Discussion:
Uchida's 4 Grand Pianos
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raymond....@gmail.com
2020-11-12 22:02:34 UTC
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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage

This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.

Ray Hall, Taree
Frank Berger
2020-11-12 22:37:47 UTC
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Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
Can't read it, since I don't subscribe to the NYT.

Back around 1980 I bought a 1923 Knabe "upright grand." The
sound bard was about the size of that in a small grand,
IIRC. The seller was a piano tuner/technician who rebuilt
pianos as a business on the side of his tuning profession.
He worked for the LAPO. He was a fanatic about pianos. He
showed me a Chickering that he said was identical to the one
on the state at Ford's theater when Lincoln was shot. I
forget the numbers but he talked about the many, many U.S.
piano manufacturers around 1900 and how the depression wiped
most of them out. I wonder if the advent of recorded music
contributed to that. The Knabe is at friend's house in
Dallas. It was too expensive to move so we parked it there
about 15 years ago and it's still there. You'd think they
might have offered to buy it, but no.
raymond....@gmail.com
2020-11-13 01:40:26 UTC
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Post by Frank Berger
Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
Can't read it, since I don't subscribe to the NYT.
Back around 1980 I bought a 1923 Knabe "upright grand." The
sound bard was about the size of that in a small grand,
IIRC. The seller was a piano tuner/technician who rebuilt
pianos as a business on the side of his tuning profession.
He worked for the LAPO. He was a fanatic about pianos. He
showed me a Chickering that he said was identical to the one
on the state at Ford's theater when Lincoln was shot. I
forget the numbers but he talked about the many, many U.S.
piano manufacturers around 1900 and how the depression wiped
most of them out. I wonder if the advent of recorded music
contributed to that. The Knabe is at friend's house in
Dallas. It was too expensive to move so we parked it there
about 15 years ago and it's still there. You'd think they
might have offered to buy it, but no.
Interesting. Never heard of a Knabe. You could say that you are putting the Knabe up for sale, owing to the cost of moving it, but understand your dilemma.

The article is by Anthony Tomassini, NYT music critic, and which describes several well known pianists, Denk, Tao, Trifonov, and Uchida, who either have no clue whatsoever about what is actually done when a tuner fixes their piano, or a lot in the case of Uchida, and the difficulties they have when confronting a stage piano they haven't practised on at home.

Trifonov apparently has such technique that he requires little adjustment when using a strange piano, whereas Uchida (who has 3 grand pianos in her London home, and another "parked" in Germany) will generally use her own pianos in Europe, and will be well accomodated for by Steinway elsewhere. In Uchida's case, she apparently knows really well the innards of her pianos.

Tommasini admits right at the end of the article, he has zero clue other than his piano sounds much better when tuned. But then he is only a music critic so the information isn't of any great importance.

Ray Hall, Taree
Frank Berger
2020-11-13 01:51:04 UTC
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Post by ***@gmail.com
Post by Frank Berger
Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
Can't read it, since I don't subscribe to the NYT.
Back around 1980 I bought a 1923 Knabe "upright grand." The
sound bard was about the size of that in a small grand,
IIRC. The seller was a piano tuner/technician who rebuilt
pianos as a business on the side of his tuning profession.
He worked for the LAPO. He was a fanatic about pianos. He
showed me a Chickering that he said was identical to the one
on the state at Ford's theater when Lincoln was shot. I
forget the numbers but he talked about the many, many U.S.
piano manufacturers around 1900 and how the depression wiped
most of them out. I wonder if the advent of recorded music
contributed to that. The Knabe is at friend's house in
Dallas. It was too expensive to move so we parked it there
about 15 years ago and it's still there. You'd think they
might have offered to buy it, but no.
Interesting. Never heard of a Knabe. You could say that you are putting the Knabe up for sale, owing to the cost of moving it, but understand your dilemma.
The article is by Anthony Tomassini, NYT music critic, and which describes several well known pianists, Denk, Tao, Trifonov, and Uchida, who either have no clue whatsoever about what is actually done when a tuner fixes their piano, or a lot in the case of Uchida, and the difficulties they have when confronting a stage piano they haven't practised on at home.
Trifonov apparently has such technique that he requires little adjustment when using a strange piano, whereas Uchida (who has 3 grand pianos in her London home, and another "parked" in Germany) will generally use her own pianos in Europe, and will be well accomodated for by Steinway elsewhere. In Uchida's case, she apparently knows really well the innards of her pianos.
Tommasini admits right at the end of the article, he has zero clue other than his piano sounds much better when tuned. But then he is only a music critic so the information isn't of any great importance.
Ray Hall, Taree
My understanding is that from the mid 19th century to at
least the early 20th, Knabe (manufactured in Baltimore) was
a very fine instrument, among the best. Today the label
exists but it's not the same. The Baltimore factory site is
today occupied by the Ravens'stadium.

