Paul McNulty (piano maker)

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Paul McNulty
Fortepiano by Paul McNulty, based on a model by Walter & Sohn, 1805
Born1953 (age 6869)
Houston, Texas
Citizenship USA, Czech Republic
Education North Bennet Street School
Occupation Piano maker
Spouse(s) Viviana Sofronitsky

Paul McNulty (born 1953) is a builder of historical pianos, described by the New Grove as "famous for the high standard of [his] instruments." Within the community of builders, McNulty is noted for his efforts to extend the production of historically informed instruments later into history: while he has built many fortepianos in 18th-century style, he has also progressively sought to span the gap between the fortepiano (the cradle of modern historical-piano construction) and the fully modern piano that emerged around the last third of the 19th century. The expanding diversity of McNulty's productions has thus helped "provide an opportunity to extend keyboard performing practice to include the piano repertory of the 19th century" (New Grove). [1]



He was born in 1953 in Houston, Texas. [2] In 1976 he attended the Peabody Conservatory, studying classical guitar, then became interested in historical instruments, studying lute performance, etc. [3] In 1978 he entered the New England School of Stringed Keyboard Instrument Technology, where he studied under Bill Garlick. [3] At his final examination McNulty gained the highest possible qualification: "tuning examiner". He attended a seminar at the Steinway factory in New York and was recruited to work there as a technician, but chose instead to embark on a career as a fortepiano builder, and served his apprenticeship for two years under Robert Smith in Somerville, Massachusetts.

In 1986 John Gibbons invited McNulty to accompany his European tour with Frans Brüggen's Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. [3] Gibbons performed Mozart's concertos K.491 and K.466. In the same year McNulty moved to Amsterdam. [4] The search for the best materials led McNulty to move to the Czech Republic. It was written that Viennese piano makers preferred to get their soundboards from the Schwarzenberg Forest (now Šumava) in southern Bohemia. Since 1995 McNulty has been living and working in Divišov, a small Czech town. In 2004 he married Russian-Canadian fortepianist Viviana Sofronitsky.

McNulty's fortepiano was purchased by Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. It is worth mentioning that the Austrian pianist Paul Badura-Skoda also placed an order, [5] as did Trevor Pinnock, ordering a fortepiano for a concert at Carnegie Hall. In September 2018 McNulty fortepianos Graf copy 1819, Pleyel 1830 and Buchholtz 1826 were used in the first International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments. [6]

McNulty's fortepianos

At present, McNulty builds fortepianos suitable for performances of piano works from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Mozart and Beethoven to Chopin, Liszt and Brahms.

In 2009, McNulty produced the first modern copy of a French piano, a Pleyel, [7] which was Chopin's favorite brand. [8] In 2011, at request of Klassik Stiftung Weimar he reproduced one of Liszt's personal pianos, the Boisselot op. 2800. [9] This instrument was made in 1846 for Liszt's 1847 Russian tour. In 2015 McNulty extended his list of first modern copies with Streicher piano, [10] Johannes Brahms' favourite piano model. [11] In 2020 Paul McNulty produced his first Silbermann fortepiano for prof. Malcolm Bilson. [12]

Since 1985 McNulty has made more than 300 pianos, with customers from different countries. USA: Harvard University, Cornell University, Stanford University, Oberlin College, Malcolm Bilson, Robert Levin, Vladimir Feltsman; England: Kristian Bezuidenhout, Glyndebourne Festival, Royal Academy of Music (London), Royal College of Music (London); Austria: Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Paul Badura-Skoda, Wien Konservatorium Privatuniversitat, Vienna Volksoper; France: Opera National de Paris, Paris Conservatoire CNSMDP, Katia & Marielle Labeque. Australia: Geoffrey Lancaster, Australian National University, Melbourne Recital Center. Poland: Chopin's Institute Warsaw; Germany: Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Trossingen, Koeln and Hannover Hochschule für Musik; Switzerland: Schola Cantorum Basiliensis; Netherlands: Ronald Brautigam, Amsterdam Conservatory, the Royal Conservatory of The Hague;  Denmark: The Royal Danish Opera; China: Central Conservatory Beijing etc. [13]

List of instruments

Recordings made with McNulty's instruments

See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. Quotations from the New Grove are taken from the online edition (, article "Pianoforte", section 5, "The Viennese piano from 1800". This section was written by Philip R. Belt, Maribel Meisel, and Gert Hecher.
  2. Fedorovich, Elena. "Vozvrashaya golosa ushedshikh epokh".{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. 1 2 3 Grunefeld, Hans-Dieter. "Piano News. Magazin für Klavier und Flügel" (PDF). Partnerschaft in der Fortepiano-Kunst.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. Hyun-Su-Kim, David (2018). "Portrait: Paul McNulty, Fortepiano Builder" (PDF). Keyboard Perspectives. 9.
  5. Hradecká, Anna Marie. "Paul McNulty: Každý nástroj má svou vlastní osobnost". Opera plus. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  6. Moran, Michael. "Final Report and Highlights of the 1st International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments. Warsaw 2–14 September 2018" . Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  7. Pleyel 1830, copy by McNulty. "Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina". Retrieved 2021-02-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. Chopin, Frédéric; Voynich, E. L. (Ethel Lillian); Opienski, Henryk (1931). Chopin's letters;. Wellesley College Library. New York, A. A. Knopf.
  9. "Liszts Geheimnis". MUSIK HEUTE (in German). 2012-08-27. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  10. "Le piano Streicher de Brahms enfin restitué - Piano News - Parlons Piano". (in French). Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  11. Litzmann, Berthold (1903-02-01). "Clara Schumann von Berthold Litzmann. Erster Band, Mädchenjahre". The Musical Times. 44 (720): 113. doi:10.2307/903152. ISSN   0027-4666. JSTOR   903152.
  12. "Silbermann Piano Arrives in Ithaca (UPDATE: Demonstration by Malcolm Bilson)" . Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  13. "List of owners of McNulty pianos and musicians". Paul McNulty fortepianos. Retrieved 2021-02-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)