My Own Piano on a Concert Hall Stage!

Aug 3, 2008

This past Friday afternoon, I watched anxiously as three guys from D & E Piano Movers wrapped my baby in blankets, removed her legs and pedal lyre, and wheeled her on a dolly out my backdoor and down the driveway. I decided about a month ago to use my own personal instrument for the recording of my new CD with Peter Minkler, rather than using the piano that is on site in the hall at Morgan State University where we will record. Other instrumentalists (who get to play their own instruments as a matter of course, and would never dream of trying out an instrument for the first time just an hour before a concert) simply cannot appreciate how amazing it is for me to play my own instrument on this record! My piano, a 1917 Steinway B, is gloriously dark and rich. I named her Clara shortly after acquiring her, because of the Brahmsian quality of the sound (Clara being a reference to Brahms’ famous friendship/intense love relationship with pianist Clara Schumann). The instrument has all the darkness and depth needed for the Shostakovich Sonata, the muted subtle colorations for Britten’s Lachrymae, but also the brilliance and power for George Rochberg’s Sonata and glimmering ringing tones called for by Arvo Pärt. Having the piano moved is always a nailbiter, but D & E did a terrific job; every move they made was gentle and well calculated, and I was impressed with how well and how thoroughly they communicated as a team. When we arrived at the destination, I enjoyed a moment of pride as I first saw, and then heard, my Clara in a big concert hall for the first time. I feel incredibly lucky to have this piano (thanks Mom!), and I am thrilled that its sound will be forever preserved on this recording!

On another note, the piano was restored under the supervision of technician C. Dean Shank, of Rice University‘s Shepherd School of Music (I am a proud alum!), is cared for regularly by technician Caleb Tsai and will be cared for during the duration of the recording session by technician Peter Cohn. Antonino D’Urzo of Opusrite Audio Productions is the sound engineer and producer, and the disc will be released by Centaur Records in Summer 2010.

And if you want to come over for dinner, this week would be an excellent time, as I actually have a dining room now! Amazing how much bigger the room feels without a 7 foot behemoth of a piano in it…

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Lura Johnson