The Steinway cometh

The Steinway cometh

When it comes to the deepest bass notes and the sustaining power of a modern grand piano, size, it seems, definitely matters…And so, of course, does quality.

In the world of concert grand pianos, Steinway reigns supreme – it’s been estimated that their flagship Model D accounts for more than ninety percent of concert grands worldwide and, as our Artistic Director Jason Thornton points out, top recitalists are clear about their requirements for a concert instrument. “World class performers require a world class instrument. I’m so pleased that we have finally found a way of bringing a Steinway Concert Grand Piano to the festival. I can’t wait to hear Benjamin Grosvenor’s monumental interpretation of Liszt’s B minor Sonata on a piano of this quality.”

Well, as from this summer, the Budleigh Music Festival joins the club! Our concert grand will be a full size Model D Steinway, on which Benjamin Grosvenor and Ethan Loch will give solo recitals, and Joseph Middleton will accompany mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly. With an eye on the future the decision was taken last autumn to ‘go full Steinway’ and a contract was undertaken to have a Model D supplied for the duration of the Festival. As Festival Chair Kate Somerby observes, “Quality and excellence are part of our guiding ‘North star’ as we take the Festival forward, and committing to this new piano arrangement is a perfect fit.”

At an imposing nine feet in length, and nearly five hundred kilogrammes in weight, the piano presents some interesting practical challenges to the technical team – not least, in that it cannot simply be placed on-stage and stand there for the entire Festival. As Paul Abbott, our Technology lead, says, “When not being used for a concert the Steinway is stored in the choir – but the latter’s narrow stone pillared entrance is only a foot wider than the piano, so we steer the half-ton piano into its parking space with great care!”

World-renowned artists from Vladimir Horowitz and Artur Rubinstein to Glenn Gould, Alfred Brendel and Mitsuko Ushida – not to mention the composer Sergei Rachmaninov – have insisted on the big Steinway as their instrument of choice, in some instances actually having their own personal instrument transported to every concert engagement. The new arrangement here at the Festival is a mark of our commitment and ambition, and we look forward to enjoying the glorious sound of the Model D this summer.

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