life. Perhaps the new owner can finally give it a few years of rest.
The piano was built sometime during the first few years of the 19th Century by Italian harpsichord maker Sebastiano Marchisio. It wasn’t until the piano had featured in most musical performances throughout the city of Siena that Marchisio decided its appearance needed spicing up.
It was the harpsichord maker’s friends – Nicodemo Ferri (a sculptor) and Carlo Bartolozzi (an architect) – who produced the case that is still intact today. The design includes portraits of Handel and Mozart. There are also a number of lions, cherubs and gryphons.
What does it sound like?
When it was first built, the piano became popular because of its unusual tonal quality. Harpsichords were known to have much thinner, sharper sounds than the modern-day piano. Considering this Marchisio piano was built during the harpsichord’s time of dominance, it’s surprising just how gentle and smooth it sounded.
In the hands of royalty
The Wedding gift photos of The Immortal Piano
The piano was gifted to the Crown Prince Umberto of Italy in the 1860s in celebration of his marriage to Margherita Teresa Giovanna, Princess of Savoy. A certain Mr Franz Liszt played the piano at the presentation. The Immortal Piano became The King’s Piano in 1878 when Umberto became King.
Stolen by... the Nazis?
Nazi Plunder stolen during World War Two. © National Archives
King Umberto I was assassinated in 1900, but he had talked about the piano to Israeli pianist Mattis Yanowski, who subsequently told his grandson – Avner Carmi, a piano tuner – about it.
Carmi was unable to get his hands on the piano for more than 30 years, by which point it had been stolen by the Nazis in Egypt during World War Two. Carmi was serving with the British Army at the time. The piano was subsequently found among Nazi Plunder. Carmi took the piano back to Israel post-war to begin restoring it. It had been severely damaged during the War.
What is incredible is that, up to this point, Carmi had no idea that this was the piano he had been seeking for over 30 years; The King’s Piano. It wasn’t until he began restoring it that he realised.
A trip across the seas
The Andrea Doria ship sinks off the coast of New York. © The Immortal Piano Facebook
Carmi sailed to the States (with the piano) in the 1950s to start another rebuild on the instrument. He rebuilt what he believed to be the original Marchisio soundboard. Incredibly, during the trip back, the boat Carmi and the piano were on sunk. Both survived, but it’s yet another story of why this piano seems to be, well, immortal.
Flash forward to the 1980s, and after Carmi’s death, the piano was sold to a private buyer for around $1,000,000. And now, 20+ years later, the piano has reappeared on the market.
Got $2,000,000 to spare? Place your bet for the piano here.
Main image credit: © World Piano News