Denis Hall
The Pianola Institute

Did they really play like that? An Appraisal of the Reproducing Piano
During the first thirty years of the twentieth century, the recorded music roll was the preferred playback medium of many of the greatest pianists active at that time. In this paper, Denis Hall will show why this was the case, and why, in recent times, music rolls have attracted such a bad press. With illustrations, he will present arguments as to why this form of music carrier should once again command our serious consideration.

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Denis Hall has been interested in recordings of pianists since his schooldays, when he could buy new 78 rpm records of his keyboard heroes. He first became aware of reproducing pianos in the early 1960s, and bought his first Duo-Art in 1965. With his colleague, Rex Lawson, he founded the Pianola Institute in 1985, with the purpose of furthering the musical value of player and reproducing pianos. For a number of years he was the main transfer engineer of 78 rpm records to vinyl and CD for the Pearl record label in the UK. Since 1980 Denis Hall has involved himself in the organization and presentation of reproducing piano concerts at London’s South Bank Concert Halls and elsewhere, and he has frequently played the role of concert pianolist, including an appearance at the Last Night of the City of Birmingham Symphony Proms in 1987, in which he was joint soloist in Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of Animals. Following in the tradition of W. Creary Woods and Reginald Reynolds, of the Aeolian Company, Mr Hall has studied the dynamic editing of Duo-Art piano rolls, and it is his edition of the Grieg Concerto roll that will be played at the Stanford launch concert. These days he spends much of his time in retirement maintaining his own reproducing pianos in a condition which he hopes does justice to the virtuosi of 100 years ago who entrusted their art to the piano roll medium.