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Picking the right piano to record a selection (Videos)–“Fur Elise” by Beethoven

I’ve heard stories about great pianists such as Richter obsessing over a choice of piano for a concert. Allegedly, he was very fussy, and sometimes regretted the one he picked out for a recital. But when he found himself playing in Siberia and rural parts of the Russian landscape, he rose to the occasion, and made whatever piano was given him, sing to the heavens. No regrets, thank you. (Vladimir Horowitz took his own piano with him, and apparently jetted it to foreign concert halls) Or maybe a boat was involved in the old days. (moisture issues in transit?)

I guess Volodya took things to an extreme.

Others wouldn’t have the luxury to transport a piano thousands of miles to a recital venue.

Lesson learned: Whatever piano you have, make the best of it. Even poorly maintained instruments may have a tad of inspiration tucked away, waiting to be tapped.

Easier said than done.

I talk about land mines when I play my own pianos. And I’ve become very frustrated over and again with poor piano maintenance in a small community such as Fresno.

When my piano needs regulation and the tuner says he doesn’t do that, it’s like a hired house cleaner saying she won’t get into the hard to reach, corner bathroom tiles and scrub them without a mop.

I used to work at the New York State Employment Service of the Department of Labor, Household Division, and we had all kinds of taboos associated with on the “knees scrubbing.” We had to ask the employer if she had a mop, and go no further. Have times changed?

Now we have piano techs deciding that regulation, voicing, are equally out of the mainstream.

Last night, I wanted to re-record Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” for the nth time. This playing would be captured on iMovie with my Yeti external mic. Eliminating the whooshy camcorder sounds was motivation enough. And then I could go High Definition.

Two days ago, I had uploaded a “Fur Elise” that was far too slow, so I raced to delete it. (Playbacks are always defining–especially the morning after review)

My precious Haddorff console, as singable as it was, had some morbidly awful pedal squeaks, and a noisy action. I’d posted a Beethoven reading on Haddy with built-in mouse noises.

Still, I liked Haddy’s basic voice, because it was Old World and daunting. The piano basically sang like a nightingale.

Nevertheless, I opted for the Steinway M Grand in this new reading–knowing I needed to ply it in a way that I could maximize its performance.

Having a few very lazy keys, it was a crap shoot to rely on them.

Being philosophical, a pianist can make the most of what he has until and when a Savior walks through the door, and announces he can tune, voice, and regulate your piano to high standard.

Fat chance. I will be waiting for a time.

In any event, I did record “Fur Elise” on my vintage Steinway grand, M, 1917 and compared it side by to the performance rendered in the past on Haddy.

My verdict is in for me: The Steinway came through more defined, and with greater nuance. (and the mouse was eradicated)

Haddy, no slouch in her own right, had issues but rose to the occasion.

Here’s her version following the most recent Steinway grand rendition:

Haddorff console (1951)

Did I detect some tooth grinding in both? Geeze, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

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