One day in 1932, Josef Hofmann, the American pianist, composer, and inventor who had already spoken of the STEINWAY’s “extraordinary perfection of action,” came to STEINWAY HALL and said, “It isn’t quick enough. Can’t you make it still more sensitive, still more responsive?”
Hofmann’s challenge was the impetus for STEINWAY to become the most responsive and sensitive of any piano made. Frederick Vietor, grandnephew to C. F. Theodore Steinway, fulfilled Hofmann’s request by creating the STEINWAY ACCELERATED ACTION, enhancing the STEINWAY action to respond to the touch instead of being forced into action. Today, the ACCELERATED ACTION is found on all American-made STEINWAYS.
Laboratory tests have proven that the keys on a STEINWAY can repeat 13% more quickly than any other piano. The same features that allow for this faster repeat also provide a much more sensitive, responsive keyboard, an aspect that can be appreciated even by beginning pianists.
The keys of a STEINWAY are constructed of Bavarian spruce. The quarter-sawn maple action parts are mounted on a STEINWAY METALLIC ACTION FRAME, which consists of seamless brass tubes with rosette-shaped contours, force fitted with maple dowels and brass hangers to assure the stability of the regulation.
1983 / “Permafree-II” action centres (Emralon-impregnated centre-pin bushings) are introduced. Emralon, the liquid version of teflon, reduces wear and eliminates friction.
1992 / “New York Improved” action geometry (imporved leverage as well as improved manufacturing precision)
2006 / Escaine is introduced on backchecks, knuckles and balanciers for quieter operation of action parts.
2008 / Climate control and daily computer measurement of tolerances are introduced in the action department for making the world’s finest piano action parts.
Master pianist and U of A music professor Jacques Després knows playing on a great piano is key to his talented students giving their best performances. U of A music students have access to renowned instructors and many opportunities to perform, but the concert pianos have aged.
Wear and tear on older pianos changes how they feel and sound, preventing students from playing to their potential. “It’s like listening to music on earbuds with a laptop,” Després says. “The music is there but not at the best possible quality.”
150: Concerts, recitals and master classes presented by the U of A music department this year
311: Students enrolled in music programs at the U of A. Many go on to perform nationally and internationally.
97%: Portion of concert pianists who choose to perform on Steinways
20,000+: Arts lovers who took in U of A music, theatre and design shows in 2017-18, illustrating the university’s impact on the arts community
Thanks to a dedicated group of donors, a Steinway Model D concert grand piano made its debut at Convocation Hall this spring. It will be an invaluable learning tool for students.
A Steinway takes more than a year to build and is made almost entirely by hand. “When you play on a piano of this quality, you realize things about the music you would not realize on another piano,” Després says. “You’re not held back by the instrument.”
The new Steinway will enrich Edmonton’s vibrant arts community by attracting more visiting musicians, whose master classes and performances will benefit students and music lovers alike. “It is truly a special instrument,” says Després.
Did you know? Laboratory tests have proven that the keys on a STEINWAY piano can repeat 13% more quickly than any other piano. The same features that allow for this faster repeat also provide a much more sensitive, responsive keyboard, an aspect that can be appreciated even by beginning pianists.
1) Balanced Rail Bearing
The balance rail bearing, as you can see in the illustration taken from the 1931 patent, is a rounded felt-covered piece of maple, which serves as the fulcrum on which the key pivots. Only STEINWAY incorporates a rounded surface; other brands have flat rail bearings.
Why is a Rounded Surface Important?
Scenario 1: Imagine a long plank balanced on a flat piano bench. It’s easy to place the plank so that it balances. The plank can be moved slightly one way or the other without either end touching the ground.
If you place your hand on one end and press very lightly, the plank might bend a little but the other end will not move. As you gradually press harder, the other end of the plank will eventually move, but only after you have applied considerable pressure.
Scenario 2: Now imagine the same situation but with a round surface on top of the flat bench. In this case the plank moves easily (friction free), and it is somewhat difficult to balance; once balanced, pressure on either end will cause the opposite end to move.
