After trying a great deal of pianos – and so i mean A LOT of pianos – with the objective of replacing my ancient Chickering baby grand – those I liked best were 4 Steinway Bs at Steinway Hall in London and a Steingraeber Phoenix 205 at Hurstwood Farm Pianos.
Auditioning instruments on this quality raises a fundamental essential question which is how can you decide on just one single?
My answer I thought was you don’t decide. Just pick the right one. Or “you don’t choose the piano. The piano picks you.”
Nice try. But this didn’t get me any closer to an option until …
The Steinway Bs – Hamburg Steinway Bs that is because I’m in Europe and never America – responded to everything I played. When I say “everything” I’m imagining Gary Oldman intensity as he shouts for everybody! Those Bs spoke!
Gorgeously exquisitely tuned, they produced one million colors and timbres, which all leapt effortlessly gracefully in the room. Playing a basic interval on those pianos – a perfect fifth – was a revelation. They spoke with a whisper and each and every other dynamic. They sounded large, full, and complete with merely a melody surely nothing else.
The oakland steingraeber store – which, however, was ultimately the “one” – was a totally different beast. I liked it when I first sat right down to play it. It was actually precise in such a way I’ve never run into before. It has a dynamic vary 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 just as much as I liked the Steingraeber, I couldn’t coax it to go in the feel of my technique to the dialect of sound I was after. It had been as though the piano had it’s own mind, as if it knew better. Maybe it did.
Then this magic. Geoffrey Sapsford, the amazing technician at Hurstwood Farm Pianos made some adjustments over 1 hour roughly.
I sat down again and played a number of notes. That same Steingraeber Phoenix 205 which was an absolutely wonderfully precise instrument that I couldn’t pull sound as completely when i wished now responded everything I played: exactly, precisely, totally. Full keep with lid fully open, half keep with lid halfway closed, tiny one-eighth keep with lid open a bit, no stick with lid fully closed.
I have no idea what Geoff did for the piano and it’s very possible he used incantations only. In terms of selecting a piano and the way to decide between this, that one, or anything else: My experience stumbled on play, try, think, listen, talk, provide for settling – then repeat as much as necessary. And collaborate by having an amazing technician.