Thursday, January 22, 2015

The 'other' Steinway arrives

A new Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano is scheduled for delivery to the University of Richmond this week. It is believed to be the first instrument by the German maker that will be in regular use in a Richmond concert venue.

The piano, which cost $213,196, was purchased with funds from the university’s dean of arts and sciences.

“The tone of the Hamburg was well suited to Camp Concert Hall” in the Modlin Arts Center, says Jeffrey Riehl, interim chair of the UR music department. He characterizes the piano’s tone as “clear, resonant, and ringing[,] with an excellent balance between the bass and treble,” adding that its sound is compatible with that of an American-made Steinway already owned by the university.

Faculty pianists Richard Becker and Joanne Kong, members of a piano selection committee, “had sterling experiences with Hamburgs in the past that made them quite eager to have one,” Riehl says. The group also wanted performers to have an alternative to a Steinway D, the concert grand in widest use in major U.S. concert halls.

Another consideration was the contractual obligation of many touring pianists to perform on Steinways.

While the Hamburg Steinway will be new to the Richmond concert scene, audiences in the area have had considerable exposure to other German-made pianos. Bon Air Presbyterian Church owns a Bechstein, which has been used regularly in concerts by the Richmond Chamber Players, Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia and other performers. Alexander Paley frequently plays a Blüthner piano in his Richmond festival.

UR’s Hamburg Steinway is scheduled for its public christening in a recital by Becker at 3 p.m. Feb. 1 – assuming, Riehl says, that the pianist believes the instrument has “settled in enough” in its new environment. It also will be played in recitals by Paul Hanson, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23; Barry Hannigan, 7:30 p.m. March 2; and by Kong in a trio performance with violinist Daisuke Yamamoto and cellist Neal Cary, 7:30 p.m. March 23. All four will be in Camp Concert Hall, without admission charge.

It’s not known whether Hélène Grimaud, the celebrated French pianist performing in a ticketed Modlin Arts Presents program at 7:30 p.m. April 22, will choose to play the instrument.