As I slide into the editor’s seat for my first issue of International Piano, the quest for perfection is very much on my mind!
For any musician, finding the perfect instrument to realise his or her vision is of paramount importance. Given the complexity of the piano as a piece of technology and engineering, as well as an object of supreme aesthetic value, this search for perfection is particularly problematic: so many variables are involved in the creation of any one instrument, no two pianos will ever be the same. Then comes the thorny question of what type of piano is most appropriate for particular repertoire – to which the answer ultimately comes down to personal taste as much as historical research into what may or may not be considered ‘authentic’.
Last month saw Daniel Barenboim grappling with these issues as he launched his ‘Barenboim-Maene’ Grand Piano and performed a complete cycle of Schubert sonatas on the new instrument at London’s Southbank. In truth, there’s nothing particularly ‘new’ in the design of the Barenboim-Maene, but its combination of 19th-century features with those of a modern Steinway makes it a unique hybrid. The results, as Michael Church reports in this issue, are impressive: ‘Intimate and contained, with dry top notes but a sinewy bass which really sings’. These qualities proved ideal for Barenboim’s interpretations of Schubert, though they remain untested in a concerto; for that, we’ll have to wait until his Brahms concertos next year.
In the meantime, anyone wanting to experience some of the latest innovations in piano design for themselves should head over Grand Passion Pianos in London, which is currently the only UK workshop to adopt techniques developed by Stephen Paulello (page 36). The French pianist and piano scientist has thoroughly re-examined every aspect of piano design and come up some unique inventions of his own, including a new wire type for extended-compass instruments.
Elsewhere in this issue, we celebrate the life and legacy of the great Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter, whose indifference when it came to choosing specific pianos is as legendary as Glenn Gould’s neurotic perfectionism. In this month’s ‘Symposium’, meanwhile, our panel of distinguished interpreters offer a range of different perspectives on the merits of playing Mozart on the fortepiano versus modern piano.
It just remains for me, as I embark on my editorship of International Piano, to thank my wonderful predecessor, Claire Jackson. Her four years as editor brought new energy to the magazine’s coverage of piano playing and the inspiring people who inhabit the world of pianism. I look forward to bringing an equal passion to the subject and accompanying our readers all over the world on a multifaceted and stimulating musical journey.