For Piano Snobs Only

We piano snobs debate the difference between Ding Dongs and Ho Hos all the time. Which pianist, which piano, which recording in which hall… we are, I’m afraid, insufferable.

A few years ago there were some very interesting CDs produced by Eric Himy on a Steingraeber Phoenix piano. It is half a foot longer than the ubiquitous Steinway D. It has a very deep, darker flavor. It is different from a Steinway D and, fun to hear with music that has a serious or somber tone= Schumann/Liszt.

Daniel Barenboim went the other direction. He has commissioned the Chris Maene Piano Company of Belgium to build a new piano. Rather than using some strings diagonal to the others, ALL the strings are parallel.

 

 
It took over four years for Chris Maene to create this new piano, with action produced by Steinway.

The first CD of this piano in action has been released by DG called “On My New Piano” featuring Daniel Barrenboim, of course.

The music chosen for the recording is varied, and wonderful. There are three short Scarlatti sonatas. Next are LVB variations. Then the incomparable Chopin Ballade #1. On to a new work to me, Wagner’s March to the Holy Grail. It concludes with two Liszt faves, Funerailles & Mephisto Waltz #1. You get close to 70 minutes of gorgeous music from among the best pianist of our times.

As for the sound of this new piano, you’ll hear it’s a bit clearer and less resonant than what you’re used to. Specifically, the bass register is what I would describe as more detailed and taut. Barrenboim clearly chose his pieces to display this difference, first and foremost.

So while the upper register sounds quite familiar to my old ears, I like the tighter, more controlled lower register of the bass sound from the Chris Maene design. Barrenboim is careful to say this piano is an alternative, it isn’t better. You piano hounds will love this CD.

I hope to hear one in the flesh some day. But as of early 2017, there are only two on the planet- neither is in Milwaukee!