I am always interested in writing about unusual pianos or keyboards, and, today, I’m highlighting a piano with a difference; it has four pedals. The Viennese piano makers Feurich have invented a fourth pedal called ‘Pédale Harmonique’.
Feurich began making pianos in 1851 and have been producing high quaility instruments ever since. They are particularly popular in China. Development on the fourth pedal started in 1985 and several prototypes were created for the Paris Conservatoire. French concert pianist Georges Pludermacher, is one of several pianists who has shown real interest in this invention by recording a disc of Beethoven and Schubert’s works using it. Similarly, positive responses were found at the 2006 Musikmesse in Frankfurt and in 2011 the final version was patented.
The ‘pédal harmonique’ has the effect of sustained tones but in a different way to the Sostenuto pedal. So with the pedal half depressed, the dampers lift off until a note is played, upon which that damper falls down on the strings, causing the note to shut off. Meanwhile all the other strings continue to vibrate in sympathy creating a sound resembling playing the piano in a large room such as a church. The results are a reverb on the piano or the ‘remanence’ which is the natural sympathetic reverberation.
The harmonic pedal is apparently extremely simple to use and is suitable for beginners as well as more advanced players. It offers pianists new and completely different sound effects that work for all styles and genres of music. The pedal is particularly effective in classical works that contain specific tonal colour or wide ranging tonal palates such as works by Debussy, Ravel and Scriabin. The pedal can add the missing colours of the sound spectrum very effectively.
This looks like a great idea although some may say it’s a gimmick. I won’t be rushing out to buy one, but adding extra tonal possibilities to the piano’s sound may become important in future piano development.
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
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