Érard was originally a cabinet and furniture maker, but after moving to Paris and training with a harpsichord maker, he opened his own keyboard workshop in 1770. In 1777, Érard completed his first piano, modelled from an English square piano. Érard then formed a partnership with his bother, and moved to England to escape the French Revolution and continue building instruments. Their first grand piano was completed in 1796. Érard instruments have certain characteristics in their design that make them English in style, rather than French. Érard instruments were one of the first pianos to have repetition (or double escapement) action. This action incorporates a repetition lever, allowing notes to be played for, and sound, a second time even if the hammer has not returned to its original position. Érards also feature an ‘agraffe’. The agraffe is a brass object inside the piano that spaces the strings, so that they don’t move or vibrate against each other. The agraffe is positioned under the tuning pegs at the head of the instrument. Both these features have been adapted and copied by other modern piano makers, and are still included today in the action of the instrument.
This particular Érard is a copy of the kind of instrument used by Franz Liszt during his Italian period. It is a concert instrument, rather than being intended for domestic use. This Érard was imported to the Mount Gambier area of South Australia around 1867. In 1970, John Priddle – then Secretary of the Adelaide branch of the Australian Society for Keyboard - purchased the instrument. Mr Priddle donated the piano to the ANU Keyboard Institute in 2007.