Interesting - I never thought of selling the piano out from
under the person to whom I lent it. After 15 years wouldn't
he be surprised. I'm just going to write it off. Before I
moved from Dallas, I sold my Ford Explorer to a guy who was
going to pay me $100 per month for 15 months. He made two
payments and that's all, pleading poverty. He had health
issues and lost his job. I wrote that off too.
number_six
2020-11-13 16:51:41 UTC
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Post by Frank Berger
Post by ***@gmail.com
Post by Frank Berger
Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
Can't read it, since I don't subscribe to the NYT.
Back around 1980 I bought a 1923 Knabe "upright grand." The
sound bard was about the size of that in a small grand,
IIRC. The seller was a piano tuner/technician who rebuilt
pianos as a business on the side of his tuning profession.
He worked for the LAPO. He was a fanatic about pianos. He
showed me a Chickering that he said was identical to the one
on the state at Ford's theater when Lincoln was shot. I
forget the numbers but he talked about the many, many U.S.
piano manufacturers around 1900 and how the depression wiped
most of them out. I wonder if the advent of recorded music
contributed to that. The Knabe is at friend's house in
Dallas. It was too expensive to move so we parked it there
about 15 years ago and it's still there. You'd think they
might have offered to buy it, but no.
Interesting. Never heard of a Knabe. You could say that you are putting the Knabe up for sale, owing to the cost of moving it, but understand your dilemma.
The article is by Anthony Tomassini, NYT music critic, and which describes several well known pianists, Denk, Tao, Trifonov, and Uchida, who either have no clue whatsoever about what is actually done when a tuner fixes their piano, or a lot in the case of Uchida, and the difficulties they have when confronting a stage piano they haven't practised on at home.
Trifonov apparently has such technique that he requires little adjustment when using a strange piano, whereas Uchida (who has 3 grand pianos in her London home, and another "parked" in Germany) will generally use her own pianos in Europe, and will be well accomodated for by Steinway elsewhere. In Uchida's case, she apparently knows really well the innards of her pianos.
Tommasini admits right at the end of the article, he has zero clue other than his piano sounds much better when tuned. But then he is only a music critic so the information isn't of any great importance.
Ray Hall, Taree
My understanding is that from the mid 19th century to at
least the early 20th, Knabe (manufactured in Baltimore) was
a very fine instrument, among the best. Today the label
exists but it's not the same. The Baltimore factory site is
today occupied by the Ravens'stadium.
My great-grandmother's piano was made by William Knabe & Co.
It says they were in Baltimore, Washington and NY.
r***@gmail.com
2020-11-16 01:49:53 UTC
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Post by Frank Berger
Post by ***@gmail.com
Post by Frank Berger
Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
Can't read it, since I don't subscribe to the NYT.
Back around 1980 I bought a 1923 Knabe "upright grand." The
sound bard was about the size of that in a small grand,
IIRC. The seller was a piano tuner/technician who rebuilt
pianos as a business on the side of his tuning profession.
He worked for the LAPO. He was a fanatic about pianos. He
showed me a Chickering that he said was identical to the one
on the state at Ford's theater when Lincoln was shot. I
forget the numbers but he talked about the many, many U.S.
piano manufacturers around 1900 and how the depression wiped
most of them out. I wonder if the advent of recorded music
