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Topic: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!  (Read 13271 times)

Offline semidead

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Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
on: September 26, 2006, 11:19:59 AM
Is it true that Horowitz's piano was lighter than the ordinary Steinways ?
And if true, why don't they begin making lighter touched pianos?
Maybe it is easier to handle them, is there any reason they want
to prevent this? :)

Offline gfiore

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #1 on: September 26, 2006, 12:39:13 PM
Yes the original set-up of Horowitz's D averaged a 41 gram downweight across the keyboard as opposed to the graduated standard of 52 to 47grams. Why would you want a touchweight that is that low? It is not easier to handle, It is very hard for 98%  of pianists to control thier playing on anything under 48 grams.
George Fiore  aka "Curry"
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My piano- A 2004 Bosendorfer Model 214 #47,299 214-358

Offline notturno

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #2 on: September 26, 2006, 08:49:34 PM
Here's some interesting info on Horowitz' piano; focusing on the Mohr era Steinway.

https://www.ptg.org/pipermail/pianotech/1996-August/008929.html

Here is an interview with Franz Mohr on his work with Steinway and Horowitz
https://www.dw-world.de/popups/popup_printcontent/0,,2105212,00.html

And a list of Horowitz' pianos.
https://web.telia.com/~u85420275/trivia.htm

Basically, Horowitz' super light action required lots of expensive hammer maintenance, and is therefore impractical.

The focus on what Mohr did to Horowitz' piano should be taken with a grain of salt, which if placed on the keys would no doubt produce an audible sound, anyway....  Mohr didn't start working on Horowitz' pianos until about 1965.  Some of VH's most memorable recordings are from the 1940s.  His dynamics, ranging from ppp gentle to mega crashing fff are evident on some of these recordings.  I have a recording from Carnegie Hall of Kabelevsky's Sonata #2 that begins with absolutely thundering chords.  Harold Schonberg has a very good biography of Horowitz and he talks a little about his pianos.  In the biography he says that the '40s era piano was found in the Steinway basement.  It was one of the first with Accelerated Action, and according to the book, this action was designed by Paderewski.  Paderewski was a piano tinkerer, but someone else holds the patent, so I think this info is inaccurate.  In any case, Horowitz' early piano piano was more or less "stock" rather than a custom redesign.  Alot of articles on his piano suggest that the dynamics of his sound, especially the thundering bass chords, were due to the custom action.  I think it was the performer rather than the instrument.

Also, the action that Horowitz used was removed from the piano before the "play Horowitz' piano" tours.  I'd read variously that the action was thrown out, or is sitting in Franz Mohr's closet.  Apparently Horowitz allowed only a very people play his piano, Murray Perahia being one, so there are very few people who could authentically say what it felt like.  By the time he was using the piano with the Mohr modified action, Horowitz was rich enough to have his piano shipped all over the globe.  So he didn't have to adjust for a piano with heavier action, which would be the case if most of us had our personal piano so modified.

Personally, I'd like to have one with really light action, though if I wanted to afford the hammer maintenance for such a piano I'd have to give up eating.


Joseph

The artist does nothing that others deem beautiful, but rather only what to him is a necessity.  Arnold Schoenberg, Theory of Harmony

Offline pianolist

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #3 on: September 28, 2006, 04:26:19 PM
Somewhere I have some internal Steinway correspondence from the 1930s, regarding unathorised alterations made to a "D" grand in France, which Steinways quickly stamped on. A number of concert pianists were interviewed about it, and no-one owned up, but the conclusion of Steinway's Paris manager was that Horowitz was to blame.

I looked for the letters this morning, but without success. If I find them, I'll post them - clearly he was already after a lighter action in the 1930s.
Yes, it's the 10,000th member ...

