After trying plenty of pianos – and I mean A LOT of pianos – with the goal of replacing my ancient Chickering baby grand – the people I liked best were 4 Steinway Bs at Steinway Hall in London plus a Steingraeber Phoenix 205 at Hurstwood Farm Pianos.
Auditioning instruments with this quality raises a fundamental essential question which is how will you make a decision on merely one?
My answer I was thinking was you don’t decide. Just select the best one. Or “you don’t pick the piano. The piano picks you.”
Nice try. But this didn’t get me any even closer a decision until …
The Steinway Bs – Hamburg Steinway Bs this is because I’m in Europe rather than America – responded to everything I played. When i state “everything” I’m imagining Gary Oldman intensity when he shouts for everybody! Those Bs spoke!
Gorgeously exquisitely tuned, they produced a million colors and timbres, all of these leapt effortlessly gracefully in to the room. Playing a straightforward interval on those pianos – the perfect fifth – was a revelation. They spoke at the whisper and each other dynamic. They sounded large, full, and complete with merely a melody surely nothing else.
The steingraeber – which, however, was ultimately the “one” – was a completely different beast. I liked it when I first sat right down to play it. It was actually precise in ways I’ve never come across before. It features a dynamic vary from almost inaudible ppppp to decimating ffff. In the middle and amongst those extremes comes floating sound, literally, from instrument to aether and air. Beautiful round warm graceful wonderful sound.
But as much as I liked the Steingraeber, I couldn’t coax it to travel from your feel of my method to the dialect of sound I had been after. It was actually as if the piano had it’s own mind, as though it knew better. Maybe it did.
Then your magic. Geoffrey Sapsford, the incredible technician at Hurstwood Farm Pianos made some adjustments over 1 hour roughly.
I sat down again and played a couple of notes. That same Steingraeber Phoenix 205 which had been an absolutely wonderfully precise instrument through which I couldn’t pull sound as completely when i wished now responded everything I played: exactly, precisely, totally. Full keep with lid fully open, half keep with lid halfway closed, tiny one-eighth keep with lid open a bit, no stick with lid fully closed.
I do not know what Geoff did for the piano and it’s very possible he trusted incantations only. Concerning picking a piano and the ways to decide between this, that one, or something else: My experience came to play, try, think, listen, talk, permit settling – then repeat as often as necessary. And collaborate by having an amazing technician.