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Silbermann, family of eminent German organ and piano makers.

(1) Andreas Silbermann, b. Klein-Bobritzsch, Saxony, May 16, 1678; d. Strasbourg, March 16, 1734. He worked with the organ builder Friedrich Ring in Alsace before going to Strasbourg in 1702. He was in Paris from 1704 until 1706, then returned to Strasbourg, where he built the Munster organ there (1713–16) and 33 others.

(2) Gottfried Silbermann, brother of the preceding; b. Klein- Bobritzsch, Jan. 14, 1683; d. Dresden, Aug. 4, 1753. Apprenticed to a bookbinder, he ran away and joined his brother in Strasbourg about 1702 as his helper. During his brother’s sojourn in Paris (1704–06), he ran the family business; upon his brother’s return to Strasbourg, they worked as partners. After working on his own there and in other cities, he went to Freiberg in 1711. His finest organ was the instrument built for the Katholische Hofkirche in Dresden (3 manuals, 44 stops), begun in 1750 and completed after his death by his pupil Zacharias Hildebrandt. He owed his fame, however, mainly to the manufacture of pianos in Germany, in which field he was a pioneer; the hammer action in his instruments was practically identical with that of Cristofori, the piano inventor. Silbermann also invented the “cembal d’amour,” a clavichord with strings of double length, struck in the middle by the tangents, thus yielding the duplicated octave of the tone of the entire string. He supplied 3 pianos to Frederick the Great for Potsdam, and Bach played on them during his visit there in 1747.

(3) Johann Andreas Silbermann, son of (1) Andreas Silbermann; b. Strasbourg, May 26, 1712; d. there, Feb. 11, 1783. He received his training from his father. He built 54 organs, and also publ. Geschichte der Stadt Strassburg (1775).

(4) Johann Daniel Silbermann, brother of the preceding; b. Strasbourg, March 31, 1717; d. Leipzig, May 9, 1766. He worked with his uncle Gottfried at Freiberg, and continued the manufacture of pianos after the latter’s death.

(5) Johann Heinrich Silbermann, brother of the 2 preceding; b. Strasbourg, Sept. 24, 1727; d. there, Jan. 15, 1799. He made pianos at Strasbourg, similar to those of his uncle Gottfried, and introduced them into France. His son, Johann Friedrich Silbermann (b. Strasbourg, June 21, 1762; d. there, March 8, 1817), was an organist and composer; during the Revolution, he wrote a Hymne à la Paix; also composed songs.


L. Mooser, G. S.(Langensalza, 1857); G. Zschaler, G. S.(1898); E. Flade, Der Orgelbauer G. S. (Leipzig, 1926); H. Hullemann, Die Tätigkeit des Orgelbauers G. S. im Reussenland (Leipzig, 1937); R. Gärtner, G. S. der Orgelbauer (Dresden, 1938); J. Wörsching, Die Orgelbauer Familie S. in Strassburg im Eisass (Mainz, 1941; second ed., 1960); U. Dähnert, Die Orgeln G. S.s in Mitteldeutschland (Leipzig, 1953); E. Flade, G. S. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des deutschen Orgel- und Klavierbau im Zeitalter Bachs (Leipzig, 1953); W. Müller, Auf den Spuren von G. S. (Kassel, 1968); idem, G. S.: Persönlichkeit und Werk: Eine Dokumentation (1983); H. Wettstein, Die Orgelbauerfamilie S.: Bibliographie zu ihrem Leben und Werk (Buren, the Netherlands, 1989); M. Schaefer, ed., J.A. S.: Das S.- Archiv: Der Handschriftliche Nachlass des Orgelmachers J.A. S. (1712–1783) (Winterthur, 1994).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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