April 2010 Scott Brothers Duo acquired this beautiful Mustel harmonium.
The serial number is 1245-945 (This means that it is number 945 of the
1245 total instruments built to date by the Mustel workshop) and the
wind chest is dated 20th April 1904. The instrument is listed in the
Mustel factory records in Paris as being sold on 26th November 1904.
The harmonium has a walnut case and is tuned to a=440. It is in completely
original condition and was restored in 2004 by Cambridge
The name Harmonium
was patented in 1842 by Alexandre François Debain (1809-1877)
of Paris. It was for a keyboard instrument which used pressurised air
from bellows pumped by two foot pedals to produce sound from free-reeds
(the same method of sound production found in the accordion and harmonica)
creating an instrument which possessed the tonal qualities of a pipe
organ and the expressive control of a string instrument. The instrument
had multiple stops, like an organ, and a divided keyboard so that the
player could choose different pitches and timbres in the treble and
bass of a single keyboard. It was another French maker, Victor Mustel
(1815-1890), who eventually emerged as the finest maker of harmoniums
in the world. His relatively small output and exceptional craftsmanship
won admiration from the greatest artists of the day.
The popularity of the harmonium
reached its peak around 1900 and its uses were widespread and varied.
As an orchestral instrument it was used effectively by composers including
Elgar, Strauss, Schoenberg, Webern, Mahler, Liszt and Tchaikowsky and
more recently found its way on to tracks by The Beatles and many other
popular groups. It was given a particularly important role in Rossini's
1863 Petite Messe Solennelle. Victor Mustels Grandson, Alphonse
Mustel (1873-1937) and Sigfrid
Karg-Elert (1877-1933) raised the profile of the harmonium as a
solo instrument to new heights in the early part of the Twentieth Century
with a large body of original works and concert schedules which included
tours to many countries around the world. However, it was in chamber
music that the harmonium found its greatest popularity especially in
the brilliant combination of harmonium and piano which produced a vast
amount of repertoire. This repertoire can be heard on Scott Brothers
Duos acclaimed CD Duos
for Harmonium & Piano which features original works and new
virtuoso transcriptions performed on an 1880 Mustel Harmonium.
The popularity of the harmonium declined in the 1920s as musical
tastes changed, and the invention of the electronic organ in the mid-1930s
delivered the final blow. Instruments were sold or scrapped and many
were modernised with electric blowers. However, many were
saved, or lay undiscovered for many years, and today are being brought
back to life so that audiences can once again hear the glorious sound
of this uniquely expressive instrument.
For many years these instruments have lay undiscovered and today a few
are being brought back to life. We hope that as many as possible of
these instruments can be saved for future generations and sincerely
believe that, like all musical instruments, they should not sit idle
as museum pieces but should be played and heard so that so that audiences
can once again enjoy their uniquely expressive sound.
If you have a Mustel harmonium
which needs to a find a good home where it will be well used and looked
after, then we would love to hear from you. You can get in touch by