Welcome to the Hans Adler Music Collection official website

Hans Adler always had a particular passion for chamber music, especially keyboard work, and assembled the finest collection of this type in the Republic of South Africa, and one of the most noted in the World.   (He was also an accomplished pianist, and frequently performed with visiting musicians and the SABC. (South African Broadcasting Corporation) - often on early instruments.

The keyboard collection shows the development of the keyboard instrument and includes many rare pieces. The Museum he assembled over the years comprised 3 parts:

  • A collection of 20 mostly rare early keyboard instruments
  • An enormous library of books, manuscripts, sheet music and periodicals, mainly focused on his chamber music and multi-hand keyboard passion. This included a showcase of rare and unusual items, manuscripts and prints of particular interest to musicologists (https://aldercraft.blogspot.com/)
  • Personally dedicated  photos from nearly 200 renowned classical artists and groups that performed through him in Southern Africa between 1950 and 1978. (http://classicalmusicianstoza.blogspot.ca/)   Also 3 personal autograph books with 200 odd dedications, comments and memories from the performers, most of whom became or still are renowned and highly- respected performers throughout Europe and America. 

Most of the Collection was willed to the Wits University of Johannesburg on his death in 1979, where a Hans Adler Memorial Music Museum was established, displaying many of his keyboard instruments, dictionaries and encyclopedias, and the display case rare  musical issues.
On opening the museum in 1980, Wits University issued a "Hans Adler Memorial Volume", a collection of tributes, ISBN 0854946217 (https://classicmusicmemorialhadler.blogspot.com/)  The music scores and periodicals (with just a dedication decal) were absorbed by/incorporated into their main university library.

Various references in the following texts refer to:
  •  Donald Boalch, Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord, 1440-1840,OUP 1956 - ISBN - 10: 0198161239
  •  Various South African Newspapers, eg. Rand Daily Mail (RDM) Johannesburg, Panorama, Die Transvaler (Afrikaans language Johannesburg newspapers)

Beyer Glasschord or Glass Harmonica- 1786


       Glasschord or Glass Harmonica made by Beyer, France, 1786. 

Bought from Alan Vian, Paris 
Made in France for the aristocracy and as a decoration (Transvaler, 28.1.66).
Very rare, played like a piano, but the tune comes from slivers of glass instead of wires.  Bought in France in a very old music antique shop (Star, 12.11.59) Hans Adler has only seen two others, one in a private collection in France and one in the musical instrument museum in Vienna. Their fragility accounts for their rarity. Mozart composed music in 1791 for such an instrument, a variant of which was played in his time by a blind musician, Marianne Kirchgessner.  
The sheet music - an Adagio in C and an Adagio and Rondo for a glasschord, flute, oboe, viola and cello - are in the Adler music library. Two-and-a half by one-foot instrument,  mahogany case, three octaves of notes which act on hammers with heads of green leather as large as olives. These strike a glass xylophone and produce sounds more limpid and sweet than those of a celesta.  
Glasschords originally consisted of glasses filled with water to varying levels to produce the notes of the scale.  Sound was produced either by hammers or the wetted fingers.  Benjamin Franklin, when he came to England in 1757, became interested and mechanised it by using self-tuned glass bowls.  He called it "Harmonica". The instrument was later replaced by the celesta. 
Permission for export had to be granted by the Musée du Louvre, which checked if there was one left in France.  
It belonged to the Comte de Briqueville, whose collection was dispersed in the 1930s  (RDM, 17.12.59) It was unwieldy to carry around glasses of water in a piano.  Thus Beyer changed these to strips of glass. (Sunday Times, TV Times, June 1, 1975)

Wanda Landowska Harpsichord

    Landowska Harpsichord  sculptured gothic harpsichord.

   Painting attributed to Verrocchio, 15/16th century, inside the lid probably cut out of its frame and mounted on harpsichord lid (Sunday Times, TV Times, 1.6.75)
    Featured in Musical America 15.2.55 edition.
   Bought at auction,  16th century Italian.  According to the donor who purchased this valuable instrument in 1971, it belonged to the Wanda Landowska collection. Its history is otherwise unknown, but sources say she performed her first recital on this instrument (RDM 4.11.71) in 1912. 
   Renaissance painting on lid.  Delicate Gothic oak carvings and three stop-slides placed to the right of the keyboard.  Range 5 octaves. On the soundboard is inscribed Musica Laetitiae Comes, Medicine Dolorum.  Restored in Paris by 92-year-old, one of the few craftsmen who could be entrusted with this work. Plencrum units damaged in transit and restored by H. Schilling (Opus, July 72)
 Probably the instrument mentioned in Wanda Landowska's autobiography as her favourite instrument. (Star, 21.11.72)
   Mainly because the owner wanted to see the instrument played on instead of remaining silent in  the glass case of a museum, sold through Alain Vian (Paris antique instrument dealer) to Mr Adler. Three special ivory buttons at the side  of the keyboard enables the registration and tone colour of the harpsichord to be changed. 