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #4 on: September 28, 2006, 06:59:21 PM
the reason i like heavier pianos is that you can obtain 'smooth' sounds like a dark sherry.  with lighter playing pianos there's the danger of sounding 'flitty, brittle, or dance-hallish.'  and, why, why, why do people laquer or shave down hammer heads?  this is nasty. 

steinway did a good thing to maintain consistency of the action.  mohr and horowitz can do anything they want or wanted  - but it's not always about technical feats of virtuosity.  sometimes the tone itself sets the mood.  and, the depth and variety of shadings and dynamics that can be controlled (and remembered at certain depth and speed levels for both the keyboard and the pedals).  how can you be consistent on a flimsy piano?

i am asking a serious question because it seems that many concert artists go for the easy action.  is it so that they won't get carpel tunnels?  i don't know.  if it were me - i'd say medium hard.  but, it is a challenge to play long pieces.  the reward is more with schumann, brahms, beethoven.  to play chopin, liszt, ravel, debussy - probably the lighter faster action is where it's at.  perhaps a piano for every type of composer?

Offline semidead

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #5 on: September 28, 2006, 08:32:21 PM
I'd like lighter action on a grand Steinway cause I'm used to light action since I study on an average upright.
And the difficulty with the Steinway I think, is that you have to play for at least an hour paying close attention to the sound in order to adjust the touch and match it with the sound you want to make. In order to control it in a satisfactory way and do everything I want to, I suppose I'd need at least a week with it. I suppose that it would be much easier if it was lighter hence closer to the kind I'm used to! And perhaps it would be easier to play ff sixteenths!
But anyway, that's for me, I'm still quite incompetent :ΡΡ

Offline notturno

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #6 on: October 05, 2006, 04:16:51 PM

steinway did a good thing to maintain consistency of the action.  mohr and horowitz can do anything they want or wanted  - but it's not always about technical feats of virtuosity.  sometimes the tone itself sets the mood.  and, the depth and variety of shadings and dynamics that can be controlled (and remembered at certain depth and speed levels for both the keyboard and the pedals).  how can you be consistent on a flimsy piano?

Excellent point, pianistimo.

i am asking a serious question because it seems that many concert artists go for the easy action. is it so that they won't get carpel tunnels?
I think that's more a concern for amateurs, like me.  Especially amateurs who are prone to inflammation.
The artist does nothing that others deem beautiful, but rather only what to him is a necessity.  Arnold Schoenberg, Theory of Harmony

Offline invictious

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #7 on: October 06, 2006, 12:43:33 PM
But anyway, that's for me, I'm still quite incompetent :ΡΡ

PP, pun intended?
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Debussy - L'isle Joyeuse
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Offline leahcim

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #8 on: October 06, 2006, 01:12:07 PM
Is it true that Horowitz's piano was lighter than the ordinary Steinways ?
And if true, why don't they begin making lighter touched pianos?
Maybe it is easier to handle them, is there any reason they want
to prevent this? :)

This guy is playing one :-
https://www.youtube.com/profile?user=kasyapa

The audio isn't very good which probably accounts for some of the harshness, but I think the light action is helping it sound like he is thumping away more than he may be.

He has a website somewhere too - in one of the videos he suggests [to someone in the room when he's playing] that whoever did Horowitz's setup for him retired and, although still light, the action on the Horowitz he's playing in the video feels different from what it once did.

You definately get the impression that the action is light in the extreme rather than "lighter", but AIUI other players were the opposite with actions heavy in the extreme - most bat someone in the middle I suppose.

AIUI Steinway regulate them for personal preference don't they? I figure they show people 6 pianos knowing which one they'll pick [i.e the story I've read about the six pianos always sounds the same with folk surprised they were even shown some of them - surely the "others" are just there to make the sixth appear better? A bit like having an out of tune badly regulated rivals piano in your store to show people what the competition are like :) ]

IMHO, perhaps from ignorance, but nevertheless looking at the way Horowitz plays it seems unusual compared with others, almost like he's begging like a dog with very low elbows and arched wrists [although everyone is different in some way, there seem to be "themes" amongst good players, especially when compared with youtube's less capable, myself included] I pondered whether the choice of action was as much to do with his unusual playing position?

Offline brdwyguy

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Re: Steinway keyboard weight and Horowitz's Piano!
Reply #9 on: January 27, 2022, 02:09:09 AM
Leahcim
The YouTube Video you posted in your last comment is my post.
That is ok BUT - it is NOT the YouTube post you are talking about in your comments.

brdwyguy
JDM
 

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