Steinway D Grand Piano

Steinway D Grand Piano    Recordings

Steinway & Sons Concert Grand Piano, Model D, 1901 #100398

This magnificent concert grand piano represents the art of piano building at its absolute best. It was built during a period when the piano or, for the well-to-do, the grand piano belonged just as much to the standard inventory of every middle-class household as the stereo and the video recorder do today.

Throughout the nineteenth century pianists inspired new developments in piano building, and piano builders responded with instruments which helped to shape virtuoso style. Such mutual influence contributed to one of the most exciting processes in music history and culminated at the close of the century in those great pianists whose names today still attest to a unique level of virtuosity: Liszt pupils like von Sauer and Rosenthal, Fanny Davis and other students of Clara Schumann, and composers-pianists like Rachmaninoff, to mention only a few of the many names. Among the leading piano builders we again find names still familiar to us today: Steinway, Bösendorfer, Bechstein, Blüthner, and Chickering, an American firm no longer in business whose instruments were once renowned for their full sound. And many other names could be cited.

We will appreciate the full cultural-historical significance of the mutual stimulation of virtuosos and instrument builders when we consider the fact that in the main features of its construction the 1901 Steinway is practically identical to today's factory-new product. Here we should remember, however, that the remarkable old instrument was built by hand and represents the result of painstaking labours while the most modern machines regularly assist in the production of today's pianos. Thus in this piano we have a unique instrument that cannot and should not be restored in the mass-produced style. In addition, its extraordinarily beautiful, bright and shiny rosewood veneer distinguishes its exterior from the typical »concert-black« exteriors.

The first meeting between the Steinway and its later owners took place at an inn in Schriesheim, Baden, where it was serving as the piano of the Lyra Male Choir. The exterior was in a state of complete ruin, and a close examination revealed that the interior was in equally miserable shape. A number of repairs were deemed necessary: the renovation of the sounding board and the action, restringing of the instrument, installation of a new pin block to guarantee the proper support of the tuning pegs, and refurbishing of the damaged exterior. The hope of waking this »Sleeping Beauty« of an instrument from its long slumber made the risk worth the taking; it was not known whether or not the restoration effort would be a success.

The tuning board was rebuilt at the Steinway & Sons piano factory in Hamburg. Then a copy of the irreparable sounding board was installed by the Bayreuth Niedermeyer Company on the basis of precise measurements and with the use of the old bridges; new strings were supplied in the bass and treble. The building of the new action undertaken by the renowned expert for Steinway instruments Manfred Bürki involved new hammer-felts (with the use of the old wippens), new damper heads. The exquisite exterior of the instrument was treated in the Hirschhorn workshop of Nikolaus Damm near Heidelberg. Damm is a specialist in the reconstruction of historical keyboard instruments. Until all the above tasks had been completed, it was not known whether the instrument would meet the high hopes of its owners. To their joy, the recordings made with the Steinway since then have provided eloquent testimony to the success of the restoration and to the excellent quality of the piano that in 1901 certainly must have made its builders proud of their work.

[The way of the Classical-CD]