The Gervex in the Gite

A holiday in France is usually a piano-free zone, so it was a surprise to walk into a rural gite last week and to find an ancient Gervex upright. It was unplayable, though; woefully out-of-tune, and our hostess said it was too costly to renovate. Purchased in 1900, it had belonged to her grandmother.

It still posesses a mysterious charm. Ornately carved handles adorn the sides; the pedals are carved, and there is a carved wooden design on the front panel. The legs, too, are very decorative. Candelabras are still fixed to the right and left of the front, and there are two additional places for candles when the lid is opened. The frame is wooden – hence the tuning problem – the serial number 5783, and printed on the frame are the names of the notes, opposite the relevant strings. Yes, I had a good look.

And online, there is a fascinating site listing piano makers – where this advertisement is reproduced –


“F. GERVEX, rue Montholon, 4 – Fabrique et spécialité de pianos demi-obliques. — Belle qualité de son. — Solidité garantie. Exportation.” Le Luth français. Journal de la facture instrumentale, 1856, p.8

Henri Gervex, the painter, was the son of Félix Gervex, the piano maker.

 The firm seems to have survived for a number of years, and to have moved to different addresses over the course of its existence.

However, its Rue Montholon address caught my eye -Liszt lived there in the 1820s. And that reminds me … back to blogging about the Etudes…

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