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How will You Sound on Horowitz’s CD 503?

Steinway & Sons recently announced that Vladimir Horowitz’s legendary Steinway Model D continues its tour through 2014. This is a unique chance for the public to see, hear and even play the master’s favorite instrument – the Steinway CD 503 – used on his tours during his last years 1985-89.

The CD 503 has a very light and extremely touch-sensitive action. It has a crashing, thunderous bass and a transparent treble. While many pianists who have tried the piano agree that the action is even and it is a pleasure to play the instrument, it is clearly not the only magic bullet required to reach Horowitz’s level of artistic mastery.
Hear the master and his instrument in this legendary recital:

Recital: Horowitz in Vienna (1987)

Mozart Rondo in D, K. 485
Mozart – Sonata in B-flat, K. 333:
Mvt. 1: Allegro
Mvt. 2: Andante cantabile
Mvt. 3: Allegretto grazioso

Schubert – Impromptu in G-flat, op. 90 no. 3
Schubert/Liszt – SoirĂ©es de Vienne, no. 6

SCHUMANN – Kinderszenen, op. 15
1. Von fremden Ländern und Menschen
2. Kuriose Geschichte
3. Hasche-Mann
4. Bittendes Kind
5. GlĂĽckes genug
6. Wichtige Begebenheit
7. Träumerei
8. Am Kamin
9. Ritter vom Steckenpferd
10. Fast zu ernst
11. FĂĽrchtenmachen
12. Kind im Einschlummern
13. Der Dichter spricht

Chopin – Mazurka, op. 33 no. 4
Chopin – Polonaise in A-flat, op. 53
Liszt – Consolation no.3 in D-flat,
Schubert – Moment Musical in F minor, op. 94 no. 3
Moszkowski – Etincelles, op.26 no. 6

Documentary from 1985:

The Last Romantic (82 min.)


The long career of the last romantic

Described as the greatest pianist since Franz Liszt, Horowitz’s world wide career spanned nearly 70 years since his debut in 1920. Horowitz evidently suffered from anxiety and depression which led to long career breaks, especially from 1953-65 and from 1969-74.
In 1985, Horowitz returned to concertizing and recording. His first post-retirement appearance was not on stage, but in the documentary film Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic. In 1986 and as a consequence of the new relation between the USA and the USSR, Horowitz returned for the first time since 1925 for concerts in Moscow and Leningrad. Following the Russian concerts, Horowitz toured several European cities including Berlin, Amsterdam, and London. The final tour took place in Europe in 1987 and his legendary recital at the Musikverein in Vienna was documented on a video which was released by Deutsche Grammophone in 1991. His final recital, in Hamburg, Germany, took place on June 21, 1987.

Reader questions

  • What, besides the unique instrument, makes Horowitz’s playing so exceptional?
  • Which is your favourite Horowitz recording?
  • If you have played the CD 503, what was your impression?

/patrick
 
     

Steinway Update: Code Name “Edelweiss” Outbid by a True Piano Lover

The calculation was rather simple — Mr. Paulson loves Steinway’s pianos, so why not buy the whole company?

Back in July, equity firm Kohlberg & Company, reached an agreement with Steinway to buy the company for $35 a share ($485 million). But piano enthusiast and billionaire John Paulson, presumably after reading Piano Street’s post encouraging “others to make an offer”, began to pursue Steinway in earnest and read a book on the company to help bring himself up to speed.
After finishing the book, Paulson surprised everyone by offering $38 a share on August 14. Kohlberg bowed out of the running, but later that day, a secret challenger turned up under code name “Edelweiss” with a raised bid of $39 a share. Not to be outdone, Paulson increased his bid to $40. Steinway declared him the winner, and the identity of the secret bidder “Edelweiss” was revealed. It was Samick Musical Instruments of South Korea, one of Steinway’s biggest shareholders before the buyout. For terminating its prior agreement with Kohlberg, Steinway must now pay the company $6.7 million — just about the cost of 50 new Steinway D pianos.

