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Watching over some of Horowitz's performances, it seems his piano was regulated differently. Anyone know what the specs were like keydip, Blow distance, hammer weight, lead weights in keys etc?

Thanks in advance.
-chris


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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Watching over some of Horowitz's performances, it seems his piano was regulated differently. Anyone know what the specs were like keydip, Blow distance, hammer weight, lead weights in keys etc?

Thanks in advance.
-chris

Yes, I've done a fairly deep dive into that.

There were a number of his pianos, most are referencing a specific one, to clear that up first.

38-48 grams (numbers vary but all on super light side), extremely shallow, short blow distance, incredibly sensitive and amazingly easy to play, but very difficult to control, like a race car with power steering.

Tiny differences in touch equaled huge variations in sound. Concert pros who tried to play it expressed frustration.

The entire regulation of my Steinway grand is based on imitating that.

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Franz Mohr told me that H. would become very resistant to replacing hammers when they were worn. Franz's "solution" was to put Jiffy Weights on the back of the keys when the hammers were nearly worn out, (That would mean there is lead on both sides of the balance rail.) so H. wouldn't "notice" much difference when the heavier, new hammers were installed and the Jiffy Weights removed.

Needless to say most pianists would find an action like that terrible to control.

By the way, H. would sound like H. on any reasonable piano. But what he was used to became rather extreme towards the latter part of his career.


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H. also like to play fortissimo on melody notes with the shift pedal fully engaged. He always wanted the hammers to clear the third string. H. was a genius at manipulating the passive coupler effects of a fully shifted action.


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Would you have any upweight and downweight info that would be his norm?

-chris


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No. Nearly useless information anyway.


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By the way, H. would sound like H. on any reasonable piano.

That's an important point, I think. There are two very short film clips of Horowitz playing pianos other than Steinway; a Becker and a Bechstein, and he still sounds like Horowitz.

I don't at all buy into the idea that Horowitz only sounded like he did because of a 'special' magic Steinway.

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I played the piano shortly after it was retrieved from Horowitz/s N.Y. apt. and still back by the loading docks at the factory. Bill Garlic had been given the task of de-regulating the original set-up, but as he led me back to the piano told me that he had left the fifth octave just as he found it. The hammers were worn, and there was little weight to the piano. Let-off was set just at the excursion zone, and some hammers would graze the string on a second note while the sos. was held down. Drop was set nearly at let-off and the dampers lifted late. Dip was right about .375" and aftertouch was on the shallow side. Springs were fairly soft and the checking was quite high. Brittle sound and hard to control, but that is the way he liked it.

After the factory "restored" the piano and sent it out on tour, Vanderbilt was the second stop. I was able to go in early the next a.m. and take a closer look. It was completely different, in that new action parts were in there, and they appeared to be stock factory parts. I also had time to measure the bearing on the soundboard, which was original. There almost wasn't any! one or two graduations on the Lowell gauge on the bass bridge, one click across the center of the board, three at the top octave. The board had a lot of response in it, though.
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I had the displeasure of serving a client with vastly more money than common sense once.

(Also more self-absorbed arrogant entitlement than the sun has photons... unpleasant from beginning to end of our brief relationship.)

It's not the piano part that's relevant to this topic though.

He was a collector of many rare and expensive things, foremost of which were classic cars.

I apologize for not remembering the details, not into cars at all, and certainly not race cars, but anyway...

He'd bought some race car that'd won some famous race driven by some famous race car driver.

He was under the impression that if he owned that car, he could drive like the racer who won the race.

For some unfathomable reason, his driving was no better or worse in the race car than his other cars.

He wanted to sue *somebody*, but his lawyer talked him out of it.

A car is a car is a car, and a piano is a piano is a piano.

A Maserati isn't a Yugo and a Fazioli isn't a Daewoo obviously, but it will always come down to the skill of the operator of any machine, be it an abacus or a quantum computer.

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Horowitz himself was probably 95% factor of Horowitz's sound. There is a video I watched of him trying out different steinways in the factory. He sounds like Horowitz on all of them smile

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When I listen to his playing on my cd “Horowitz in Moscow” there is a very subtle but unmistakable sound that indicates let off is closer than I would set it especially in the mid range and above A4 I hear the hammer try to block the strings slightly at light to medium pressure playing. It seems to interfere with sustain at times. But again, very subtle and not noticeable at forte or harder.
Actually, if you do the test for let off too close in that range of the compass as Steve Brady describes in his book “under the lid” this is close to what I hear.

Last edited by Gene Nelson; 01/24/22 04:05 PM.

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Gene, that is actually quite fascinating, thank you!!!

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Originally Posted by An Old Square
A car is a car is a car, and a piano is a piano is a piano.

Yeah, but somewhere out there on a car forum there's a car guy saying:

I apologize for not remembering the details, not into pianos at all, and certainly not concert pianos, but anyway...
He'd bought some piano that'd been used in some famous competition by some famous pianist.
He was under the impression that if he owned that piano, he could play like the guy who won the competition.

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Originally Posted by Walkman
Horowitz himself was probably 95% factor of Horowitz's sound. There is a video I watched of him trying out different steinways in the factory. He sounds like Horowitz on all of them smile

Isn't that the truth. It brings to mind something I read on a guitar forum that I found both true and mildly amusing. People were discussing tone, and all the best components and guitars to get it. Finally, one person wrote that the best way to improve your tone is to practice more. Ha!

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I went to a Horowitz concert once when I was just starting out working on pianos. I thought the playing was incredibly virtuosic, but he made a lot of slips, and the piano sounded terrible.

Later I heard pianists that I thought were as virtuosic or more, Bobby Enriquez and Dorothy Donegan, and they were playing on the pianos that were available, not anything they brought. Maybe Hirome is up there, too. And there are others who displayed their incredible talents in other ways.


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Horowitz can be seen playing Tchaikovsky's Becker piano (from about halfway in) here:


and Scriabin's piano (not sure what make) here:

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In Italy in 1985 he was provided with a Hamburg Steinway C for his hotel suite. According to Franz Mohr this was a Milano showroom piano, not some particular instrument prepared according to magic wizardry.



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H's piano was unique. It had a nasal sound I have not heard on any other model D and I have played a bunch of them including my own. However, Mr. H did get the best sound. I remember reading about how he explained to a young pianist that when playing chords you need to make sure all the notes sound at once. After I read that I made an effort to do the same, especially since I play a lot of Rachmaninoff with so many big chords. Having concentrated on that I began to improve on that by making the top note stand out. Years later I am still working on it. H. was a master at it, and doing this will improve your sound. I played H's piano both before and after the work was done on it. It lost that nasal sound after the work.

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In the Horowitz in Moscow documentary that was shown on TV here at the time, Franz Mohr comments that Horowtiz "Likes a certain nasal-ness" (as nearly as I can remember the quotation, but he did mention nasal-ness).

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THis is the video of Franz Mohr talking about Horowitz's piano while working on it at the Moscow Conservatory. From 2:40 in:

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