Dear fellow piano-lovers,
I wanted to share with you my experience in playing historical instruments at Chris Maene in Ruiselede, Belgium. I had promised to do this already in my earlier post. This post is that follow-up & part of the same tour of pianos:http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...-f278-bosendorfer-280vc-or-d.html#UNREAD
Chris Maene is a piano builder that has built up an incredible portfolio of historical instruments – both originals and rebuilds. He is an inspiring and very experienced builder. In his factory and store in Ruiselede, he offers a range of instruments from the earliest pianoforte to the earliest Steinway – all of them playable. Most are rebuilds, but he does have an original Longman which has a lovely sound. It is the kind of instrument museum I have always dreamt of – a place where you can touch and listen to history. It always pains me to be in other musea and not to be able to play :-). I think Ruiselede should be a compulsory stop on the journey for anyone that is truly serious about pianos.
The pianofortes from all those eras provided me a ton of insight into what past pianos sound like. I was shocked how much period pieces can change character, the instruments led invariably to whole new understanding of the character of these older pieces. I came partly unprepared for this and had to do this with the limited repertoire I had memorized. I will definitely try to visit another time and then bring a good stack of pieces from Bach to Mozart to Beethoven to Chopin to Debussy.
Even though I had known pianofortes sound different, I was truly surprised in many cases. For example, when you play the opening bars of Waldstein sonate of Beethoven on a modern instrument it is a momentous and bassy sound, even if played pianissimo as Beethoven indicated. And the sound always grows, even with quite light pedaling. On a historical pianoforte, like the Anton Walter pianoforte replica, the sound becomes light. The repetition of the notes makes a lot more sense, since the sostenuto is short. Also, you are able to make much more subtle crescendi and decrescendi since you can truly control the volume without the continuous increasing volume. All in all, the piece gains new life. That is not to say that it does not sound fantastic on a modern piano, but it just becomes a clearly different piece of music.
As another illustration, it is also wonderful to personally rediscover the difference between the older pianofortes and what I consider to be the first “modern” sounding instruments, like the first Steinways or the Pleyels. Suddenly, Chopin or Debussy’s music comes to life, and you understand better why composers started exploring new sounds in their compositions. At the same time, these instruments are more ethereal than modern instruments. They sing slightly different.
Anyway – it was a personal epiphany that I am sure so many have had before with historical instruments. It was extra powerful given the fantastic range of instruments that Chris Maene offers.
Unfortunately, the range of instruments was so rich that I did not have the time to make detailed notes on every individual instrument. Who knows – something for a next time perhaps and a next post.
Chris Maene also built a fantastic new instrument, under the Chris Maene brand. I played the Chris Maene 250 and CM284. It is a straightstrung grand, codeveloped with Daniel Barenboim. If you have played the pianoforte, you will understand the sound ideal that they are striving for. The bass is not wound with copper but with messing. The piano impresses me as somehow a more nasal sound. It is a wonderful color – I associate it with the Oboe da Caccia for some reason, a similar sound from the past compared to a modern oboe. The instrument is much less confusing in its harmonics than a Steinway or even a Bösendorfer. The instrument perhaps has some less power (and it not did growl), but I can completely understand the attraction. It is also very much still an instrument that is being developed, and it is especially wondrous to see the many decades of dedication that Chris Maene has put into pianos and the innovations he is still bringing. We will see more innovations from him in the future, and I am excited to hear those.
So go visit! And of course go listen and play all.