After trying a lot of pianos – and that i mean A LOT of pianos – with the aim of replacing my ancient Chickering baby grand – the ones I liked best were 4 Steinway Bs at Steinway Hall inside london along with a Steingraeber Phoenix 205 at Hurstwood Farm Pianos.
Auditioning instruments on this quality raises a fundamental essential question which is how will you make a decision on only one?
My answer I thought 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 nearer to a choice until …
The Steinway Bs – Hamburg Steinway Bs this is because I’m in Europe rather than America – responded to everything I played. When I say “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, which all leapt effortlessly gracefully to the room. Playing an easy interval on those pianos – a great fifth – was a revelation. They spoke at a whisper as well as every other dynamic. They sounded large, full, and finished with only a melody and absolutely nothing else.
The steingraeber pianos – which, however, was ultimately the “one” – was a completely different beast. I liked it initially when i first sat as a result of listen to it. It had been precise in such a way I’ve never encounter before. It has a dynamic range 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 up to I liked the Steingraeber, I couldn’t coax it to visit in the feel of my technique to the dialect of sound I was after. It had been just as if the piano had it’s own mind, just as if it knew better. Maybe it did.
Then this magic. Geoffrey Sapsford, the incredible technician at Hurstwood Farm Pianos made some adjustments over an hour or so approximately.
I sat down again and played a few notes. That same Steingraeber Phoenix 205 that was an absolutely wonderfully precise instrument from where I couldn’t pull sound as completely as I wished now responded everything I played: exactly, precisely, totally. Full stay with lid fully open, half stay with lid halfway closed, tiny one-eighth stay with lid open a little bit, no stay with lid fully closed.
I do not know what Geoff did towards the piano and it’s very possible he relied on incantations only. In terms of picking a piano and ways to decide between this, that you, or something that is else: My experience stumbled on play, try, think, listen, talk, enable settling – then repeat as much as necessary. And collaborate with an amazing technician.