Silbermann, Gottfried



He belongs to the Silbermann family of organ and clavier-makers; was the greatest of his name and was the younger brother of Andreas, who built the organ in the Strasburg Cathedral. He was born at KleinBobritzsch, Saxony, the son of a carpenter, and was intended by his father for the trade of a bookbinder, but because of some childish prank was apprenticed to his brother, who taught him the art of organ-building. So well did Gottfried profit by his brother's instruction that in 1714 he gave proof of his ability by constructing the cathedral organ at Freyberg, which was considered the finest instrument of the forty-seven which he built. It was equipped with three manuels and forty-five stops. Silbermann is sometimes credited with the invention of the piano, but this is a much discussed and very doubtful point. He probably did invent the cembal d'amour, a clavichord with strings of double length, and. he was the first German to make a piano and worked very hard at the perfecting of that instrument.


From him its increased spread and the gradual displacement of the clavicymbal and clavichord may be dated. His first two pianos he submitted for examination to Johann Sebastian Bach, who praised the novelty of the instrument, but found the upper octaves feeble. Silbermann then worked at his instruments to remedy the defects, and upon his submitting them to Bach the second time, they were declared faultless by that musician, and from then on were famous. Silbermann built many organs in Saxony, and some of his pianos he made for Frederick the Great. His clavichords were almost as celebrated as his organs and pianos, and were highly spoken of by Dr. Burney, the musical historian. Silbermann never married, and died while engaged in building the Dresden Court organ, which is considered his finest instrument. He became extremely rich for those times.