guided tours
come and play


Tuesday, 15 May | 12.30 – 13.30 | Jazz and Light Music
Rex Lawson (UK), pianola

The hey-day of the pianola and reproducing piano coincide with the rise of a new musical genre described as a mixture of African and American elements: jazz. Romantic melodies and arrangements of classical pieces were certainly not the only music heard in bourgeois salons and parlours. Rolls with ragtime and other early forms of jazz and music we now label as vaudeville were very popular.

€ 5/4

Sunday, 20 May | 15.00 – 16.00 | Classical and Romantic Music
Rex Lawson (UK), pianola
Madeleine Easton (UK), violin

One of the reasons for the rapid success of the “Vorsetzer”, the first models that could be used to drive pianos mechanically, was that many households who did own a piano didn’t include someone who could really play it well. Anyone who has taken a few piano lessons knows full well how difficult Bach’s inventions are, let alone the exquisite music of Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov. Until it was replaced with the electric gramophone and the radio, the pianola brought this music into sitting rooms, without the help of conservatory-level pianists.

Speaking of conservatories, this concert will also include a demonstration of the so-called educative rolls. This is an example of the multimedia, before the term existed, as the text and images were presented next to the music on the rolls (“under the patronage of Mr. Auguste Gevaert, director of the Brussels conservatory”), thus explaining a specific theme such as “the sonatas of Schubert” to music students. They only needed to work the pedals, look and listen. We’ll place the camera on the roll and project the image for you on a large screen.

€ 5/4

More Pianola…

Friday, 8 June: Concert at Flagey “Rachmaninov is alive!”
Flemish Radio Orchestra with soloist Rex Lawson, pianola.
Info at No ticket sales in the mim !

Sunday, 10 June | 15.00 – 16.00 | Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Music
Rex Lawson (UK) and Wolfgang Heisig (D), pianola
George Van Dam (B): violin

Though the rise of mass media starting in the 1930s could have meant the end for the costly and bulky mechanical pianola’s, music is still arranged and even composed for these instruments to this day. Possibly the most renowned twentieth-century composer who was fascinated with the possibilities of the player piano was Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997). You’ll hear piano sounds that could never be played by human hands, such as in the fantastic Toccata with Ictus violinist George Van Dam. Wolfgang Heisig will present the Belgian creation of a work for pianola by our own Jacqueline Fontyn, alongside some of his own music.

€ 5/4

lectures & demonstrations

Sunday, 20 May | 13.30 – 14.30 | Rex Lawson: “My daughter has a great foot for music” (Lecture in English)

Edwin Scott Votey’s push-up pianola didn’t just appear out of nowhere in 1895. The innovation was an ingenious combination of previously existing techniques. Rex Lawson of the Pianola Institute in London will describe the place of the pianola in the development of mechanical musical instruments and then stress the musical riches that player pianos and mechanical reproducing pianos still offer. Both will be illustrated with recorded pieces and music performed live. A must for all those interested in the pianola phenomenon.

€ 2

Sunday, 10 June | 13.30 – 14.30 | Wolfgang Heisig: “Contemporary Pianola Music” (Lecture in English)

Wolfgang is a pianola roll publisher, composer and pianolist. His lecture will cover pianola repertoire from 1930 to the present. Wolfgang will also spice up his lecture with both previously-recorded music and live performances.

€ 2

guided tours

Tuesday, 15 May – Sunday, 10 June
From Tuesday, 15 May to Sunday, 10 June, you can make an appointment for your group (up to 15 people) for your own pianola rendezvous. A guide will provide a complete description of these wonderful instruments, including a few demonstrations. And, if there’s remaining time, you might even try working the pedals yourself.

  • Tuesday – Friday: €62 (1 guide for max. 15 people) + €4 museum admission per person
  • Saturday: €75 (1 guide for max. 15 people) + €4 museum admission per person
  • Reserve in advance at +32 2 545 01 53 or

come and play

For adults

Friday, 18 May, 1 June and 8 June | 12.30 – 13.00

in Dutch & French; English-speakers can, of course, participate.

he great thing about the pianola is that you need not be a pianist to control the instrument, although it’s often such a delightful experience for pianists themselves to personally conjure up musical pieces on the piano that would normally be too challenging. Pianist or no pianist, anyone with an inkling of musical talent will be surprised how quickly preconceived notions about “mechanical” instruments disappear to make way for pure musical fun.

€2, Reserve in advance at +32 2 545 01 53 or

Playtime for Kids

Wednesday, 6 June
13u30 – 14u30 in French
15.30 – 16.30 in Dutch

The pianola is not only an instrument that allows adults to rediscover the kid in themselves. During this guided session, children will hear text and explanations at their level about the pianola and will even get the chance to try out a sophisticated toy from the previous century.

€3, Sign up in advance at +32 2 545 01 53 or


Sunday, 20 and 27 May, 3 and 10 June | 10.30 – 12.30

A brunch on the top floor of the Old England building with a breathtaking view of Brussels, accompanied by beautiful background piano music from the years when this art nouveau jewel had just begun to glitter on the Kunstberg.

Tempted? Get on the phone and reserve your table fast at +32 (0)2.502.95.08 or