Sep 5th 2018

Princeton invests in monster Steinway purchase

by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is a music critic with particular interest in piano. 

Johnson worked as a reporter and editor in New York, Moscow, Paris and London over his journalism career. He covered European technology for Business Week for five years, and served nine years as chief editor of International Management magazine and was chief editor of the French technology weekly 01 Informatique. He also spent four years as Moscow correspondent of The Associated Press. He is the author of five books.

Michael Johnson is based in Bordeaux. Besides English and French he is also fluent in Russian.

You can order Michael Johnson's most recent book, a bilingual book, French and English, with drawings by Johnson:

“Portraitures and caricatures:  Conductors, Pianist, Composers”

 here.

 


Princeton University in the United States is best known for its big thinkers, top
scientists and heavyweight historians but now is embarking on a determined
effort to make a splash in the arts. Princeton’s new Lewis Center of the Arts is
going about it in the most American manner, with millions of dollars upfront
investment and a business plan to attract young talent into its music program.
Nothing is left to chance.


This fall, a new crop of music students have full access to 48 freshly minted
Steinway pianos, a large enough stock to attract global attention among
pianophiles.


Steinway is accustomed to large orders, of course, particularly from burgeoning
markets such as China. In fact, to meet the demand triggered by its current
domestic piano craze (an estimated 20 million youngsters are studying
intensively) , China has recently become to world’s largest builder of pianos –
both for the home market and for export. Yet the Steinways, which are
purchased from the German side of the company, make a special impact in the
prestige-conscious Chinese environment.


Large Steinway orders have been placed recently by China’s Central
Conservatory, the China Conservatory in Beijing, the Harbin Conservatory and
the Tianjin Conservatory. Steinway is not revealing numbers.
The buildup of equipment at Princeton brings to a close a two-year process to
test some 200 new Steinways in the New York and New Jersey areas. The
pianos are installed in university practice rooms, dance studios, teaching studios,
rehearsal halls and theaters.


Music lecturer Jennifer Tao, who helped make the selection at the Steinway
factory in Queens, New York, and other sites said she and her colleagues were
listening for pianos “with a wide range of expression”. Faculty and hand-picked
students played each piano in two acoustically different rooms at the factories.
Princeton did not disclose the negotiated value of the purchase, which includes
one Model D (concert grand), ten Model Bs, one Model O, 16 Model M, 15
Boston UP118S and 5 Boston GP193. Estimates of the value range in the millions of dollars. The Model D alone can cost up to $224,100, depending on
finish.

Anthony Gilroy, senior director of marketing at Steinway, rates this sale as
important but not the largest in the company’s history. “Any sale of double digit
pianos is a big deal for us – as we make our pianos by hand, one at a time, and
we’re only producing in the range of 1,100 to 1,300 Steinway pianos per year at
our New York factory.” Only about five finished pianos can be built per day.
The record for orders from the U.S. factories is still held by the university of
Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory, which purchased 165 Steinways about ten
years ago. This makes the “All-Steinway School” one of the largest inventories
of Steinways outside the main factory.

The expansion of Princeton facilities adds 17 individual practice rooms and five
teaching studios, complementing the department’s facilities in the Woolworth
Center of Musical Studies. The building provides office space and direct access
to colleagues from the other disciplines, such as dance and theater, who are also
in the three-building complex.

“We are here all in the same complex,” says Michael Pratt, conductor of the
Princeton University Orchestra “We belong together and we can communicate
with each other.”

Evidence of commitment to the arts? Pratt is confident the point has been made.
“We bought a whole building full of Steinways,” he says. Princeton is the fifth
richest U.S. university, with an endowment of about $22 billion.

Pratt recalls the origin of the new drive for the arts when a few years ago the
university president emerita Shirley M. Tilghman called in her staff -- “and she
just blew us all away by saying it was her intention to make sure Princeton was
as well-known and respected for the arts as it was for anything else.” It all seems
to be happening now.

 

A shorter version of this story appears in the September-October edition of
International Piano magazine, London.

 

