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By Eric Weld   Date: 11/7/11 Bookmark and Share

More Than Just a New Piano—It's a Steinway

Though a Sunday, Nov. 13, concert at Smith will feature nearly a dozen Smith faculty and local pianists performing works by some of classical music’s most renowned composers, the centerpiece of the program, the star of the show, and the prominent presence on stage will not be human.

This concert will focus on a new Steinway, nine-foot concert grand piano.

“I have been moved both playing and listening to it, thinking about how it is the first Beethoven, Brahms, Cage, Xenakis, etcetera, that the piano is hearing, feeling, sounding,” said Judith Gordon, assistant professor of music and a member of the team of Smith pianists who traveled to the Steinway factory in Astoria, N.Y., to personally choose the new acquisition. “Its first staccato notes, its first massive chords, first singing lines.”

Such an instrument is worthy of celebration because of the exquisite craftsmanship and care with which each Steinway piano is produced.

Unlike most pianos, Steinway instruments are produced one at a time, and each one takes nearly an entire year to create. The wood chosen for the piano is cured for months, and each Steinway possesses its own idiosyncratic tone, action and character. After 150 years in business, Steinway remains the consensus finest piano in the world.

“Steinway is the sole place in this country where the pianos are actually made,” said Gordon. “They each have a voice. When we ‘met’ this piano, it became our first choice because it seemed to welcome a wide range of touches, postures. It seemed to say ‘Yes’ to all of us.”

Thus, a celebration. The Nov. 13 New Steinway “Play-In,” which is free and open to the public, invites pianists Gordon, visiting artist Conor Hanick, Grant Moss, Jerry Noble and Monica Jakuc Leveret, to perform on the new piano. They will be joined on the program by pianists Alissa Leiser, Gary Steigerwalt and Gregory Hayes, as well as students and others.

The concert, which begins at 4 p.m. in Sweeney Auditorium, Sage Hall, will feature works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Claude Debussy, György Ligeti, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and others.

The new Steinway joins a fleet of about 50 pianos currently being used in the music department, many of which are Steinways, and the pianos located in every house living room on campus.

For those performing on the new piano—many touching it for the first time—it will be a personal experience, said Gordon. “The newness and responsiveness, the elasticity, of the piano is a thrill and a big question mark. Like with a new person or a new pet, the way we treat it, live with it, work with it, is going to have so much to do with how it evolves.”

Those in the audience may also notice the star instrument’s newness, she said. “It will be wonderful if the audience notices and enjoys a sense of discovery and delight in each performance.”

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