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Pianomania – Love, Perfection and a Little Bit of Madness

“The tone isn’t breathing.“ – complains pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, distraught. This is a typical sentence in Steinway & Sons’ chief technician and Master Tuner Stefan Knüpfer’s normal work day. Each piano has its own personality, each piece demands its own timbre, and every interpretation has a particular temperament.

The film Pianomania takes the viewer along on a humorous journey into the secret world of sounds, and accompanies Stefan Knüpfer at his unusual job with world famous pianists like Lang Lang, Alfred Brendel, Rudolf Buchbinder, Till Fellner and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, among others. To find the right instrument with the necessary qualities, compatible with the vision of the virtuoso, to tune it to perfection and to finally get it on the stage, needs nerves of steel, boundless passion, and the extraordinary competence in translating words into sounds. This unusual film by Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis tells – with love and humor – of moments of absolute love of attention to detail and perfection. Pianomania observes, from unique angles, the suspenseful search for the perfect tone.

Film trailer:

Stefan Knüpfer loves his instruments and working with them. When he tunes a grand piano, he controls the hammerhead, string for string and tirelessly looks for the perfect pitch. He cannot understand colleagues who work with a measuring device that ascertains the right tone frequency. “Those who tune exclusively with the device depend on their eyes, not their ears.“ Knüpfer prefers to listen closely. Not even a piece of dust is allowed to be removed from the sound board afterwards. “Everything changes the pitch.“ He comprehends a sound not as a defined frequency, but rather as a color within whose shades and progressions are possible in innumerable nuances.

In May 2010 Pianomania received the Golden Gate Award as best documentary at the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival.
The film is theatrically released in various countries during 2010, more info here.

“Pianomania” director: Robert Cibis and Lilian Franck, production: Austria, 2009, duration: 93 minutes.

Scenes from Pianomania:


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