Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Daniel Barenboim launches new piano

Barenboim-Maene Concert Grand (c) Chris Maene
Barenboim-Maene Concert Grand (c) Chris Maene
During a trip to Siena in 2011, Daniel Barenboim played Franz Liszt's restored piano, and he was struck by the differences in sound between a modern concert grand (built with diagonal crossed strings) and the period instrument with its straight, parallel strings. As anyone who has played a 19th century piano knows, the instruments have a remarkable transparency of tone but this can often be allied to a rather difficult playing characteristics, and the instruments do not make the sheer volume needed for large modern halls. 

Daniel Barenboim then conceived the idea of building a piano which combined the sound quality of an old instrument with the modern improvements and touch of a new one. This would probably have remained a dream, but talking to Steinway and Sons the firm was supportive and put Daniel Barenboim in touch with Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene, who has made and restored period pianos.

The result is a modern concert grand with straight strings, and numerous other subtle differences in construction. It uses the familiar components of the current Steinway D model, such as the continuous bent rim, but within this has been created a straight strung piano. Chris Maene was interested in getting back to the varieties of sound and tone quality which the 19th century offered and which have today been largely superceded by a remarkable uniformity of construction.

The new Barenboim-Maene concert grand was unveiled at a recital at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 26 May 2015, in advance of Daniel Barenboim's Schubert recital series there (27, 29, 31 May, 2 June)

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