So Lance, who's playing the Bechstein? What program? Yes, DO give us a review, and watch those 'high rollers'. Nobody looks good under the wheels of a Bechstein. Nude or otherwise. In Munich or Binghamton.
Well, one day I just might write my memoirs of working on pianos. You would be amazed at what I have found (and viewed) under (and on top of) Steinways and Baldwins, not to mention other great names.
The completely restored 1913 Bechstein concert grand was used for the first time at the Bnghamton, NY home of Tri-Cities Opera, an internationally renowned opera company where many great singers of the world were trained, including Richard Leech, Jake Gardner, Cynthia Clarey ... even Placido Domingo sang one of his earliest Madama Butterfly
Tri-Cities Opera presents three operas annually, giving three performances of each one. They also present a variety of vocal recitals and operatic events many times during the year. A week before the actual opera, an "Operalogue" is given at the center with Artistic Director, Duane Skrabalak, who is the conductor. He is also a pianist of special talent. He uses the piano in discussing the opera's plots, selecting arias and selections to be sung on the stage to inform the audience of how the opera moves. His discussions are informative, spirited, entertaining, and contain much unique humour. In actuality, these should be presented nationally as they are already broadcast on our local NPR station.
While the opera has a 6'3" Baldwin grand that is used as their workhorse, it is in need of restringing and some action refurbishing. In the meantime, the opportunity to have, permanently on loan, presented itself as a result of a most generous individual who purchased the piano after receiving a gift from the Frances Jennings estate.
I happened to be in Atlanta, Ga. visiting my sister when I received a phone call to "please check out this Bechstein concert grand." Having no idea where I was going, I got in my car in went far out into "red-neck" territory to find a piano shop that had this piano set up. I telephoned my Binghamton contact and said: "If you don't buy this piano, I will." Naturally, he bought it on my recommendation and set it up in his home. It's a lot of piano for any home and is really meant for the concert stage. Subsequently, the owner decided to make the piano available for major concerts throughout the area though the piano is in permanent residence at Tri-Citires Opera where it will continue to receive my TLC (Tender Lance Care) as someone once noted.
In mid-May, the piano will be used for a violin recital by Emil Altschuler, a Binghamton native now residing in Boston, who is fast establishing himself as a major American violinist. That will be a gala event. Eventually, a piano "marathon concert" will be given to "officially" dedicate the Bechstein by, hopefully, such celebrated pianists as John Covelli (a Carl Friedberg pupil), and several other pianists of note.
The piano was completely restored in Germany and dates from 1913. It has been in the United States now for two years. I often wondered what this instrument could say—if it could talk—about what went on in Germany during both world wars.
The piano's cast iron plate has been regilded and the finish is now the high gloss ebony. It has a knob on the curvature part so the lid can be locked down. The legs are the original round legs, with the side of the case in ornate carving, as we have seen on Walter Gieseking's Bechstein pianos from photographs. Pianists lately have told me the action is "like butter," and ultra-responsive. The bass has the typical, deep-wooden sound that is quite different from American pianos. The action has been modified to present-day standards. On appearance and in sound, the Bechstein makes quite
an impression in its new home where the sound is allowed to fill the hall. The tone is rich and full with no stridency in the upper range, and the piano's tone soars with a slow decay. I think it will also make a wonderful recording instrument. The piano is a Model E and measures 8'10½". Initially, we thought it to be a 9'2" instrument.
Carl Bechstein would be pleased to know that some of his early, great instruments are still giving music.