contributed to that. The Knabe is at friend's house in
Dallas. It was too expensive to move so we parked it there
about 15 years ago and it's still there. You'd think they
might have offered to buy it, but no.
Interesting. Never heard of a Knabe. You could say that you are putting the Knabe up for sale, owing to the cost of moving it, but understand your dilemma.
The article is by Anthony Tomassini, NYT music critic, and which describes several well known pianists, Denk, Tao, Trifonov, and Uchida, who either have no clue whatsoever about what is actually done when a tuner fixes their piano, or a lot in the case of Uchida, and the difficulties they have when confronting a stage piano they haven't practised on at home.
Trifonov apparently has such technique that he requires little adjustment when using a strange piano, whereas Uchida (who has 3 grand pianos in her London home, and another "parked" in Germany) will generally use her own pianos in Europe, and will be well accomodated for by Steinway elsewhere. In Uchida's case, she apparently knows really well the innards of her pianos.
Tommasini admits right at the end of the article, he has zero clue other than his piano sounds much better when tuned. But then he is only a music critic so the information isn't of any great importance.
Ray Hall, Taree
My understanding is that from the mid 19th century to at
least the early 20th, Knabe (manufactured in Baltimore) was
a very fine instrument, among the best. Today the label
exists but it's not the same. The Baltimore factory site is
today occupied by the Ravens'stadium.
Interesting - I never thought of selling the piano out from
under the person to whom I lent it. After 15 years wouldn't
he be surprised. I'm just going to write it off. Before I
moved from Dallas, I sold my Ford Explorer to a guy who was
going to pay me $100 per month for 15 months. He made two
payments and that's all, pleading poverty. He had health
issues and lost his job. I wrote that off too.
From 1973 to 1976 the coop house I lived in at Stanford had one Steve Knabe as an occupant, and a 7' Knabe grand in the living room. His grandfather had made it. The family no longer made pianos, but he did improve its performance somewhat. He went on to be a petroleum engineer. A small world, in some respects.
Owen
2020-11-16 14:31:57 UTC
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Post by r***@gmail.com
Post by Frank Berger
My understanding is that from the mid 19th century to at
least the early 20th, Knabe (manufactured in Baltimore) was
a very fine instrument, among the best. Today the label
exists but it's not the same. The Baltimore factory site is
today occupied by the Ravens'stadium.
Interesting - I never thought of selling the piano out from
under the person to whom I lent it. After 15 years wouldn't
he be surprised. I'm just going to write it off. Before I
moved from Dallas, I sold my Ford Explorer to a guy who was
going to pay me $100 per month for 15 months. He made two
payments and that's all, pleading poverty. He had health
issues and lost his job. I wrote that off too.
From 1973 to 1976 the coop house I lived in at Stanford had one Steve Knabe as an occupant, and a 7' Knabe grand in the living room. His grandfather had made it. The family no longer made pianos, but he did improve its performance somewhat. He went on to be a petroleum engineer. A small world, in some respects.
In the late 1960's, in my high school years, I looked at Knabe pianos
(uprights) at a dealer in my city. He was very persuasive, to the point
of actually disassembling the pianos to point out the workmanship.
However, the sound I could get from a Baldwin Acrosonic had much more
energy and fire, and the Knabe's sound was OK, but a bit stodgy, so I
went with the Baldwin. No regrets.