Menegoni Virginal or Ottavino

Menegoni Virginal  or Ottavino

Information given by Hans Adler 1977:  
Das Instrument hat unregelmässig viereckige Form und steht in einem braun eingelegten Kasten neueren Datums.  Die Saiten werden von Federkielen (einem Plektrum aus Leder- oder Rabenfederkiel) angerissen.  Dieses Plektrum ist an einer beweglichen Zunge im Oberteil eines Holzstäbchens des sogen. "Springers" derart gesetzt, dass es beim Anschlagen der Taste die Saite von unten her anzupft;  beim Zurückfallen dagegen, dank der beweglichen Zunge, seitlich an der Saite vorbeistreicht.

Venice 1689, has a beautifully inlaid case, also works with plectra, like the harpsichord.  It is a smaller instrument and was therefore probably used mainly for vocal accompaniments.   There are only about four listed in the world.  One is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, one in the Historical Museum in Basel, the other two privately owned. (RDM, 6.3.65)
Only three are in existence, one in Smithsonian Institue and other inVictoria and Albert Museum (Pretoria News, 10.3.69)
 Royal crest on the case indicates that it once belonged to the Austrian Emperor (Panorama, July 58)

Information from Boalch:  4 instruments listed: 
a)      ottavino, 1715, Yannick Guillou, Paris
b)     polygonal virginal, 1692, Museo  Civico, Milan
c)      harpsichord, 1696, historisches museum, Basel
d)     harpsichord, 1690, Smithsonian Institution , spurious

  • Bought at public auction in competition with unknown buyer.  Later it was discovered to be the Austrian government.  Auction took place in Belgium. (Lantern, March 1966)

Georg Winckler Fortepiano, Hammerklavier, or Mozart Piano

     Fortepiano, Hammerklavier or Mozart Piano 

 Hammerklavier or fortepiano of the late 18th century (1780?) made by  Georg Winckler of Switzerland. Case: Nussbaum, 5 octaves (F-f3)       Er besitzt zwei Kniehebel, einen für Forte und einen für Piano.  Die Mechanik ist eine Wiener Mechanik mit Kastendämpfung.  Auf einer gestochenen Vignette auf dem Resonanzboden das Signum:  Georg Winckler, Lauten- und Instrumentenmacher München, von Neupert in Nürnberg gekauft.  A true piano, the action being of hammers on strings, with the two damper pedals worked by the knee. An important addition for performing the many library scores. Often utilized together with visiting musicians. 

 Also featured periodically with HA performing in concerts for the Johannesburg Musical Society and The South African Broadcasting Corporation.  In all probability Mozart himself played on this piano - hence its name "Mozart" piano.  He described one like it in his letters  (Rand Daily Mail, 6.3.65)  seven feet long, 40 inches wide at the keyboard, five octaves, manufactured in Munich in 1785 (RDM, 13.11.56)

German Clavichord

    German Clavichord 

In beautifully inlaid case which is newer (1730?).  From Germany, rectangular, elongated box.  It is a keyboard of which the tones are produced by slender upright blades of brass called "tangents", flattened at the top where they make contact with the strings.  The earliest record goes back to 1404 when it was mentioned in "Rules of the Minnesingers" by Eberhard Cersne.  The oldest existing specimen is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York and is dated 1537 (RDM 6.3.65)

Mr Adler secured this instrument because the owner, who had resisted all offers had died and his widow was willing to sell.  Four-octave keyboard with ebony naturals and ivory accidentals, the front of each key delicately carved.  These instruments were mainly made privately by craftsmen who seldom put their names on their work. Three-and-a-half foot oak case.  Experts estimate age as middle of 17th century. Mostly used by women, and has little box at the side where it was customary for ladies to keep perfume or hairpins or other feminine accessories.(RDM 5.4.61)

Viola D'Amore


     Viola D'Amore:     

The 7 stringed Viola, received from the Gaspar Cassado Collection (Noted Spanish Cellist) who obtained it from the Comte de Briqueville collection that was dispersed in the 1930s. Made in 1679 by Italian violin maker Ruggieri Del Pere.

Hans/Andreas Rueckers Epinette, Virginal or Harpsichord

   Hans/Andreas Rueckers Epinette/Virginal or Harpsichord

17th century, the Stradivarius among harpsichord
Information from Boalch, Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord, 1440-1840, p.551:
Type:  Rectangular virginal. one-of-a-kind octave quint virginal
Date: 1610
Inscriptions: Ruckers number /51
Specification: 1x4
Compass: C/E-c³, short octave
Keyboard:  White naturals, black sharps
Number of roses: 1
Style of rose:  Seated harping figure
Exterior of case:  Painted
Scale: 147 mm
Length: 711 mm, Width: 380 mm, Depth: 185 mm
Remarks:  The only surviving Ruckers 2.5-voet virginal at pitch R+9 - a unique, but undated, instrument authenticated by O'Brien - his number (c. 1610)a AR.  The instrument is not part of a mother and child combination, but stands in its own right.  Because of its unique position in the range of Ruckers instruments, it is the subject of considerable investigation and comparison by O'Brien .....  The outer case is shaped like a small writing desk, and is painted in the standard Ruckers green marbling.  An internal lid painting shows courtiers in a landscape with a castle.  The date of c. 1610 is ascribed on the basis of the rose and soundboard decoration.

