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David-G Offline OP
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Very interesting article about the Steinway pianos at the Wigmore Hall in London.

"It takes an expert team to keep Wigmore Hall’s Steinway concert grands in top order. Andrew Stewart speaks to the highly skilled technicians whose work provides the perfect platform for hundreds of piano performances each season..."

https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/news/blog-steinway-standards

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If they are such great instruments, why do they need such constant service?


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David-G Offline OP
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It's a very busy hall. If we take this last week:

Monday evening - violin and piano
Tuesday evening - ensemble with piano
Wednesday evening - piano recital
Friday lunchtime - baritone and piano
Friday evening - string ensemble with piano
Sunday morning - recital with two pianos
Sunday afternoon - recital with two pianos
Sunday evening - recital with two pianos

Does this sort of concert schedule not require the pianos to have a lot of service? Perhaps it doesn't?

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Indeed, marvelous instruments.
Here is sir Andras Schiff on "The Old Lady", the Hall's 1980 Hamburg Steinway D. What a sound...

Andras Schiff plays Bach and Mozart...burg Steinway D "The Old Lady"

Last edited by trandinhnamanh; 07/04/21 07:23 PM.

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Here's what they go through to set-up and store pianos:



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David-G Offline OP
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Wonderful! Thanks! I have always wondered how the pianos are taken down below and up again.

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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
If they are such great instruments, why do they need such constant service?

Demanding artists who want the pianos to be freshly tuned for each of their performances and might also have some subtle nuances of touch and voicing adjusted. A concert grand is a like a race car - it gets freshly prepped before every race/performance.

Last edited by pyropaul; 07/05/21 01:58 PM.
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
If they are such great instruments, why do they need such constant service?
It's because of this:
Originally Posted by from the article
The ceaseless demands of performers and performances require technical care of the kind found in Formula One pit lanes and aircraft maintenance hangars.

To me, now the conversation gets interesting (for a generous definition of "interesting"). I'm of two minds on these performers:

1. if they are consummate pianists, shouldn't they be able to make music on nearly any piano? Playing piano is a feedback loop -- a good pianist is constantly interacting with the piano, getting to know it and coaxing the best out of it. The service level mentioned above is unnecessary.

2. if they are consummate pianists, shouldn't they have the liberty to play on a piano that gives them the highest expressive control? Sounds just they way they want it to? Hence the servicing is absolutely necessary.

Either way, "servicing" here is meant literally and objectively -- some technician doing time with the piano to suit it to the pianist.

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David-G Offline OP
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You have to remember that concert pianists are playing at their highest level for a paying public. Undoubtedly they could make music on nearly any piano. But the highest quality instruments are expected for public concerts, and rightly so.

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Ed, weren't you the piano tech for Seattle Symphony for a number of years? How did your experience with them differ from what the article details?


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Originally Posted by mcontraveos
1. if they are consummate pianists, shouldn't they be able to make music on nearly any piano? Playing piano is a feedback loop -- a good pianist is constantly interacting with the piano, getting to know it and coaxing the best out of it. The service level mentioned above is unnecessary.
If the piano is not in perfect tune the pianist can't do anything about that. If the piano isn't well regulated it can be extremely difficult for any pianist to execute the difficult passages. If the piano is not well voiced, the pianists cannot do anything to change that. If some notes stick out as too loud or too soft, the pianist might be able to compensate but that would be very difficult. There is more than enough to concentrate on during a recital without the pianist trying to compensate for any deficiencies in the piano even if it was possible.

If the piano has issues, the pianist does the best they can but that certainly doesn't mean it's fair for the pianist or they can overcome the issues.

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Originally Posted by David-G
Wonderful! Thanks! I have always wondered how the pianos are taken down below and up again.

We all know that Wigmore hall was designed and built as the "Bechstein" hall before that 1914-18 misunderstanding between Britain and Germany. The C. Bechstein pianos were sold in the adjacent store and showrooms. So I always wondered if these ingenious lifts were not the remnants of tunnels linking the two venues for ease of transportation?

Last edited by Vikendios; 07/05/21 04:30 PM.

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What a nice idea!

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Cassia, Thank you for asking.

I will limit my comments to my time as Seattle Symphony Piano Technician after the move into Benaroya Hall, (the current home).

Because Benaroya is a new hall with perfect climate control and the stage technicians are very aware of how stage lighting can affect tuning, I often only had to tune a few strings before a performance. Often the piano could easily go through two performances without any tuning issues.

Infrequently, adjustments to the voicing were desired by performers and I would accommodate them as possible.

There were four concert grands to keep ready, but one of them was the regular choice of most performers. So if a performer wanted to use one of the others, It might need a full tuning to be ready for concert use.

I remember when Ivan Moravec came the management was worried because Mr. Moravec would do his own voicing so they made sure I was there when he arrived to test the piano. He sat and played it for 15 minutes and said. "it is perfect, I don't need to do a thing."


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