"The Making of the STEINWAY L1037"
A video-documentary by BEN NILES
Fields Pianos in West LA,Tuesday, November 18th 08
A very stunning Event happened last Tuesday at Fields Pianos, West LA.By invitation only there was a special showing of the Documentary- Movie by Ben Niles on the creation of concert "D" Steinway L1037... from the cutting of the timber in Alaska to it's completion and use in performance at Zankel Hall 'neath Carnegie Hall in New York. [ across the street from the georgeous Steinway Showroom on Fifty Seventh Street.]
The video was shot from in and around the Steinway factory in Astoria, across the East River from Manhatten. The true heroes of the story are the devoted Artians from many different cultural backgrounds, most of whom have been with the Steinway Company all of their working lives. There is nothing pretentious about these men and women, and their total devotion to the Art of creating these wonders, arguably the finest, most sensitive, expressive and best made in the entire world.
In these days of cutting corners in manufacturing of other Fine instruments, [pianos] I am awestruck that Steinway does all of their work themselves, in the USA. The only thing that is done outside of their Astoria factory are some Black Keys that are made at a very small factory in Iowa. That factory is owned by Steinway and Sons.
The detail that goes into this labor of love is heart rending. All of my life in New York, I had friends who were Steinway Artists... William Kapell, Robert Goldsand, Josef Raieff, Ania Dorfman, Wanda
Landowska, to name a few,
Vladimir Horowitz lived just a few doors from William Kapell on East 94th Street and a few doors in the other direction was Mme Ania Dorfman... Sometimes when visiting Willie, I could hear my teacher Mme Dorfman practising, and walk a bit past Willies house, and hear the great Horowitz creating thunderous clouds of tone, and exuding genius on his fantastic Steinway. Steinway provided him with this very special piano, adjusted to Horowitz' specifications.
He traveled on tour with this instrument, along with Steinway's Master Tecnician to care for the instrument. It was this unique partnership, Horowitz, Steinway and Sons NY and his Master Tecnician that allowed Horowitz to electrify audiences the world over, much the same as Liszt had done some years earlier. And he played this wonderful instrument when he finally returned to his beloved Russia on one of his final tours, and final recordings recorded in Moscow
His Steinway Tecnician was at his side for all the tours, to attend to anything that might need adjusting, perhaps a string that would need a gentle turn of the tuning wrench or to be replaced, as Horowitz was a powerful Concert Artist. They were sponsored by Steinway and Sons NY, and Horowitz never strayed from their fold. [I was fortunate enough to play and record on that very instrument when it was on it's last tour in LA a few months ago. An experience I will cherish all of my life.]
All of this is to say there are several reasons that I was so very interested in this video... It was exactly the most perfect tribute to the most perfect instruments that I, and my beloved ones could ever hope for.
At a recent NAMM Show, I ran to see the "Fine" pianos.. and played all three major Brands of concert grands "D"s... and was numbed that their actions were exactly the same, therefore one 8"11 sounded exactly the same as other 8'11 s. [from different manufacturers]
Used to be that each of those pianos was very different from each other. I must add that Steinway was not present at the Namm show. I would prefer to think it was because Steinway is "above" that sort of thing. An unsuspecting salesman unwittingly let it slip that the Keyboards and Actions of those other pianos were indeed made by the Renner Company which is in CHINA!!! Then shipped to Europe, and the US... So all of that money is actually for the glitzy furniture!!! Gasp!.
Sooo when I saw this documentary months ago [I bought it as soon as it came out] I was delirious with joy, and proud that my illustrious friends had encouraged me in the love of those magnificent instruments. Seeing it again with a few Steinway officianados was very rewarding, and it was very interesting to actually speak with the Producer, writer of the Documentary, Ben Niles, who shared a lot of information about the making of the film, and details that only those that were working on the film could share.
I urge you to see this documentary, and take your young ones to see it. better yet, go on the internet and buy your own copy, or several, and donate them to libraries,and see the devotion and work ethic that the Steinway workers have that enables them to produce the Stradivarius of pianos.. True treasures, and these instruments enable the finest virtuosos to send their souls soaring, and move millions of listeners to the Gods with the joy of music. As well as a beginning piano student to develop their best capabilities, either in practise at home, or in their first recital...
Let us hold the sacred hope that Steinway will always be as it is, and that they will not be tempted as the others have been. I feel there is hope in America as long as we have this treasure, showing others the Way... AND remember it's MADE IN AMERICA. Go enjoy the best!
L1037 is part of the lineup of Artists Instruments, and resides at Steinway and Sons on 57th Street, in the Artists Room, where they choose the Pianos for their New York concerts. Steinway may send Major Artists two or three to the concert, so the stressful night of the concert will be more relaxed, and there is a choice. Usually there will be a master tecnician in case of a last minute adjustment.
[I especially thank the staff at Fields Pianos, including Sheree, Artist's rep. Mr. Ida, and Mr.Lee,who take such good care of my group during concerts at Steinway Hall. I also thank you for the kind invitatition to this event.]
Suezenne Fordham Chamber Jazz LA