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Music Reviews

Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: " .....I have to give everything in these concerts,.... "
Jun 26th 2021
EXTRACT: What do you want to be known as? --- As “Stewart Goodyear, composer and pianist”.
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: Denis Pascal, founder of the French Trio Pascal: ".....recording studios began working again. We recorded our Schubert trios at the end of September. And musicians everywhere are finding that the crisis allows time for a certain introspection and questioning into the way music is performed. Music will play a much more important role after the crisis."
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACTS: "She began her piano training rather late in life – age 8." ..... "I want to contribute a sense of joy by discovering atypical works that might surprise an educated public. I have great experience and am inclined to share them with anyone who can appreciate them, or as André Gide wrote, anyone “who has an open mind”."
Jan 31st 2021
EXTRACTS: "A new recording of Franz Liszt’s piano compositions presents ten carefully balanced pieces in a double-CD album aptly titled Between Light and Darkness, launched by Piano Classics. The pianist, the veteran French virtuoso Vincent Larderet .... Larderet opens his CD with a moving exploration of Après une Lecture de Dante with a tortured lyricism unmatched by many of his contemporaries who play it. I was stunned the first time I heard his performance. In our interview below, he describes lyricism as “an essential facet of my musical conception. The piano must be able to sing like the human voice.” "
Jan 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "Jack Kohl is an American pianist and writer with three novels and two essay collections to his credit. His new collection, From the Windows of Diligence: Essays from a Standing Pianist, has drawn critical acclaim in the U.S. and Europe. In these reflections, he examines the power of ‘hack pianism’, the metaphor of running vs. the piano, and the ‘hidden gift’ of the Covid virus pandemic on solitary practicing. Robert Beattie spoke to Kohl about his music training and how he made the transition from pianist to author. (This edited interview was first published on www.Seenandheard-international.com and is reproduced with permission.)"
Dec 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "Freedom in Beethoven’s music takes many, frequently overlapping forms. There is heroic freedom in the Eroica (1803), freedom from political oppression in the Egmont Overture (1810), artistic freedom and innovation in the Ninth Symphony (1824). Today, Beethoven’s music remains deeply connected with a true humanism, which has the principles of freedom and self-determination at its heart. The composer’s music grew out of the age of European Enlightenment, which located human reason and the self at the centre of knowledge......"
Nov 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "One of the most durable tales in Western civilization – the legend of Faust – is brilliantly rendered in a piano adaptation, performed this week by the multi-talented Australian musician of German/Slovenian parentage, Ashley Hribar. A new recording of the music, now available digitally, will appear as a CD in the New Year. Hribar calls his recording, “Faust: A Mortal’s Tale”.  It is a personal musical reflection on the Faust story, loosely based on the 1926 silent film by Wilhelm Friedrich Murnau."
Aug 6th 2020
EXTRACT: "For 60 minutes, my mind was clear, the air was clean and the sound heavenly. It was my honor and privilege to have been there."
Jul 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "Scarlatti sonatas are enjoying a popular surge in recent years, tempting pianists –Europeans, Americans, Asians -- to try to master their broad range. Margherita has some advice: “Don’t be afraid to slow down, to speed up, to play the truly singable melodies with a quasi-Romantic feeling.” "
Jul 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "The dizzying output of John Cage the musician, the poet, the writer, the thinker, the artist, was so prolific that one of his sidelines – his interests in wild mushrooms -- has been almost overlooked. A new a two-volume set of books, beautifully designed by Capucine Labarthe, packaged in an elegant slipcover, seeks to fill this gap."
Jul 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "In our chat by telephone, Paley spoke from his Paris apartment and asserted his belief that Rameau was “the greatest French composer ever. Pure genius and very special colors.” He acknowledges his extensive research into the period of Rameau’s life (1683-1764) in order to recreate the spirit of the time."
Jul 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "In A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and subsequent films, Morricone opted for an unprecedented fusion of archaic-sounding lines in the melody, reminiscent of medieval modal music. He intermixed this sound with contemporary pop touches (the Fender electric guitar), wordless choirs, unusual instruments (Jew’s harp, ocarinas, mariachi trumpets…) and ambient sounds (whip cracks, whistles, gunshot, coyote’s howls). He also infused scores with his trademark humour. This can be heard in the comedy western Il Mio Nome è Nessuno (My Name is Nobody, Tonino Valerii, 1973) where a toy trumpet toots bits of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries."
Jul 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Question: Are you collaborating with living composers? Answer: Yes, Scott Wollschleger sends me unfinished new works every month. Keeril Makan is working on a piano concerto. Melaine Dalibert has dedicated several recent works to me. There are more names on the horizon. But these are the three where I feel I can have a big impact on their careers, and all three write music that I feel born to play. That combination of things is important to me."
Jun 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Question: How do you see your musical mission today? Answer: My real passion in music is to resist popularity rankings and market forces. In my view, these currents impoverish our cultural richness........."
May 1st 2020
EXTRACT: Alessandro Deljavan: "I bought a former convent 40 kilometers from Pescara, in Villamagna. It's very important for me to breathe clean air and live as simply as possible. Life in a giant city full of cars and smog is hard for me to imagine. My perspective is always to live fully. My aspirations for the best musical experiences guides my decisions and over the past several years I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some wonderful musicians—these experiences have brought me a sense of optimism for what might lie ahead.”
Apr 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "Federico Mompou, the reclusive Catalonian composer whose calm, spare piano writing is currently enjoying a rebirth, might well look askance at any effort to pull him forward into modern mode. Such was never his genre but that’s precisely what one of his ardent admirers, pianist Maria Canyigueral, proposed to do. The result is her intriguing new CD, Avant-guarding Mompou."
Mar 22nd 2020
EXTRACT: "In our interview, Prof. Réach says he cautions his students in Barcelona to approach the Variations with care, warning them “the path will be long and will require great patience”. He has personally overcome his fear of this “masterpiece of masterpieces”, having recorded them three times and performed them in about 15 countries a total of about 150 times."
Mar 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "The 88-key piano looks headed for a major transformation in the coming decades. The mechanism under the lid is based on a 130-year-old design and many specialists believe it is time to dispense with those delicate moving parts.  As innovative Australian piano builder Wayne Stuart says, “The piano has been crying out for a rethink for over a hundred years.” "