Sellheim Pianos A

Tempe Couple’s Home Exhibits Their Remarkable Careers In Music

Seeing a piano in an LDS home isn’t extraordinary. But seeing 12, of multiple sizes and centuries, says there’s a story to be told.

Eckart Sellheim was an Arizona State University music professor and head of collaborative piano for nearly two decades. His recordings with various ensembles are often heard on KBAQ, 89.5 FM.

Left to right: Six-pedaled 1810 fortepiano replica; spinettino replica of the early 1500s (on stand); and original 1836 “Jane Austen” square piano by Broadwood & Son. Photo by Robin Finlinson.

Left to right: Six-pedaled 1810 fortepiano replica; spinettino replica of the early 1500s (on stand); and original 1836 “Jane Austen” square piano by Broadwood & Son. Photo by Robin Finlinson.

Dian Baker (Sellheim) accompanied the Phoenix Boys Choir for 12 years and was an adjunct music professor at Mesa Community College. She played at the BYU Jerusalem Center twice by invitation of Truman G. Madsen. There, Palestinians and Jews are separated in either Arabic- or Hebrew-speaking classes. However, Dian says, “Through music which transcends political differences, people in the audience can share a common language.”

The Sellheims’ story together begins in 1998. Eckart was performing at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming when he wondered, “Who is that beautiful woman sitting in the front row?” After the concert, they discovered they had several things in common. Most strikingly, each had toured the world as pianists for a cellist. Eckart’s brother and Dian’s first husband were those cellists. Both had passed away recently.

Dian and Eckart married that same year and are now known for duetting with incredible skill in the States and abroad. Their eclectic, art-filled home in the Tempe Stake showcases the culture of Eckart’s native Germany and Dian’s Japanese mother.

Eckart Sellheim and Dian Baker (Sellheim) at their original 1835 Joseph Schrimpf fortepiano. Photo by Robin Finlinson.

Eckart Sellheim and Dian Baker (Sellheim) at their original 1835 Joseph Schrimpf fortepiano. Photo by Robin Finlinson.

The Sellheims love history. They tell of how God has spoken to His children during all generations through inspired music and art. They tell of prolific Austrian composer Franz Schubert’s popular new form of music—songs for one voice and piano—being performed at concert parties in Viennese homes. The Sellheims likewise enjoy sharing Schubert’s and other composers’ works with friends at concerts in the intimate setting of their own home.

“We have the complete four-hand [Schubert] works there,” Eckart says, pointing to their massive collection of written music. The Sellheims prefer playing these pieces on their Viennese fortepianos. One was built in 1835 by Joseph Schrimpf; the other is a replica of an instrument built in 1810. With 81 keys, rather than the 88 of the Sellheims’ 1990 Steinway, these are fortepianos for which music of the Romantic era was written.

“The problem with modern instruments,” Eckart explains, “is that the bass register is overwhelming.” The antique keyboards offer greater balance among upper, middle and lower keys.

Original 1835 Joseph Schrimpf fortepiano. Photo by Robin Finlinson.

Original 1835 Joseph Schrimpf fortepiano. Photo by Robin Finlinson.

The Sellheims perform works of numerous composers on period instruments. Their 1798 fortepiano built by the famous London firm Broadwood & Son, with its 68 keys, is the appropriate instrument for the early and middle periods of Beethoven’s piano works.

“The ‘Jane Austen’ piano was the most popular instrument of the Regency period, particularly in England,” Dian says of their recently-refurbished 1836 square piano.

Their collection also includes a harpsichord, clavichord, three harmoniums, and a mid-1700s fortepiano replica. Their 49-key spinettino is a copy of a plucked keyboard instrument built in the early 1500s.

The Sellheims teach at Arizona Piano Institute’s annual summer seminar, and Dian gives private lessons. To contact them regarding concerts or lessons, send an email to: eckart.sellheim@asu.edu.

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