A Visit to Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett

We cruised back to the Rhine to continue our journey, and eventually reached Rudesheim. Our group was taken by one of the ubiquitous little “land trains” right up to the gateway to the museum. This is a particularly grand example of a house typical of many we had seen, half-timbered with ox-blood-red beams and many turrets. Called the “Bromserhof”, it was the ancestral home of the Bromser family, the oldest parts dating from the 16th century. Over the years the building underwent many changes and served a variety of purposes, until in 1998 Siegfried Wendel acquired it as a fitting home for his wonderful collection, and named it his “Mechanical Music Cabinet”.

The conducted tour got off to a rousing start with “Die Lorelei” played by the Weber Maesto Orchestrion, a whole orchestra and jazz band in one instrument. After a demonstration of an impressive upright Symphonion we were led into a part of the cellars, where facing us was a very pretty oriental-looking 80 key Gebruder Bruder Fair Organ, circa 1910, which had been rescued in a sorry state from Budapest. The catalogue listing claims it has the musical effect of a band of 40 men.

The tour continued briskly upstairs through several rooms, with one or two instruments per room played for us. I was particularly pleased to see and hear the Hupfeld Phonolitzt-Violana playing “La Donna et Mobile”. I had been intrigued by such an instrument on the AMBC visit to the Mechanical Music Museum at Kew, which sadly was not played. That instrument had three violins, but here was one with six! Three were vertically mounted on either side and it was fascinating to watch, especially when the tempo quickened and the two circular bows went into overdrive.

From Issue 3 (Winter 2015/16) of Mechanical Music World. To read this article in full become a member and receive a copy. Full details on “Membership” page.