-Owen
Frank Berger
2020-11-16 14:47:12 UTC
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Post by Owen
On Thursday, November 12, 2020 at 9:51:13 PM UTC-4, Frank
Post by Frank Berger
My understanding is that from the mid 19th century to at
least the early 20th, Knabe (manufactured in Baltimore) was
a very fine instrument, among the best. Today the label
exists but it's not the same. The Baltimore factory site is
today occupied by the Ravens'stadium.
Interesting - I never thought of selling the piano out from
under the person to whom I lent it. After 15 years wouldn't
he be surprised. I'm just going to write it off. Before I
moved from Dallas, I sold my Ford Explorer to a guy who was
going to pay me $100 per month for 15 months. He made two
payments and that's all, pleading poverty. He had health
issues and lost his job. I wrote that off too.
 From 1973 to 1976 the coop house I lived in at Stanford
had one Steve Knabe as an occupant, and a 7' Knabe grand
in the living room. His grandfather had made it. The
family no longer made pianos, but he did improve its
performance somewhat.  He went on to be a petroleum
engineer. A small world, in some respects.
In the late 1960's, in my high school years, I looked at
Knabe pianos (uprights) at a dealer in my city.  He was very
persuasive, to the point of actually disassembling the
pianos to point out the workmanship. However, the sound I
could get from a Baldwin Acrosonic had much more energy and
fire, and the Knabe's sound was OK, but a bit stodgy, so I
went with the Baldwin.  No regrets.
-Owen
My Knabe was built in 1923. The rebuilder told me it was
painted green and he had to have it stripped and refinished,
which ate up any profits. There were some flecks of green
paint in the keyboard hinge that probably confirmed that
story. He played it for me alongside a similarly vintaged
Baldwin baby grand to demonstrate the Knabe's superior
sound. Possibly just a sales pitch, but the sound was
very rich. It as a long time ago.
dk
2020-11-16 18:50:38 UTC
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Post by Owen
On Thursday, November 12, 2020 at 9:51:13 PM UTC-4, Frank
Post by Frank Berger
My understanding is that from the mid 19th century to at
least the early 20th, Knabe (manufactured in Baltimore) was
a very fine instrument, among the best. Today the label
exists but it's not the same. The Baltimore factory site is
today occupied by the Ravens'stadium.
Interesting - I never thought of selling the piano out from
under the person to whom I lent it. After 15 years wouldn't
he be surprised. I'm just going to write it off. Before I
moved from Dallas, I sold my Ford Explorer to a guy who was
going to pay me $100 per month for 15 months. He made two
payments and that's all, pleading poverty. He had health
issues and lost his job. I wrote that off too.
From 1973 to 1976 the coop house I lived in at Stanford
had one Steve Knabe as an occupant, and a 7' Knabe grand
in the living room. His grandfather had made it. The
family no longer made pianos, but he did improve its
performance somewhat. He went on to be a petroleum
engineer. A small world, in some respects.
In the late 1960's, in my high school years, I looked at
Knabe pianos (uprights) at a dealer in my city. He was very
persuasive, to the point of actually disassembling the
pianos to point out the workmanship. However, the sound I
could get from a Baldwin Acrosonic had much more energy and
fire, and the Knabe's sound was OK, but a bit stodgy, so I
went with the Baldwin. No regrets.
-Owen
My Knabe was built in 1923. The rebuilder told me it was
painted green and he had to have it stripped and refinished,
which ate up any profits. There were some flecks of green
paint in the keyboard hinge that probably confirmed that
story. He played it for me alongside a similarly vintaged
Baldwin baby grand to demonstrate the Knabe's superior
sound. Possibly just a sales pitch, but the sound was
very rich. It as a long time ago.
Owning a green piano puts you ahead of everybody else! ;-)

