SELECTING A PERFORMANCE PIANO FOR CONCERT HALL OR HOME

The selection of a concert grand usually falls to piano faculty at a university, the music director at a church, or pianists hired to choose an instrument for an orchestra. Occasionally these pianos are selected for homes. This article assumes that you have chosen a brand and model, and are now about to select a specific instrument from among several examples. Professional pianists are most qualified to make these selections because they generally have played a large variety of pianos, and the differences among the pianos in the selection group may be so subtle as to go unnoticed by the average person. In most cases, these high-quality finalists sound so good that it is very difficult to choose one as better than the rest. This article attempts to define and shorten the selection process.

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THE UNCOMPROMISING WORLD OF HIGH-END PIANOS

Those who've found themselves in a showroom full of beautifully crafted, prestige and high-performance pianos know that the experience can be both impressive and unnerving — impressive for obvious reasons, unnerving because of the extraordinary prices these instruments command — from $50,000 to $150,000 or more. Sometimes, novice buyers question whether the prices are justified — or are just the result of the clever marketing of well-known brand names. In this article, I explain what sets high-end pianos apart from less costly ones that might, at least superficially, look the same, and why the higher price can be justified. This discussion should be considered general in nature, however; actual differences will depend on the specific brands and models compared, and the differences in their prices.

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THE ALL-STEINWAY SCHOOL PROGRAM

WHEN AN INSTITUTION is ready to purchase a large number of new pianos, one of the major decisions to be made is whether to buy all from a single manufacturer, or to maintain a diverse inventory of instruments of many brands. The decision has artistic, technical, financial, institutional, and, often, political dimensions. On the single-brand side, probably best known is the All-Steinway School program, with more than 150 institutions participating. The College of Music at Florida State University is one of the largest music schools in the country to maintain a diverse inventory of many brands. Below, proponents of the two schools of thought put their best feet forward to explain the reasons behind their respective choices. — Editor

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STEINWAY & SONS: A TONAL JOURNEY

ON MANY LEVELS, the subject of piano tone defies verbal description. In September 2014, pianist and organist Danny Uhl and I visited Steinway’s New York factory in Long Island City to choose a Stein- way model D (9') concert grand for his home. His ultimate choice had a pene- trating sound. Each note filled the air with a rich, ethereal quality, like a lavender infusion—or so we felt at the time. As a technician, I spend almost every day trying to translate such descriptions into mechanically useful terms.

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