This principle underlies every STEINWAY action. The benefit is that the STEINWAY keys move friction free on the rounded balance rails making for the most responsive action possible.
2) Weighted Keys
The second distinguishing factor in the touch is the weighting of the keys: Larger weights are placed closer to the balance rail bearing, causing the keys to return faster.
So why doesn’t every piano manufacturer incorporate these features? In one word: Time. Every key found on STEINWAY pianos is individually weighed off — a remarkably time consuming process.
Because the STEINWAY action has a much more sensitive fulcrum than actions of other pianos, all other action-related regulation is also more sensitive. The sensitive fulcrum of a STEINWAYaction increases the complexity of all parts of the action.
STEINWAY, of course, is happy to put in the extra work, especially when the result is the most responsive piano action in the world. As the founding credo states “Build the best piano possible.”
Our very own Angela Cheng shares her personal relationship with music and the power of its universal language. Piano lessons can have a greater impact than you can imagine!
I was 11 years old and didn’t speak a word of English when we arrived in Edmonton from Hong Kong. I was placed in seventh grade – junior high – while my younger sister went to elementary school with our four cousins. It was lonely. And failing everything except mathematics was heartbreaking.
So I begged my mother for piano lessons. I would love to say that I had been a devoted musician from the time I was four years old – I wasn’t. But I think I knew that when I couldn’t communicate with words, I could with music. And that music would help me feel some kind of connection, some continuity.
But it was a hard time for my family. My mom was a school principal in Hong Kong, but she gave that up to come to Canada and work in a factory so my sister and I could have a better future. Even so, she found a way to get me those lessons.
Every Saturday, I took several buses to get to Alberta College on the south side for my piano lesson. I’d spend the whole day there practicing, and then my teacher would drive me home. On Sunday it was the same thing, but we were placed in chamber groups. I remember playing in a trio and with a violinist and a cellist, even though I couldn’t speak English. It didn’t matter because music really is a universal language. Those are very happy memories for me.
I’m so grateful to my mother for finding a way for me to take those lessons, and for bringing us to Canada. I’m also grateful to the people of Edmonton. After a determined music teacher convinced me that music – not medicine – should be my life’s work, a group of Edmonton women set up a scholarship for me. They created a foundation and held bake sales, raffles, bingos, book sales – you name it – to raise enough money to send me to Juilliard in New York.
I know that everything I do is possible because of the people who supported me along the way. I live and teach in Ohio now, but Edmonton is my home. Every time I get a chance to play here, I treasure it.
— Angela Cheng, former Alberta College Conservatory student
Angela is an orchestral soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. She has appeared with more than 100 orchestras around the world and is known for her remarkable technique, tonal beauty and insightful musicianship.
Angela is playing a concert at MacEwan on June 2 in celebration of the Muttart Foundation’s 65th Anniversary. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to order tickets.
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Steinway recently introduced this high-tech self-playing concert grand piano called the Spirio. Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY
Steinway is striking a chord with a new segment of buyers. And some don’t even know how to play the piano.
The key to its newfound success? A technologically sophisticated self-playing grand piano that retains the 165-year-old brand’s rich musicality.
Made in concert with piano engineer Wayne Stahnke, the Spirio uses a mobile app and an iPad included with the purchase to activate the performances of masterful artists such as David Benoit and Bill Charlap.
“It’s a player piano, but we call it a re-performance piano,” CEO Ron Losby said in an interview. “It is a seamless melding of 21st-century technology and Old World craftsmanship.”
The path to a self-playing piano came about after hedge fund manager John Paulson’s Paulson & Co. acquired Steinway in 2013. Paulson was riding high at the time after famously reaping billions from his bet against the housing market.
Yet just a few years ago, the piano maker’s sales weren’t so melodic as young Americans turned away from music for other pursuits. Also crippling: The Great Recession ushered in tighter spending among concert halls and other institutional buyers. From 2007 to 2012, Steinway sales had slumped 13%.
