November 6, 2019
On my way to the Steinway factory to select the new piano for BSM, I thought of the significance of this day and how it will shape the future of the school. Central to the life of BSM is the concert hall grand piano. In many ways it is the heart of the school since so many performances by promising musicians, devoted adult students and distinguished faculty and guests are played on this very piano. As we retire our amazing current piano and move it to a studio where it can continue to be appreciated, we reflect on the many fingers that graced its keyboard. It has been an incredible run!
Now to the future. When I arrived at the factory with six of my piano faculty colleagues and our great leader Erika, there was a feeling of wondrous anticipation. For us pianists, being at the Steinway factory is truly an arrival at Mecca. It is not just the distinguished name and prestige of Steinway, it is the consummate craftsmanship, care and even love that goes into the creation of each instrument. In addition, no two Steinways are alike and they each display unique characteristics. We were in a room with six individual instruments in their infancy, most of them having been finished within the last few months. Like at Halloween we had our treats right in this very room!
Erika suggested we each have 12 minutes alone to try each piano at which time we completed our own evaluations and gave a number rating to the pianos. Once we all had our hands on the instruments we discussed our findings as a group. Early in the process, we were able to eliminate two from the running and focused on pianos 2, 4, 5, and 6. We all remained very open to hear the opinions of one another and carefully consider not only the qualities of each instrument but also how the piano could suit the unique purposes of the concert hall as well as the future players of the instrument.
After lunch, we went back into the room and we played for one another and did more of a group evaluation. The pianos were arranged so the lids were all angled to the same side of the room. It is quite an experience listening carefully to the tone/overtones, accessing the action/touch, and imagining young players as well as faculty performers of solo and chamber music as part of the assessment of an instrument. Almost like you are selecting a piano for 500 people! In addition, we listened out for the “potential” of the piano and how we think it is going to grow into its adolescence and adulthood. It may sound strange but that really is how a Steinway piano develops.
Toward the end of the process, we were selecting between pianos 4 and 5. Each of us took turns playing a passage from the literature, running back and forth to each piano repeating the same measures. Those of us listening commented on the differences. Olga played the grand opening of the Great Gate of Kiev by Mussorgsky, Lynn played the noble first measures of Schubert’s B flat sonata, Nino played the lush opening of the Brahms B major trio, Monica the whimsical Schubert E flat Impromptu, Roberto the whirling first Chopin Etude, Tim an introspective Bach fugue and I played some of the various mood of Schumann in Carnaval. After much careful deliberation and listening, we determined that BSM would welcome piano number 4 with its serial # 612947!
The piano will arrive today and begin this new chapter in the life of BSM. We are grateful to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for making this possible. We are also grateful for the vision and leadership of Erika as she navigates both the musical and the technical aspects of making this all possible. This piano in its beautiful new setting will transform the lives of so many people and great music will flow from its strings. Now let’s enjoy!