dk

Henk vT
2020-11-13 08:40:24 UTC
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Post by ***@gmail.com
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Thanks! Tomassini illustrates perfectly the complexity of piano tuning compared with the tuning of a violin or cutting a read for an oboe.

Henk
Herman
2020-11-13 09:19:37 UTC
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Tomassini's idea that violinists are more involved in the technicalities of their instrument than pianists because they can tune their violin is laughable.

Yes, violinists tune their GDAE. They even know how to change a string when it's done.

But that's where it stops. And a concert grand is a very complicated beast. I was interested to read that the Carnegie's Steinways are over and out after six years. So I guess I'll not buy a Steinway after all.

Performing pianists have to adapt to whatever instrument they find in the concert hall (often there are two to choose from). But one of the amazing things is that really good violinists are able to make even a crappy Dutzenarbeit 1500 dollar instrument sound like a Strad - provided it's not in a grand hall. (This is also because people focus too much on the fiddle and forget the bow, which is really the violinist's instrument. They should be called bowsers.)
dk
2020-11-13 09:29:16 UTC
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Post by Herman
I was interested to read that the Carnegie's Steinways are over
and out after six years. So I guess I'll not buy a Steinway after all.
Why would a fiddler need a piano?

dk
Herman
2020-11-13 12:06:18 UTC
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Post by dk
Post by Herman
I was interested to read that the Carnegie's Steinways are over
and out after six years. So I guess I'll not buy a Steinway after all.
Why would a fiddler need a piano?
dk
For the A tune
Herman
2020-11-13 12:07:58 UTC
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Post by Herman
Post by dk
Post by Herman
I was interested to read that the Carnegie's Steinways are over
and out after six years. So I guess I'll not buy a Steinway after all.
Why would a fiddler need a piano?
dk
For the A tune
That's what pianists are for.

Give me an A, thank you and that'll do..
dk
2020-11-13 17:44:05 UTC
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Post by Herman
Post by dk
Post by Herman
I was interested to read that the Carnegie's Steinways are over
and out after six years. So I guess I'll not buy a Steinway after all.
Why would a fiddler need a piano?
dk
For the A tune
tuning fork much cheaper
dk
2020-11-13 09:34:23 UTC
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Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
Why does she need 4 ?!?
She can barely play one!

dk
raymond....@gmail.com
2020-11-13 15:49:47 UTC
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Post by dk
Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
Why does she need 4 ?!?
She can barely play one!
dk
At a time of course. I admire her musicality.

Ray Hall, Taree
dk
2020-11-13 17:44:52 UTC
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Post by ***@gmail.com
Post by dk
Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
Why does she need 4 ?!?
She can barely play one!
At a time of course. I admire her musicality.
Ray Hall, Taree
Some of the ugliest Chopin on record:


dk
Henk vT
2020-11-13 19:58:42 UTC
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Post by dk
http://youtu.be/GCmUEqN-wTw
Why link to this version with the wrong pitch? Isn't the original ugly enough?

BTW. Even with the right pitch she plays the etude in 1.16. Pollini does it in 1.28, Lisistsa in 1.22, Shishkin in 1.11, Brailowsky in 1.19, Darré in 1.26.

Henk
dk
2020-11-14 03:10:47 UTC
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Post by Henk vT
Post by dk
http://youtu.be/GCmUEqN-wTw
Why link to this version with the wrong pitch? Isn't the original ugly enough?
BTW. Even with the right pitch she plays the etude in 1.16.
Pollini does it in 1.28, Lisistsa in 1.22, Shishkin in 1.11,
Brailowsky in 1.19, Darré in 1.26.
Thanks for keeping tabs! Couldn't care less about the tempo.
I am only interested in music. Check this:



dk
Henk vT
2020-11-14 10:51:46 UTC
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Post by dk
Thanks for keeping tabs! Couldn't care less about the tempo.
http://youtu.be/rmayKaD52LU
This wouldn't be one of my favorite versions. Among the famous I prefer:



Henk
dk
2020-11-14 14:55:17 UTC
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Post by Henk vT
Post by dk
Thanks for keeping tabs! Couldn't care less about the tempo.
http://youtu.be/rmayKaD52LU
http://youtu.be/MFRXErgc7uM
Henk
All your favorite versions are traditional, bland and
mechanical. You clearly do not value creativity and
imagination. Why don't you just chew the scores?
It would save you a lot of time and money! ;-)

dk
Henk vT
2020-11-14 18:29:44 UTC
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Post by dk
All your favorite versions are traditional, bland and
mechanical. You clearly do not value creativity and
imagination.
Not if creativity means the traditional with bells and whistles.
Post by dk
Why don't you just chew the scores?
It would save you a lot of time and money! ;-)
<g> You certainly do have a vivid imagination.