Paulson’s personal love of the piano traces back to his formative years as a kid, when his piano-playing sisters begged his father for a Steinway. His family couldn’t afford it at the time, but Paulson’s father scraped together enough money to instead purchase a baby grand piano.
“But it wasn’t a Steinway, and I remember my sister crying at that time — and I realized how powerful the draw was for musicians to play on Steinway,” Paulson, who could not be reached for comment for this story, said in a video interview posted by the company. “My viewpoint is you can’t have too many Steinways.”
Steinway began spending heavily to develop the Spirio self-playing piano, which made its debut in 2016, and expand sales in foreign markets.
Steinway has hundreds of hours of performances available on the Spirio, which uses a complex system of optical sensors and proprietary software to translate hammer velocity and ensure proper pedaling. Owners get free access to the growing catalog.
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Steinway & Sons is proud to announce the addition of Tania León to the roster of Steinway Artists, a select and prestigious group of pianists who have chosen to perform exclusively on Steinway pianos. León is now in the company of immortal legends Sergei Rachmaninoff, Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, and Nina Simone and contemporary icons Thomas Adès, John Corigliano, and Ahmad Jamal, among others.
Havana-born, Grammy-nominated Tania León is world-renowned as a composer and conductor and recognized for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations. Her commissions include works for the National Endowment for the Arts, The Library of Congress, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others. Her works have been performed by orchestras around the world, and she has collaborated with such authors and directors as John Ashbury, Margaret Atwood, Rita Dove, Jamaica Kincaid, Mark Lamos, Julie Taymor, and Derek Walcott.
“Tonyia’s energy and passion are unsurpassed, and her artistry is the absolute gold standard.”
CEO, STEINWAY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
León has lectured at Harvard University and at the prestigious Mosse Lecture series at the University of Humboldt in Berlin. León was also Visiting Professor at Yale University and Guest Composer/Conductor at the Hamburg Musikschule, Germany and the Beijing Central Conservatory, China.
León is both a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the founder of the Composers Now festival in New York City. Her work with Composers Now was honored by a proclamation by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio naming February 1st as “Composers Now Festival Day.” The proclamation recognizes Composers Now as an ally in empowering living composers from many different global traditions and heritages.
A professor at Brooklyn College since 1985 and at the Graduate Center of CUNY, León was named Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York in 2006. In 2010 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her honors include the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and Guggenheim Fellowships. In 2012 she received both a Grammy nomination (for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition”) and a Latin Grammy nomination (for “Best Classical Contemporary Composition”) and in 2013 she was the recipient of the prestigious 2013 ASCAP Victor Herbert Award.
“STEINWAY inspires me as a player, and as a composer.”
“Tania León is one of the most renowned and sought-after composers and conductors of our time,” said Ron Losby, Chief Executive Officer of Steinway Musical Instruments. “She is a visionary artist and a tireless advocate for music, dance, artistry, and education. We are thrilled to have her join the roster of Steinway Artists. Her energy and passion are unsurpassed, and her artistry is the absolute gold standard. Her values are very much aligned with those of Steinway & Sons; this is a partnership of which we are very proud.”
“Steinway inspires me as a player, and as a composer,” León said.
For more information on Tania León, visit www.tanialeon.com.
STEINWAY PREFERRED BY 95% OF CONCERT PIANISTS
Pianists performing with the world’s major symphonies continue to overwhelmingly choose STEINWAY & SONS, as evidenced by STEINWAY’S most recent “Box Score,” a yearly survey taken following each concert season to assess piano preference; during the 2016–17 season, 95% of piano soloists performing with orchestras played on STEINWAYS.
The survey includes data from 388 performances with 70 orchestras around the world. These orchestras reported that 388 of their piano soloists performed on STEINWAY & SONS instruments. The rating is consistent with results of surveys throughout the last decade. STEINWAYS have never accounted for less than 95% of the performances reported in a given year. It is this data that consistently supports the assertion that STEINWAY is the choice of 9 out of 10 concert artists and is the preferred instrument of countless pianists, professional and amateur, throughout the world.