News and updates from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright working at his desk in the Garden Room at Taliesin West. Piano and harp in the background.

A Brief History of Pianos at Taliesin and Taliesin West

Pat Evans | Apr 8, 2024

“Never miss the idea that architecture and music belong together. They are practically one.” – Frank Lloyd Wright, lecture to the American Institute of Architects, Detroit, 1957

March 29, 2024, marked National Piano Day 🎹, a celebration of an instrument that held a significant place in the lives of Frank Lloyd Wright and the fellowship. Let’s take a closer look at the pianos housed at both Taliesin and Taliesin West.

The Taliesin Living Room Piano (2501.127) originally manufactured by Bechstein as a doppelklavier, featuring layered keys, underwent modifications prior to Wright’s acquisition between 1939 and 1942. It was transformed into a single set instrument due to the initial lack of enthusiasm for the layered keys concept. Interestingly, the lower set of keys retained from the modification are notably elongated, presenting a challenge for players.

Frank Lloyd Wright playing piano at Taliesin

📷: Frank Lloyd Wright playing the piano at Taliesin, John Engstead photographer, 1955, The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), 6007.0603

Nonetheless, this did not deter Wright, as evidenced by a 1955s photograph of him playing the instrument.

You can listen to a recording recently discovered and digitized by Archivist Nicole Richard from the Foundation’s collection of the archive of Kamal Amin from 1950-51 of Frank Lloyd Wright improvising on a piano at Taliesin West.

The Pavilion at Taliesin West houses another notable piano (2021.048.4), a Steinway concert grand dating back to 1928. Acquired shortly after the Pavilion’s completion in 1957, it was secured through the assistance of Carol Robinson, a concert pianist and friend of Olgivanna Lloyd Wright. The instrument, originally in storage in New York, was purchased by the Wrights for the cost of back storage fees and shipping, totaling $1100.

Steinway piano house in the Music Pavilion at Taliesin West

📷: Steinway concert piano in the Music Pavilion at Taliesin West.

Following a full restoration in 1999-2000, this Steinway piano became a prized possession, recognized as a world-class instrument. It has since been utilized by professional musicians performing as part of the TW LIVE concert series.