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The Warburg launches adopt-a-key scheme to save piano

The Gombrich family’s Grotrian-Steinweg grand piano is one of the most treasured items in The Warburg's collection.

As part of the Warburg Renaissance, the Warburg Institute is reviewing some of its most-treasured items to identify which are in most urgent need of repair. One such item is the Gombrich family’s Grotrian-Steinweg grand piano, which was kindly donated to the Institute by the family of Sir Ernst Gombrich.

This much beloved piano was brought to the UK from Vienna before the start of the Second World War by Ilse Gombrich, Sir Ernst’s wife, when Sir Ernst was first offered employment as a Research Fellow at the Warburg. In the years that followed, Ilse, who was a gifted pianist, taught piano lessons to support the family and any spare funds were used to help friends and family fleeing Europe. 

Leonie Gombrich, Ernst and Ilse’s granddaughter, believes that Ernst’s offer of work at the Warburg changed the course of her family members’ lives, and quite possibly saved them. As such, upon her grandmother’s passing the family felt it was fitting that the piano, which had played a part in saving the lives of others, was gifted to the Warburg.

Read Leonie Gombrich’s full account of how the piano accompanied her grandmother throughout her life here.

An initial assessment of the piano notes that it is in excellent original condition, but that there are many essential repairs required to allow this well-loved piano to be played once again. The original keytops are very worn, needing replacement, and the sharps should also be replaced with new ebony. The right-hand sustaining pedal is worn through, and, as it is of a rather special profile, will likely need to be repaired rather than replaced. The piano is also missing its lyre back-stay.

The Warburg are inviting donors to support the restoration of the Gombrich family piano and ensure this invaluable piece of the Warburg's history remains a treasured part of its new spaces. To be part of this special project, you can adopt one or more of the piano’s 88 keys with a donation per key of £168. To make this easier, you can set up an automated payment of £14 a month for one year through our donation form.

Get involved

Become part of this special project by adopting one or more of the piano’s 88 keys with a donation per key of £168.

Adopt a key