Reference:  O'Brien, G. Grant: Ruckers, a harpsichord and virginal building tradition.  Cambridge, CUP 1990

Alexander Bertolotti Harpsichord

    Painted Bertolotti Harpsichord:

Alessandro Bertolotti was a Venetian harpsichord maker, active in 1580's. In this case the attribution is not apparent, yet vouched for by the donor. With trestles. The painted casing is antique, the soundboard and rose also.  The four octave and four-note keyboard is completely renovated or altogether new. Purchased in 1969.

Italian Harpsichord, Two Manual

     Italian Harpsichord:

Decorated with garlands, dating from the 17th Century, and rebuilt by a French maker 100 years later.  Supported on trestles.  Bought at Sotheby's, and described as "fine and decorative two-manual Italian harpsichord in a Louis XVI case."  It has a beautiful Flemish painting on the inside of the lid in the style of  Tenier and a beautiful  ornamented frame,  7 foot long and shaped like a modern grand piano but much narrower. (It is notable that there were also famous Flemish harpsichord makers in the 17th century.)  The strings in this instrument are plucked by a "quill" when the key is struck.  There is a double keyboard with several pedals or "stops" (RDM,6.3.65)

Clavicytherium or upright Clavichord


    Clavicytherium or Upright  Clavichord 1589.

Purchased in 1965. 
The original date, 1587, of this vertical spinet are uncertain. Credentials depend on a dubious catalogue issued by a Florentine dealer, one Francolini, around 1900, who attributed its manufacture to Petrus de Paulus, who possibly never existed. Bought from Alain Vian . Note the doors, the latin inscription and carved angels. Doors are original, keyboard partly restored.
Italian, late 1500s, upright clavichord (Star, 21.11.73)  from a monastery in the south of France probably used to lead prayer and hymns, had to obtain permit from Musée du Louvre as they had to check whether there was still one in France, very few remaining, one in the Donaldson Museum of the Royal College of Music in London, another in the Metropolitan Museum, New York and a few in Germany.  It has about 3 octaves and its strings are about as long as those of a zither.  They are strung vertically over a sounding board which has two ivory ornamented rose-holes.  At the sides of the keyboard are gilt figures of cherubs in high relief.  The doors which close on the strings are ornamented with painted floral borders and panels of holy figures on the inside and a gold lettered prayer in Latin on the outside. [Tu mater..... tu puer.]  The sound produced when the keys are pressed down is small but tinkles clearly. (RDM 6.3.65)
Took two years to restore in Paris, early 17th century, probably made in Italy (RDM, 1.3.65)

Information from Franciolini catalogue, catalog 6, Series A
Claviciterio dipinto a soggetti sacri, fregi ed ornati dorati fondo bleu con stemma del Papa Sisto V  al quale credesi appartenuto.  Firmato: Petrus de Paulus Fecit 1587.  Temater tu virgo paris sotera  deum que tu puer es sotera tu puer ille deus.  Salve sancte puer salve vir guncula mater ter  venerande puer, lungo m.0.60, largo m.0.40, alto 1.10, rarissimo.  L. 1000

At Franciolini's trial an instrument, perhaps this one was mentioned as possibly being fake, due to: "...A clavicytherium had been made from an old shrine, and throughout the instrument there were forged parts..." (p.197)

Square Piano

     Square Piano 1725:

From the estate of  cellist Gaspar Cassado, and dating from 1725, this rudimentary pianoforte bears no identification mark othe than what might be interpreted as a date 1732 inked in on the soundboard.  Range 4 octaves and one note.  Purchased in 1969. 
From Naples, reconditioned in England and the date of which he gives as 1730.
Recognized authorities have up to now considered that the earliest extant square piano in existence is one by Johan Socher dated 1742. (Star 29.8.70)

Broadwood Piano, one of the first pianos


 Broadwood Piano  London, 1788

This fine instrument was manufactured in 1788 by the well-known English firm of Broadwood. Five octave keyboard in mahogany case, crossbanded in ebony and fruitwood
Bought from Sotheby's, 1966. Repaired by Hermann  Gertz, who worked in Johannesburg for some years. 
 John Broadwood (the oldest firm of piano-makers still in existence) in London 1788.  It is one of his earliest instruments.  The date at which Broadwood began making pianos was 1781 in Great Pulteney Street, Bolden Square, which address is on Mr. Adler's instrument. (RDM, 27.9.66)