Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Music and Musicians - The Apollonicon

The Apollonicon, 101, St. Martin's Lane, is a grand mechanical musical instrument. By its mechanical, or self-acting powers, it is capable of performing any piece of music which may be arranged on it with a grandeur and precision unequalled by any instrument hitherto produced, of a similar description. Any piece of music may likewise be played on it by one or six performers at the same time. This exhibition is open daily, from 1 to 4 o'clock; but an eminent professor is engaged to play on Saturdays, during the winter season ; admission, 1s.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

A CHAMBER-ORGAN of vast power, supplied with both keys and barrels, was built by Messrs. Flight and Robson of 101, St. Martin's-lane, and first exhibited by them at their manufactory in 1817. The denomination is formed from Apollon, and the Greek termination icon.

"The Apollonicon," says a contemporary description, "is either self-acting, by means of machinery, or may be played on by keys. The music, when the organ is work by machinery, is pinned on three cylinders or barrels, each acting on a different division of the instrument; and these, in their revolution, not only admit air to the pipes, but actually regulate and work the stops, forming, by an instantaneous action, all the necessary combinations. The key-boards are five in number; the central and largest comprising five octaves, and the smaller ones, of which two are placed on each side the larger, two octaves each. To the central key-board are attached a swell and some compound pedals, enabling the performer to produce all the changes and variety of effect that the music may require. There is also a key-board, comprising two octaves of other pedals, operating on the largest pipes of the instrument. There are 1900 pipes, the largest twenty-four feet in length, and one foot eleven inches in aperture, being eight feet longer than the corresponding pipe in the great organ at Haarlem. The number of stops is forty-five, and these in their combinations afford very good imitations of the various wind instruments used in an orchestra. Two kettle-drums, struck by a curious contrivance in the machinery, are, with the other mechanism, inclosed in a case twenty-four feet high, embelished with pilasters, and paintings of Apollo, Clio, Erato."

This magnificent instrument performed Mozart's overtures to the Zauberflote, Figaro, and Idomeneo; Beethoven's Prometheus; Weber's to the Freischutz and Oberon; Cherubini's to Anacreon, &c.. without omitting a single note of the score, and with all the fortes and pianos. the crescendoes and diminuendoes, as directed by the composers. with an accuracy that no band can possibly exceed, and very few can reasonably hope to rival. The Apollonicon was five years in building, and at an expense of about 10,000l., under the patronage of George IV. Its performances were popular for many years.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867 edition