Henk
dk
2020-11-14 14:56:22 UTC
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Post by Henk vT
Post by dk
Thanks for keeping tabs! Couldn't care less about the tempo.
http://youtu.be/rmayKaD52LU
http://youtu.be/MFRXErgc7uM
Played like a metronome.

dk
JohnGavin
2020-11-14 15:21:47 UTC
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Post by dk
Post by Henk vT
Post by dk
Thanks for keeping tabs! Couldn't care less about the tempo.
http://youtu.be/rmayKaD52LU
http://youtu.be/MFRXErgc7uM
Played like a metronome.
The Margulis is nice to hear, but once is enough. Sure, he makes much of the inner voice leadings, but by the second hearing, it sounds a bit coddled and overly manipulated.
What constitutes “musical’ interpretation is a highly subjective call. I’m with Henk - Cortot is the best of the 3 being discussed here. For you he is metronomic, for me, he proves that less is more in this case. Cortot also does interesting voicing under the chromatic line, but with far more subtlety.
dk
2020-11-14 18:14:30 UTC
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Post by dk
Post by Henk vT
Post by dk
Thanks for keeping tabs! Couldn't care less about the tempo.
http://youtu.be/rmayKaD52LU
http://youtu.be/MFRXErgc7uM
Played like a metronome.
The Margulis is nice to hear, but once is enough. Sure, he makes much
of the inner voice leadings, but by the second hearing, it sounds a bit
coddled and overly manipulated.
What constitutes “musical’ interpretation is a highly subjective call. I’m
with Henk - Cortot is the best of the 3 being discussed here. For you he
is metronomic, for me, he proves that less is more in this case. Cortot
also does interesting voicing under the chromatic line, but with far more
subtlety.
We all hear and listen differently and we are all entitled to our opinions.
If Cortot makes one happy, one should go for it. In professional pianistic
circles Yakov Zak's 1937 Chopin competition performance is considered
"ne plus ultra". I don't have it handy, but I will try to find it and upload it.

There is one YT video that clearly illustrates the technical difficulties of
this etude:
Enjoy!

dk
dk
2020-11-14 18:17:39 UTC
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Post by dk
There is one YT video that clearly illustrates the technical difficulties of
this etude: http://youtu.be/PnEpVqvQar8 Enjoy!
An interesting comparison:


dk
JohnGavin
2020-11-15 12:10:51 UTC
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Post by dk
Post by dk
There is one YT video that clearly illustrates the technical difficulties of
this etude: http://youtu.be/PnEpVqvQar8 Enjoy!
An interesting comparison: http://youtu.be/o0Obrzt7okU
dk
And that one reminded me of this one (it runs in the family)


JohnGavin
2020-11-15 12:18:10 UTC
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Post by JohnGavin
Post by dk
Post by dk
There is one YT video that clearly illustrates the technical difficulties of
this etude: http://youtu.be/PnEpVqvQar8 Enjoy!
An interesting comparison: http://youtu.be/o0Obrzt7okU
dk
And that one reminded me of this one (it runs in the family)
http://youtu.be/oKQ8nafTNec
And if that isn’t far out enough, here are the 3 Chopin Etudes in A Minor piled on top of each other.


Steve Emerson
2020-11-13 16:19:07 UTC
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Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
It's odd no one told Tommasini about Moravec's habit of traveling with a small tool set for doing ad-hoc tuning. And ABM was one more player who often had his own piano flown in. Pasting the article below.

--SE.


Why Do Pianists Know So Little About Pianos?

Unlike violinists or trumpeters, piano players rarely get to perform on their own instruments and must be adaptable.

By Anthony Tommasini

Nov. 12, 2020

My piano was overdue for a tuning in March, when my apartment building and the rest of New York City entered lockdown. All work by “outside parties” like housekeepers was not allowed, except for emergencies. An out-of-tune piano hardly seemed an emergency.

Professional pianists across the city faced the same predicament. “My piano was in horrible condition,” Conrad Tao recalled recently.

“I finally went out in March and bought a tuning hammer,” he added, referring to the standard tuning tool that is actually a wrench-like lever. By tightening various strings, he tried his best to make the worst intervals between pitches, he said, a “little better.”

