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(L'Illustration, 25 May 1846)

The Panharmonicon was a musical instrument invented in 1805 by Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, a contemporary and friend of Beethoven. Beethoven apparently composed his piece "Wellington's Victory" (Op. 91) to be played on this behemoth mechanical orchestral organ to commemorate Arthur Wellesley's victory over the French at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. It was one of the first automatic playing machines, similar to the later Orchestrion.

The Panharmonicon could imitate all instruments and sound effects like gunfire and cannon shots.[1] One instrument was destroyed in the Landesgewerbemuseum in Stuttgart during an air raid in World War II.

  • Friedrich Kaufmann copied this automatic playing machine in 1808 and his family produced Orchestrions from that time on.

One of Mälzel's Panharmonicons was sent to Boston 1811 and was exhibited there and then in New York City and other cities.[2] Mälzel also was on tour with interruptions with this instrument in the USA from February 7, 1826 until his death in 1838.

  • In 1817 Flight & Robson in London built a similar automatic instrument called Apollonicon.
  • In 1821 Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel copied some features of the Panharmonicon in Amsterdam for his instrument the Componium, which was also capable of aleatoric composition.[3]
  • In 1823 William M. Goodrich copied Mälzel's Panharmonicon in Boston, MA.


  1. ^ Class notes from "History of Musical Instruments" taught by Dr. Jon C. Mitchell at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Spring 2008.
  2. ^ Journal of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia (PA), vol. 3, 1827, p. 130-133 Mr. Maelzel has been for many years distinguished for his great mechanical skill. The Panharmonicon, which was formerly exhibited here, was made by him: he is likewise the inventor of the Metronome, an instrument by which the time in music is accurately measured; it is not unknown here, and is extensively used in Europe. He has also invented, an apparatus which is attached to a Piano Forte, by which any piece of music which is played on it, is at the same time correctly written out. His speaking figures are of his own make, and far excel the attempts of Von Kempelen, although the labors of the latter, were eminently successful.
  3. ^ Urania: Musik-Zeitschrift für Orgelbau, Orgel- und Harmoniumspiel, vol 12, 1855, p. 20
  • Hans-W. Schmitz: Johann Nepomuk Mälzel und das Panharmonicon. Von den Anfängen der Orchestermaschinen. In: Das Mechanische Musikinstrument, 7. Jahrgang, No. 19, März 1981

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