Sunday, May 21, 2006


Many years ago a boss of mine who prides himself on knowing and consuming only the best, I guess you could call it a kind of snobbism, was anxious to demonstrate some new found knowledge. “What’s the best brand of pianos?”

“No such thing,” I said, “it’s a matter of personal pref—“

“Bosendorfer,” he blurted.

“Yeah,” I said, “that’s one of the top brands.”

“It’s the most expensive, and most exclusive,” he said.

So I told him about a recent documentary on Vladimir Horowitz’ trip to Moscow. It was some big deal politically or historically or something. But noteworthy for our discussion: Horowitz brought his own piano, that he plays on every day in his Manhattan livingroom. They showed the Maestro playing on the piano in his home. Then they show it being boxed up and hauled out. Then, later, they show Horowitz on the Moscow concert stage, half a world away, playing the very same piano.

We’d expect a violinist to bring his own instrument along. But moving a huge piano, is it really worth it? Well, why would a violin be different from a piano? Each individual instrument has its own voice. A performer seeks an instrument with a voice that supports the performer’s musical world view. These are subtleties available only to highly accomplished artists and generally involve the more expensive brands. But even within a brand, at the high end, each individual piano has its own voice.

“By the way,” I said, “Horowitz’ piano is a Steinway.”
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