Jeremy Denk — who, like many pianists, doesn’t know “the first thing about piano technology,” as he admitted in an interview — summoned his skills of personal persuasion. “I got my super on board, though it was dicey at the beginning,” he said. “I explained that this was my work — that my technician was essential.”
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Why are pianists at such a loss when it comes to understanding the mechanics of their own instrument? This lack of knowledge separates them from almost all other instrumentalists. Not only can violinists, clarinetists, harpists or flutists tune their instruments, and even bend pitches in performance, they also, by and large, know much more about how their instruments work. In music school, I used to marvel at oboe players who would sit at lunch talking about different kinds of cane wood and the various knives and such they used to make their own reeds.

Most musicians own, maintain and perform on their own instruments. If you’re a gifted young violinist, you may not have a priceless 17th-century violin, but you likely have a good instrument you can bond and travel with.

When serious pianists tour, though, they almost never bring their own instruments, which require professional movers to transport. From their student days, pianists are compelled to develop adaptability. After practicing a piece at home, a Conrad Tao or Jeremy Denk must perform on whatever instrument a hall has to offer. And some can be pretty bad. Young pianists at the Juilliard School have long traded battle stories of having to play on a “real PSO” — a “piano-shaped object.” Very fine pianos vary enormously in terms of sound, action and responsiveness to touch. Even a superb Steinway in a concert hall may take adjusting to, and may not suit a particular pianist’s preferences.

“A lot of my job involves working with pianists on this very problem,” Joel Bernache, a technician with Steinway & Sons in New York, said in an interview. Steinway has long held a contract to provide and maintain concert grand pianos for Carnegie Hall. There are currently two at the ready at Stern Auditorium, Carnegie’s main stage: an American Steinway, from New York, and a German Steinway, from the company’s factory in Hamburg. Though Mr. Bernache said both are “clear and bright,” the New York piano is a bit louder and produces more of a fundamental tone, or “bottom.” The Hamburg one has “a cleaner and more transparent sound. You could say it’s more ‘direct.’” (These instruments, by the way, only last about five or six years, and in some cases 10; today’s pianists aren’t hitting the same keys Rubinstein touched.)

The keyboard mechanism of a grand piano is a complex system of interconnected parts, starting from the plastic-covered wooden key and ending with the shank with a felt-covered “hammer” that lifts to strike the strings. There are three dozen adjustable components for each key mechanism, and 88 total keys. Many pianists who come to Carnegie to try out the pianos ask for subtle adjustments to be made before a concert. That task often falls to Mr. Bernache.

“As a technician, I’m kind of all that’s between pianists and their performance,” he said. Some soloists complain even about Carnegie’s pianos.

“They’ll say, ‘The action is too stiff,’” Mr. Bernache said. But that criticism can mean different things to different pianists. Mr. Bernache can make adjustments by lubricating the internal parts, or slightly changing the key dip — that is, the level the key goes up or down. Often, this can give a pianist the impression that an instrument is easier to play, the sense that more sound is coming out. Mr. Bernache emphasized that “sound and touch are inextricable.”
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He mentioned Daniil Trifonov as an example of a pianist who has such tremendous technique that adjusting to an unfamiliar instrument is seldom an issue; fine points of touch matter “far less to him than the overall playability of the piano and the sound it produces, the volume and lingering quality.” But in the case of a famous pianist Mr. Bernache did not want to identify, every selection is “a crisis of decision.” At one point when Carnegie offered three pianos for this artist to choose from, Mr. Bernache recalled, “he couldn’t decide which one he hated the least.”

Mr. Denk said he has worked with some “amazing” piano technicians, but remains a little confused by what they do. “Sometimes they’re mystified by me when what I express doesn’t translate into any specific measurement,” he added. A keyboard can feel “spongy” or “alert,” he said. But those imprecise physical sensations are completely affected by his impression of the sound coming from the instrument.

And yet, Mr. Denk said, he has not been tempted to gain more knowledge about the mechanics of the piano. “It would just be something else to worry about” before a performance, he explained. “When I arrive, I try not to panic. You let the piano speak to you; you get acquainted and adjust.”

Gilbert Kalish, a longtime professor of piano performance at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said he finds the necessity of adjusting to quite different pianos an “interesting challenge.” He emphasizes to his students: “You don’t play by feel; you don’t play by habit; you play by sound, by listening to what’s being produced. You have to learn to trust yourself, not to depend on someone out there listening.”

