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Denis Condon Collection of Reproducing Pianos and Rolls

Denis Condon (1933-2012) trained at the Sydney Conservatory and became a music teacher and educator. He developed an interest in the reproducing player piano when his father purchased an Ampico piano when Denis was fifteen. Over the next sixty years he amassed a collection of over 7500 piano rolls and ten instruments. From his home he hosted social evenings every two months where rolls were played for the assembled guests. He constructed, together with his friend and engineer, Peter Phillips, a Duo-Art cabinet player (or Vorsetzer) which played rolls in concert throughout Australia and New Zealand. The cabinet player was also used to record the Grieg Concerto performed by Percy Grainger with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The collection contains rolls of important composers of the period including Busoni, Chaminade, Debussy, Granados, Gershwin, Glazunov, Grainger, Leschetizky, Mahler, Paderewski, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin, Richard Strauss, and Stravinsky all playing their own works. There are numerous important pianists including Backhaus, Cortot, d’Albert, Dohnanyi, Gabrilowitsch, Ganz, Hofmann, Horowitz, Landowska, Lhevinne, Reisenberg, Rubinstein, and Samaroff. The popular music documents playing styles of this earlier era with pianists such as Zez Confrey, Ferde Grofé, Fritz Kreisler, Ernesto Lecuona, Richard Rogers, and Victor Youmans. Rolls of every major company are represented in the collection.

The instruments in the collection consist of two grand pianos (Marshall & Wendell Ampico A and a Chickering Ampico B), four upright pianos (two Steinway Red Welte pianos, one without keys, a Rönisch Animatic Piano Liszt Hupfeld Triphonola, and a Behning Art Echo), and four cabinet players or Vorsetzer (Red Welte, Green Welte modified to also play Welte licensee rolls, Ampico, and Duo-Art). In addition to the rolls and instruments, the collection includes tools, equipment, and parts for repairing the instruments; service manuals and historic advertising materials; an archive of correspondence; and a small library of roll catalogs and publications related to the player piano.

Please note that this collection is in the process of being cataloged. Catalogued rolls can be found in Searchworks.


Jerry McBride
Head Librarian, Music Library
Head Librarian, Archive of Recorded Sound
(650) 725-1146

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