John Allison reviews 'Chopin’s Piano: A journey through Romanticism' by Paul Kildea

Some things are easier to lose than others, but how does a piano come to be mislaid? When that piano has been lugged up and down an island mountain, made one – perhaps two – sea crossings, and been looted by the Nazis, there could be any number of causes for its disappearance, but something more recent and mysterious has led to this now 180-year-old instrument remaining hidden, maybe in plain view. Even more tantalisingly, this is not just any piano: during the difficult winter of 1838–39, when Frédéric Chopin and George Sand stayed in the monastery at Valldemossa, Spain, it was ‘Chopin’s Piano’. Paul Kildea’s new book is the tale of a humble instrument, its story fleshed out in rich and fascinating detail.

Photographs of the piano exist, showing it in Wanda Landowska’s Berlin apartment shortly before World War I, and they confirm the maker’s name. One of the first pictures woven into the well-illustrated text is of the manufacturer’s label: Fabricado por Juan Bauza, calle de la Mision, Palma. In perhaps the most memorable portrait ever made of that remarkable pioneering harpsichordist, Landowska poses for the photographer Alexander Binder next to this piano. Never more than a local piano maker, Bauza would be entirely forgotten today were it not for the fact that – with no idea about the destiny of this instrument – he built the piano on which Chopin composed some of his 24 Preludes.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are already a subscriber, click here, or on the ‘Log In’ tab in the top right hand corner of the screen, and enter your username and password to log in. If you have logged in but are still seeing this message your subscription to ABR Online may have expired. Please contact us or click here to renew your subscription to ABR Online. More information about ABR Online can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.