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Music strikes a chord at Biltmore

Written By Jean Sexton

Posted 05/17/17

Updated 04/03/24

Estate History

On June 13, 1902 a very elegant newcomer arrived at Biltmore House by train from New York. You could say this special addition to the Vanderbilt Music Room was truly made for Biltmore–and you’d be right!

Music Room in Biltmore House
Music Room in Biltmore House

The new member of the family was a handsome Steinway Model D concert grand piano that George Vanderbilt ordered from Steinway Hall, the company’s world-renown New York City showroom. The piano was built at the Steinway factory in Astoria, Queens, then shipped to Biltmore and placed in the Tapestry Gallery.

Music was an important part of the entertainment at Biltmore, and the beautiful Steinway quickly became popular with family and friends. During a visit to Biltmore in March 1905, Edith’s sister Pauline Merrill wrote to a friend and described it as “a wonderful-toned concert piano which Mr. Webb plays at any hour, on request or without it!” The enthusiastic piano player was the brother of George’s brother-in-law Seward Webb, the husband of his sister Lila.

The same grand piano in the Tapestry Gallery is believed to have been played by famed American pianist Van Cliburn when he visited Biltmore in the 1960s.

Although the Music Room was not finished during George Vanderbilt’s lifetime, there is a pianoforte or square piano there, made by Joseph Newman of Baltimore around 1835.

There was even a piano in the Banquet Hall’s Organ Loft in the early 1900s, according to Biltmore House employees at the time. Mattie Alexander Duke played it and sang regularly for the Vanderbilts and their guests. But it took until 1998 to finally install a pipe organ in the loft—a restored Skinner pipe organ dating from 1916.

With the 21st year of our Biltmore Concert Series kicking off July 27, music continues to play an important role on the estate. See our stellar line-up and join us for these outstanding performances.

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