The lyraflügel: Its history, design, and place in cultural heritage collections

Author Identifier

Elly Langford

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Supervisor

Jonathan McIntosh

Second Supervisor

Geoffrey Lancaster


Produced almost-exclusively in Berlin during the period c.1820–70, the Lyraflügel was one of the last types of large upright piano manufactured in Continental Europe. Characterised by a distinctive case, the Lyraflügel depicts the imagery of the neoclassical lyre and evokes the Biedermeier style that permeated the bourgeois domestic reception rooms of postNapoleonic Prussia. Extant Lyraflügel are now most often preserved in cultural heritage collections—of musical instruments, of decorative arts, and of cultural history. Lyraflügel that are extant in such collections represent the work of 14 piano makers. Yet, the Lyraflügel remains overlooked in much historical, musicological, and material culture scholarship; discussions of the instrument’s cultural roles, and technical and mechanical design appear only sporadically within larger historical studies that consider German musical instrument design and manufacturing. The meanings and significance of Lyraflügel within contemporary collections of cultural heritage are even less explored—when considered at all within the collections-context, the instrument is generally associated with broad notions of music-making at the piano and with decorative furniture.

This study investigates the history of the Lyraflügel, charting its emergence in Berlin, the development of its technical and mechanical design, and the life and work of its known makers. As organological and museological research, the study is fundamentally object-based with extant Lyraflügel forming both the catalyst for and a key part of the investigation. In particular, detailed technical information regarding the Lyraflügel attributed to Friedrich August Klein housed in the Stewart Symonds Collection at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts is presented and discussed. Furthermore, the study examines the recontextualisation of the Lyraflügel, from the instrument’s context of domestic musical use to its museumisation and continued survival as a cultural artefact. The changing roles, meanings, and perceived significances of the Lyraflügel are explored, and its historical-representative and interpretive value interrogated. The impact of collections-based activities—the museum-professional or scholarly undertakings of object documentation; research and interpretation; restoration and conservation; and display—are considered for their role in uncovering, shaping, and articulating understandings of the Lyraflügel. Historical documents, and case studies of the professional use of the Lyraflügel in museum settings also contribute to the examination of this instrument in relation to its original nineteenth-century context and its contemporary context within cultural heritage collections.



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