The ownership change and it’s impact on the piano world

Steinway Musical Instruments will now change from being a publicly owned company traded on the stock market into a privately owned company. From a pianist’s point of view, the change of ownership for one of the leading instrumental manufacturers would not in itself be a concern as long as their focus remains unchanged. But running a company with such a strong historical tradition and with such a precious market position as Steinway’s is always a balancing act between maximizing profits versus preserving and developing tradition and art.
While Steinway pianos are most often extraordinary, many of their ancillary products such as Essex and Boston pianos, sheet music and apps are not exactly top notch. Those are chiefly designed to take advantage of Steinway’s brand recognition — obviously a strategy suitable for a publicly traded company in the struggle of regularly delivering good profits to its shareholders. Here, private ownership could provide a better opportunity to maintain quality by focusing on long term development of their main product.

So what is Paulson’s plan?

Piano Street got access to a document on US Securities and Exchange Comissions. Judging from that letter pianists can rest assured the company will be in good hands.

“We will proudly support the company’s legacy as the premier global piano manufacturer, a reputation earned with an uncompromising commitment to quality appreciated by almost all of the world’s most demanding pianists,” Paulson said.

“We’re fortunate in this case that John is a personal fan of our product. His love for the instrument gives him the insight as to how we can build the business.” said Michael T. Sweeney, Steinway’s chairman and chief executive.

A conversation with Mr. Paulson:

John Paulson – not yet a pianist

Mr. Paulson played the drums, clarinet and saxophone into his 20s, but is not a pianist himself. However, he owns three Steinway grand pianos – models M, O and B – and intends to add a fourth, a model B incorporating a factory-installed player piano system. But since it is never too late to learn to play piano, Piano Street suggests that he skips the fourth self-playing instrument and instead starts taking piano lessons. Not only is it more rewarding to play by oneself, but it would certainly be an advantage for the owner of a such an extraordinary piano maker to know how to really make the instruments sing!

Will you help him?

Not that Paulson cannot afford his piano lessons, but let’s give him a kick start by offering our services:
Anyone concerned about the maintained quality of the world’s leading piano brand, please join us in offering John free piano lessons if he drops by your area. (Post comment below.)

We start by offering Steinway’s new owner a free piano lesson here at Piano Street’s office and studio on Borgargatan 6, Stockholm, Sweden. Welcome in John!


/nilsjohan
 
     

Kohlberg Buys Steinway for USD 438 Million but Still a Chance for Others to Make an Offer!

Since its founding in 1853, Steinway & Sons has been dedicated to the ideal of making the finest pianos in the world. Pianists appreciate the tradition of the company, and Steinway craftsmanship has always been top-of-the line. Thirteen years after its founding, in 1866, Steinway branched out into America by building its first Steinway Hall on 14th Street. With a main auditorium of 2,000 seats, it became New York City’s artistic and cultural center, housing the New York Philharmonic until Carnegie Hall opened in 1891. Around 1870–80, William Steinway established a professional community, the company town Steinway Village, in what is now the Astoria section of Queens in New York City, producing pianos with its legendary attention to detail and general pianistic excellence. Steinway has developed many breakthroughs over the years, and two of these are duplex scaling and using better construction materials. Today, about 70 percent of the world’s concert hall grand pianos are Steinways. According to Steinway, 9 out of 10 concert artists choose Steinway (in the U.S.A.)

Steinway Musical Instruments up for Sale

Steinway announced on July 1 that it had agreed to be acquired by the private equity firm Kohlberg & Company in a deal worth roughly $438 million.
Cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht sees some unfortunate comparisons between the demise of former recording giant EMI and the recent sale of Steinway to private equity firm Kohlberg & Co. He notes that asset-stripping investment firms failed in trying to make EMI sexy for Hollywood and dumped it into oblivion. He, along with pianists everywhere, fervently hopes this does not happen to the icon of piano design.

