Steinway & Sons
November 2, 2011 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037, a documentary by Ben Niles. "Invention for 900 Hands", a nine-part series in The New York Times. "K 2571: The Making of a Steinway Grand", an article in The Atlantic Monthly.

What a Steinway looks like on the inside when played by Glenn Gould.
posted by Trurl (9 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
We just got a new Hamburg Steinway at our work (our school has 105 pianos and two full-time piano tuners). Once it was all put together they had to wait over three months for it to adjust to the humidity before they could really put it through its paces. I got to play chopsticks on it.
posted by furtive at 7:53 PM on November 2, 2011

You can stream Note by Note on Netflix, if you are so inclined. (Subscription required.)
posted by crunchland at 8:49 PM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I saw Note by Note on Netflix. A first-class documentary.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:49 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have nothing useful to add to this thread, except that I saw Kristian Bezuidenhout play Bach on the harpsichord this past weekend, and so I leave you with his performance of Mendelssohn's Duetto (on an Elard) while Amsterdam's trains and bicycles shuffle to and fro in the background. Pianos are as much a work of art, as what is played on them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:39 PM on November 2, 2011

I hate, hate, hate the Steinway at our local venue. It's one of the named ones or something, and it sounds like shit; it's entirely inappropriate for our acoustics. The lows are murky, the mids are flat-to-dead and the highs are sick, wilted and tinny even at their best. Every time that piano rolls to the centre of the stage I groan inside because I know some lovely piece of music is going to be ruined yet again. But of course nothing can be done because it's a special piano. Like you got given some horrid candelabra by a rich relative and despite that it doesn't go with anything it's still on your mantel.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:32 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I watched this already on Netflix and, since I love watching true craftsmen and women at work, it was really, really enjoyable. As a matter of fact I had zero hesitation watching it another time with the fiance.

I'm not a big fan of upper crust musicians talking about instruments and there is a fair bit of that but, to me, this documentary basically pointed out a few things that reverberate well. One was the sad fact we've all heard before that making things by hand is a dying art and mechanization has taken over and it's an active battle for the Steinway assembly people to avoid such simplifications, such as mechanical tuning of pianos, that save money but hurt quality. The other big one was a very unique feel that each craftsman along the year long trip from start to finish is, in a way I thought was quite beautiful, as much of a musician as the person that finally gets to play said piano once all's said and done. They really do kind of have as much impact on how that piano sounds as the musician does, from installing the soundboard to stringing the strings.

Neat show, do recommend.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:05 AM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I get to play a fully-restored 1936 Steinway baby grand every week. It is without a doubt the most gorgeous piano I've ever played, both in looks and in sound. Full, rich lows, and clear highs. Totally makes up for all the shitty Steinways I had to play in college...(hint: just because the piano says Steinway and Sons on it doesn't mean that you don't have to take care of it, piano techs.).

When I was 10 or so, the 500,000th Steinway was touring around the US, and my parents took me to Milwaukee to play it. I wish I remembered the sound better, but 10-year-olds generally don't pay much attention to that kind of thing.
posted by altopower at 7:31 AM on November 3, 2011

(Putting this film in our Netflix queue...)
posted by altopower at 7:32 AM on November 3, 2011

When this film played at the Siskel Center in Chicago, they displayed the piano and had some child virtuoso give a performance afterwards. It was a really neat touch that brought the story line all the way around.

Couldn't help but feel, though, that a significant portion of the audience was dragged there by their overbearing piano-playing-forcing parents.
posted by hwyengr at 8:08 AM on November 3, 2011

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