Many people might assume that a pianist would prefer the piano with the least resistance in the action. Not necessarily. “Some resistance allows for more contrast,” Mr. Kalish said. With a lighter action, he has found, it’s “harder to be subtle with dynamics, to create greater contrasts.”

Among the leading pianists of our time, Mitsuko Uchida is known for her unusually detailed knowledge of the piano’s mechanics and her high standards. She has worked with some of the top technicians in the world, but since 1993 has relied mostly on Steinway’s Georg Ammann, who in an interview she called the “so-called ‘travel technician’ from the Hamburg factory.” He has been with her for many important concerts and all her recordings. Regarding the action, she said, “I like the response to be fast and light, and don’t like it if it’s stodgy and it rubs against everything.”

As she described her preferences, Ms. Uchida’s intimate knowledge of piano technology came through vividly. With many instruments, she said, “you get stuck when the weight is different key to key, the piano has been sloppily prepared, and the dampers have not been adjusted — or the spring in the pedal.” Problems can emerge when “the pin underneath the key is dirty, or the other pin in the middle of the mechanism is dirty, or rubbing, or slurping,” she said.

Whenever possible, Ms. Uchida brings her own piano, which is unusual among pianists, even major ones. (Vladimir Horowitz, in his later years, often played his own piano, or one reserved specifically for him by Steinway; more recently, Krystian Zimerman has almost always traveled with his instrument, and understands its mechanics thoroughly.) At her home in London, Ms. Uchida has three concert grands, and keeps another “parked in Germany,” she said, making it easier to transport it to halls and recording studios in continental Europe. Obviously, the logistical challenges of moving a piano long distances are considerable — not to mention the expense. Do institutions cover the cost? While it’s “case by case,” Ms. Uchida said, usually not.

But she put this expense in context. “I have no excess otherwise,” she said. “I don’t need country houses, expensive jewelry, expensive cars, special collections of whatever.”

She does avoid shipping to the United States, however — except once, some years ago, when she went on tour with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra of Munich to South America and New York. “The South American pianos were not to be recommended,” she said. So she brought her own, which she also used for a concert at Carnegie Hall.

It’s not hard to imagine why pianists might long for this luxury of always being able to perform on their own instruments. Still, Mr. Tao made an affecting argument on behalf of adaptability.

“I see the reality of being a pianist as a gift, an opportunity that expands the idea of what technique in music can be,” he said. The notion that you practice a performance to perfection at home and then repeat it in a concert is “taken off the table,” he added. “With every new instrument, you have to be humbled a bit, and develop a connection to the logic within your playing.”

Back at my apartment, the technician finally dropped by, tuned my piano and made mechanical tweaks to a few of the keys. Afterward it felt and sounded vastly better. I have no idea what was involved.
Owen
2020-11-13 20:00:38 UTC
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Post by Steve Emerson
Post by ***@gmail.com
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/arts/music/piano-tuning.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
This recent article in NYT may be of interest to all the pianophiles here.
Ray Hall, Taree
It's odd no one told Tommasini about Moravec's habit of traveling with a small tool set for doing ad-hoc tuning. And ABM was one more player who often had his own piano flown in. Pasting the article below.
At a concert in New Bedford, at intermission, Anton Kuerti announced
that "Both you and I would enjoy this concert much more if this piano
were tuned properly..." and proceeded to whip out his tuning hammer and
touched it up right on the spot. And the piano did sound so much better...

-Owen
Mr. Mike
2020-11-15 00:24:44 UTC
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On Fri, 13 Nov 2020 08:19:07 -0800 (PST), Steve Emerson
Post by Steve Emerson
It's odd no one told Tommasini about Moravec's habit of traveling with a small tool set for doing ad-hoc tuning
Many, many years ago (in the early 1970s) Moravec played with the
Vancouver Symphony and the piano went seriously out of tune during the
concerto (can't remember which one it was). He actually stopped
playing after one of the movements and wandered backstage to see if
there was a tuner around (there wasn't).

The VSO soon after this got a new piano, and Moravec was enlisted to
check it out before it was officially "installed."
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