Declining Sales

Basically, Steinway, in the wake of declining “shareholder value” throughout the recession, felt it could no longer compete. The company’s normally robust sales of 3,300 pianos per year dipped as low as 2,000, which undoubtedly contributed to its desire to sell. In fact, as short a time ago as January, Steinway had firmly decided not to sell to any other interest, but the lower sales and the decline of the “piano hobbyist” during the recession hit hard. Kohlberg, therefore, is looking for other markets besides the traditional American and European. They have offered a 15 percent premium per share on the company’s stock and intends to remove it from public trading in order to expand its worldwide production, especially in the world’s second largest market economy: China.

The Teaching Strategy

Building on Steinway’s 2012 initiative in order to bring new teaching methods to the Asian continent, Kohlberg is banking on the nation of a billion people to demand the same quality as American and European piano shoppers have done for generations. Their desire is to make piano playing more accessible for everyone than before. For example, if a rich, Chinese businessman buys a Steinway piano for his home, he will want to be able to play something for guests instead of just having a $100,000 instrument in his living room. The new teaching strategy is said to be more enjoyable than pounding out scales and five-finger exercises. Kohlberg has jumped on board and will continue the project when the deal is finalized in the third quarter of 2013.

The deal allows Steinway to seek other offer for the next 45 days. Shares of Steinway are up 15% on news of the buyout.


Related article:
Steinway & the Last Son


/patrick
 
     

Mr. Taylor’s Double Vision

Steinway double keyboardThis model D concert grand by Steinway & Sons, developed by Emanuel MoĂłr (1863-1931), is the only Steinway equipped with a double keyboard. It was built by Steinway for Werner von Siemens of Berlin and sold to him in 1929. The piano was purchased by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1961 for the use of Gunnar Johansen, artist in residence at the university at the time. After Johansen’s death in 1991, it remained unused for many years until John Schaffer, director of the School of Music, and Christopher Taylor, professor of piano at the school, began discussing the prospect of restoring it to optimum playing capacity several years ago. The completion of the rebuilding project by Steinway in 2007 marks the beginning of a new stage in the instrument’s life. This remarkable instrument is now used for selected tour dates by Taylor and heard in concert at its home at the university.

Christopher Taylor demonstrates the unique features of a special instrument that combines the harpsichord’s ability to double its keyboard with the sound of a modern Steinway piano:

The lower keyboard of 88 keys resembles that of a typical piano. The upper keyboard of 76 keys is one octave shorter in the treble but sounds one octave higher than the corresponding key on the lower keyboard. Each keyboard can be played independently but both can be coupled together by depressing a pedal located between the una corda (far left) and sostenuto (second-from-right) pedals. A catch mechanism allows the pedal to be retained in its depressed position. When the keyboards are coupled, each note played on the lower keyboard sounds both its own pitch and that of the key directly behind it on the upper keyboard, one octave higher. As a result, polyphonic textures available to the player are greatly expanded, volume levels may be increased, and chords which extend over two octaves may be played with one hand.


/patrick
 
     

Dynamic Duo Anderson & Roe Debut on the Steinway Label

Anderson & Roe – When Words Fade –
Featuring Songs of the Night From Vivaldi to Radiohead

Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe form one of the most thrilling young piano duos performing today. The debut release from Anderson & Roe on the Steinway & Sons label is a showstopper captured in spectacular audiophile-quality sound by multi-Grammy-winning producer Steven Epstein.

The pair’s adrenalized concerts have been dazzling audiences around the world. Now Steinway makes 12 of their eclectic and electrifying performances available for your personal playlist. When Words Fade features original piano four-hand arrangements of vocal repertoire and popular songs by composers from Vivaldi, Rachmaninov, and Schubert to Michael Jackson, Radiohead, and Coldplay.
Packaged with the CD is a bonus DVD featuring dramatizations that re-interpret four of the wordless piano duos and their emotional potency with a modern twist.

Watch the Release Promotional Video:

More videos:

Vivaldi – A Rain of Tears
Der Erlkönig
The previous release (Michael Jackson’s) Billie Jean


/patrick
 
     



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