Since 1857, the Moravian Historical Society has presented its members with an update on the state of the organization and has hosted an annual lecture. Many of these lectures have been published in the Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, now known as the Moravian Journal.  A complete listing of the Annual Lectures can be found here.

The 165th Annual Meeting, Lecture, and Reception
Saturday, October 30, 2022

The 165th Annual Lecture will be presented by Laurence Libin

"John Clemm, David Tannenberg, and the Moravians’ role in
establishing keyboard manufacture in America"

Long before Chickering (Boston) and Steinway (New York) became household names in America and won accolades abroad, piano manufacture thrived in Philadelphia, where Loud & Brothers (established in 1822) produced hundreds of pianos annually in the 1820s, many for export as far as the West Indies. Earlier, Charles Albrecht was among several German immigrants who, beginning shortly after the Revolution, made high-quality pianos in southeastern Pennsylvania, making this region the cradle of the American piano industry.


The ground in which these seeds took root was cultivated during the colonial period largely by Moravian settlers, who required keyboard instruments to support their religious mission, in which music played a vital role. David Tannenberg and his mentor John Clemm pioneered this development by building organs, clavichords, spinets, and other keyboard types both for use in their community and for sale to outsiders. Other Moravians including Philip Bachmann and Jacob Till, and later George Haus and John Christian Malthaner, followed in their footsteps. By their efforts, locally-made instruments became available to music-lovers who couldn’t afford imported products, which often proved unreliable in the American climate. A growing market for American-made pianos created conditions in which performance and composition thrived, eventually resulting in a particularly American industrial style of piano construction.


This talk will outline early Moravian contributions to this process, drawing upon keyboard instruments uniquely preserved by the Moravian Historical Society.

Laurence Libin  is emeritus curator of musical instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is the author of American Musical Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Norton, 1985). He retired after serving as curator for thirty-three years, holding a chair endowed for him. 


Libin is editor-in-chief of the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (Oxford University Press), past-president of the Organ Historical Society, and honorary curator of Steinway & Sons. He has published more than 150 articles and monographs and was co-editor with Peter Williams of the 2008 and 2009 Organ Yearbook.


Libin has investigated Moravian instrument making for more than forty years and is no stranger to the Moravian Historical Society’s musical instrument collection. He has conducted on-site research numerous times. Perhaps his most notable discovery was when he identified David Tannenberg as the maker of the clavichord in the MHS collection, making it the oldest extant clavichord made in America.   


Libin portrait.jpeg

Photo credit: Eileen Travell, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Libin lectures internationally on instrument history and conservation. In 2017 he assisted the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Germany, in obtaining a 500,000-euro grant for restoration and enlargement of the church’s organ. In 1978 Libin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2009 the American Musical Instrument Society honored him with the Curt Sachs Award for lifetime achievement. Other honors include the Anthony Baines Memorial Prize of the Galpin Society (UK), a Cultural Fellowship from the Likhachev Foundation (Russia), and Columbia University’s Armstrong Award for his nationally syndicated radio series, “Instrumental Odyssey.”



The talk is free to attend. Registration information is coming soon.

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