Has anyone had the opportunity to play one one of these babies?
How wrong can you be? "If I were to begin my career anew it would be on this keyboard." - Arthur Rubinstein "This invention will have replaced the present piano keyboard in fifty years' time!" - Franz Liszt
The Paul Janko keyboard
Here's what Alfred Dolge, piano builder and founder of the piano town of Dolgeville N.Y., said back in 1911 about the Janko keyboard in his book Pianos and Their Makers :
The most ingenious and really meritorious invention, revolutionary in its character, is the keyboard patented in 1882 by Paul von Janko of Austria. Moved by the desire to enable the amateur to execute the brilliant, but technically exceedingly difficult, essays of our modern composers, Janko constructed a keyboard of six tiers, one above the other, similar to the organ keyboard. On this keyboard tenths, and twelfths, can easily be produced by reaching a finger to the keyboard above or below that on which the hand is traveling. Arpeggios through the whole compass of the keyboard can be executed with a sweep of the wrist, which on the ordinary keyboard would hardly cover two octaves. Indeed, with the Janko keyboard, the hand and arm of the player can always remain in their natural position, because to sound an octave requires only the stretch of the hand equal to the sounding of the sixth on the ordinary keyboard.
It is difficult to realize the manifold possibilities which this keyboard opens up for the composer and performer. Entirely new music can be written by composers, containing chords, runs and arpeggios, utterly impossible to execute on the ordinary keyboard, and thus does the Janko keyboard make the piano, what it has often been called, a veritable "house orchestra". It is not nearly so difficult for the student to master the technic of the Janko, as to become efficient on the present keyboard. This keyboard can be readily adjusted to any piano having the ordinary action.
Like all epoch-marking innovations, this great invention is treated with indifference and open opposition. That poetic performer on the piano, Chopin, refused to play on the Erard grand pianos containing the celebrated repetition action, because his fingers were used to the stiff percussion of the English action. Today, however, English makers of concert grand pianos use the Erard action which Chopin disdained!
The piano virtuosos and teachers of the present day are opposing the Janko keyboard because its universal adoption would mean for them to forget the old and learn the new. The music publishers object to it, because their stock on hand would depreciate in value, as the Janko keyboard naturally requires different fingering than that now printed with the published compositions.
Although the Janko keyboard, in its present form, is thoroughly practical, and destined to inaugurate a new era for the piano industry, its universal success and adoption seem to be impaired by the appearance of the player piano, which enables the musical amateur to enjoy his own performance of the most difficult compositions with hardly any exertion on his part. It remains for a coming Titan of the pianoforte to lift the Janko keyboard out of its obscurity and give it its deserved place in the concert hail, there to show to the executing amateur its wonderful possibilities.
Paul von Janko, noble of Enyed, was born June 2, 1856, at Totis, Hungary. After finishing his preparatory studies, he entered both the Polytechnicum and the Conservatory of Music, in Vienna. It is quite characteristic of the dual nature of the virtuoso-inventor that he left both institutions with the highest prizes they offer.
He continued his musico-mathematical studies at the Berlin University under Helmholtz. The immediate result of these researches was the keyboard which bears his name. From 1882 to 1884 he experimented on an ordinary parlor organ; in 1885 the first Janko grand piano was built; and on March 25, 1886, he gave his first concert thereon in Vienna.