Showing posts with label Steinway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steinway. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ten things for your best-ever night out's Chopin Liszt

A high old time was had by one and all last night at the Chopin Society's Christmas fundraiser - a gala recital, dinner and ball at London's historic Guildhall, amply attended by the great and good of the UK, Poland and the piano world.

For such an evening, you will need for your Chopin Liszt:

1. An atmospheric, beautiful and historically significant venue such as this one:

2. A tireless, dedicated organiser such as the Chopin Society's Lady Rose Cholmondeley who can muster a guest list of princesses, dignitaries, the Polish ambassador, great pianists and more.

3. At the back of your cupboard, a ball dress that you bought in Vienna about seven years ago and have never had occasion to don; plus the good fortune to find that it still fits you; and a bunch of Facebookers all saying WEAR IT!

4. A generous-spirited colleague who'll suggest you join her at the office to get changed there and share a taxi to the venue so that you don't have to risk ripping said ball dress on the rush hour trains en route. Thank you, Claire Jackson, editor of International Piano Magazine. (Pic: me in black, Claire in purple.)

5. A gifted young pianist - the multiple-prizewinning Mateusz Borowiak - who steams in, cool as the proverbial cucumber, to play Bach-Busoni, the Liszt Mephisto Waltz and, of course, Chopin. Mateusz is Polish-British; his parents are both music teachers, he has a music degree from Cambridge, and has been studying in Katowice with Andrzej Jasinski. Incidentally, Chopin's last public concert took place at the Guildhall in 1848, less than a year before his untimely death. Stepping into his shoes is no small order.

6. A sumptuous dinner and the excellent company of friends and colleagues old and new; a wonderful chance to catch up with pianistic luminaries, the likes of Angela Hewitt (in a beautiful furry wrap) and Piers Lane, the latter in fine fettle on the dance floor. Plus, of course, the good-humoured spirit that can enjoy hearing the Poles and the British roundly mucking up the pronunciations of one another's surnames, while getting along excellently in this celebration of longstanding Polish-British friendship - and manifold anniversaries, not least 10 years of Poland being an EU member.

7. A terrific band that can deliver everything from the 1870s to Abba and Diana Ross.

8. A mysterious stroke of fate. After all, what are the chances of wearing that Viennese ball dress only to find that at dinner you are sitting next to an actual Viennese man, moreover one who learned to dance in the great ballrooms of his home city, white gloves and all? Please take a bow, Ulrich Gerhartz, the legendary chief technician of Steinways, who I'm glad to say whirled me off my feet all the way from 'The Blue Danube' to 'Dancing Queen'.

9. A good cause. The aim of these high jinks is to raise money towards buying the society a new piano for its excellent series of recitals, most of which take place at Westminster Cathedral Hall. Recent performers have included Abbey Simon, Yevgeny Sudbin, Benjamin Grosvenor and many more (including me and Viv in 'Alicia's Gift' a few months back). Until now they have used a beautiful, warm-toned instrument that once belonged to the Polish virtuoso Witold Malcuzynski, but as you can imagine, it is getting on in years. With an auction of artworks and holidays, led by Philip Moulds, a "silent auction" and a raffle, one suspects that the new piano will no longer be such a distant prospect.

10. Getting home in the wee hours with ears ringing, head spinning and a slightly bloodied toe.

Friday, November 30, 2012

True love and piano heaven?

Fairly perturbed by London reactions to Andras'/Backhaus's Bechstein - the upper register "cold", "colourless" - ?  As they say on Twitter, WTF? Nothing could be further from my own impression over in Lucerne.

I fell in love with my own Bechstein when I played it at a friend's wedding. Before deciding absolutely to give myself over to my midlife crisis and commit the necessary large sum to buying it, I wanted to be sure I really loved it as much as I'd thought I did. So I went along to Steinway's and played every grand piano in the shop.

They were all perfect. And they didn't do it for me. OK, they also cost a heck of a lot more, so it was just as well I didn't take to them, but there was more than that to it. Where was the character, the depth of sound, the individuality? Back to the Bechstein. Heaven. My beloved model M/P grand has a particular sound, a particular woody deliciousness that you can really get your teeth into, and a different colour in each register. Where does it come from?

It's all about the balance of the tension in the sound-source, especially the soundboard. The way the pieces of wood bond together. The relatively dryness of them. And a lot of passion and dedication goes into producing it. This is all explained in this film, which offers a bit of insight into the Bechstein processes and includes plenty of examples of that special quality of tone. It's called C BECHSTEIN - A LOVE STORY.

Andras's London concerts, by the way, are taking place in the Wigmore Hall which, excuse me, was originally called the BECHSTEIN Hall. The name was changed at the time of the First World War, when anything with a German name became mud in Britain. Is it possible that the ongoing prejudice against some of the most wonderful pianos in the world goes back to that?