David Owen Norris at Elgar’s 1844 Broadwood piano forte.

Most of the piano music we love best, we’ve never heard as its composer heard it.

Turner Sims, in association with the University of Southampton Music Department, presents a new four-day festival. Artistic Temperaments celebrates music performances on beautiful antique instruments.

We showcase the Department’s remarkable collection of keyboard instruments, from the 1770s to the present day. Hear favourite pieces as you’ve never heard them before.

Alongside brilliant performances from professionals and students, and vintage performances by famous pianists of the past ‘live’ on pianola, the Festival also makes room for YOU to play. Sign up for a private session to try your favourite Mendelssohn Song without Words on a nineteenth-century piano, or that lovely Bach Prelude on a harpsichord.


1pm JC Bach Sonatas & Songs
A free lunchtime concert from the UoS Music Department.

7.30pm The World’s First Piano Concertos
Exploring the wonders of the Square Piano.

10am-10.45am New Sounds for Old: Matthew Wright and David Owen Norris
A free event. David Owen Norris is joined by Dr Matthew Wright.

11am-noon The Pianola Unwrapped: Pianola concert with Joyce Tang and Rex Lawson
Discover the inside story of this fascinating instrument.

3pm Liszt & Chopin Recital: John Thwaites
A recital by pianist John Thwaites.

7.30pm Beethoven & Schubert in B flat
David Owen Norris performs on his Viennese Schantz piano (1802).

11am JC Bach, Mozart & the Square Piano
Exploring the influential friendship between the two composers.

3pm – 5.30 An Elgar Exploration
An afternoon exploring the life and work of one of England’s greatest composers.

1pm JC Bach Songs & Sonatas
A free lunchtime concert from the UoS Music Department.

What’s the Festival about?

When is a G-sharp not a G-sharp?
When it’s an A-flat!

Sharps and flats have to share the black keys on the piano keyboard, but they are actually different notes. Over the years, that dilemma has led to many different ways of tuning pianos. The compromise we use now, called equal temperament, was not established until after the time of Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. Before that, pianists preferred bolder compromises.

The Artistic Temperaments Festival gives us the opportunity to hear what we’ve been missing. Our great collection of keyboard instruments – including one of our fine modern grands – will be tuned historically. Our Steinway will remain in the modern tuning so we can compare.

The important thing about historical tunings is that the different keys – D major, A minor, and so on – all sound different from one another. There was actually a reason for the weird chromatic semitones in Haydn’s last sonata; a reason for Beethoven choosing C minor for one sonata and C-sharp minor for another; even a reason for Schubert’s beloved G-flat Impromptu first being published in the key of G. It’s a question of harmonic flavour, like using the right herbs and spices.

This is the next big thing to hit the way the world hears the canon of musical masterpieces, and Southampton is well ahead of the curve, with its international concert hall and its famously successful Music Department.

In 1984, I was the first to record Schubert’s Winterreise on a piano of his time, with the baritone David Wilson-Johnson; and my first piano recording using early temperaments came out
twenty-five years ago. Now we can use the Keyboard Collection I’ve created at Southampton over two decades to bring all these ideas out into the open. Artistic Temperaments will be a concentrated focus on an important topic, and it will be truly unique to Southampton.

Professor David Owen Norris

Instruments featured in Artistic Temperaments

Antique Instruments in Turner Sims:
*Beyer Square Pianoforte – 1774 Lambert’s Temperament 1774
*Beyer Square Pianoforte – 1781 Lambert’s Temperament
*Ganer Square Pianoforte – 1781 Lambert’s Temperament
*Broadwood Grand Pianoforte – 1796 Valotti
*Schantz Grand Pianoforte – 1802 Young (1800)

Modern Instruments in Turner Sims
*Goble harpsichord – modern Kirnberger III
*Fazioli Grand Piano – modern Young
*Steinway Grand Piano – modern Equal Temperament

These instruments will be available for inspection in the Keyboard Room:
Frecker Grand Pianoforte – 1812
Broadwood Grand Pianoforte – 1826
*Hopkinson Yacht Piano – 1880
Misina-Taskin two-manual Harpsichord – modern

Artistic Temperaments thanks Lucy Coad for the loan of perfectly restored eighteenth-century square pianos.

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