Erard, Sebastien (1751-1831)

Sebastien Erard (1751-1831) was born in Strasbourg. Early in his life he moved to Paris and began to make harpsichords. Erard’s popularity grew quickly as he made high quality instruments for elite and royal families. In 1770 Erard had his own workshop in Paris and and built his first square piano in 1777. In 1781, Sebastien’s brother, Jean-Baptiste Erad (1750-1826), joined the business and they formed an official partnership in 1788. During the French Revolution the firm opened up a branch in London to offset the poor business in France at the time. In 1808 Sebastien made two major contributions to the world of piano building. The first was the agraffe, which prevented the strings from moving too much when being hit by the hammers. The second invention was the repetition action, which allowed for a note to be repeated without the action having to be reset to its original position; this is what all modern grand piano actions are based on. While Erard pianos were well known, the harps made by the firm were just as popular, and Erard made several improvements on harp building as well. Sebastien Erard’s nephew Pierre-Orphee (1796-1855) took over the firm upon his death in 1831 and continued the tradition of well made instruments.

Literature References:

Clinkscale, M., 2006. Makers of the piano, 1700-1820. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.113.

Palmieri, R. and Palmieri, M., 2003. Encyclopedia of Keyboard Instruments. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, p.127-129