Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Steinway is Grand!

The Flynn Center and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO) have collaborated to purchase a new 9-foot Steinway grand piano. The concert piano made its Flynn MainStage debut on March 10, when acclaimed pianist Joseph Kalichstein (the artistic advisor for chamber music to Washington, DC's Kennedy Center and artistic director of its Fortas Chamber Music Concerts) performed Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor with the VSO.

Pianist/bandleader Bill Charlap gives the debut jazz performance on the Flynn’s new Steinway grand piano on Saturday, April 21 at 8 pm. Charlap, widely hailed as one of the great contemporary jazz pianists for his elegant arrangements of standards from the Great American Songbook and jazz classics, will perform in a fantastic jazz double-bill with Kurt Elling, DownBeat magazine's Male Jazz Vocalist of the Year many times over.

The piano—the 577,721st built by New York's Steinway & Sons company—will be housed at the Flynn for use by both organizations; it will also be available for use by other organizations.

Raising funds for the purchase of such an outstanding instrument was a challenge for the two non-profit arts organizations, both of which are also raising ongoing funds for operations. The Flynn and the VSO were fortunate to secure generous assistance: the State of Vermont provided funding to the VSO through a special appropriation and, more recently, the Flynn has sought gifts from several donors and will be asking others to help complete payment on the instrument by June 30. (To help, contact Andrea Rogers, executive director of the Flynn Center: 802-652-4504 or arogers@flynncenter.org.)

Arrangements for the sale of the new piano were made through Frederick Johnson Pianos of White River Junction, the exclusive dealer for Steinway & Sons pianos in Vermont. On Tuesday, February 27, Dale Howe of Frederick Johnson Pianos and Alan Jordan met renowned concert pianists Jonathan Biss and Benjamin Hochman (both of whom have appeared with the VSO, and were recommended by VSO Music Director Jaime Laredo) at the Steinway factory in Astoria, NY.

Five brand new instruments were arranged in the selection room, and for the next 75 minutes, the two pianists tested each piano. Moving from one instrument to the next, they played excerpts from their vast piano repertoire. One would listen while the other played. At other times, they’d sit at two different keyboards and play to each other. The choices were narrowed. In the end, number 577721 was selected. It was the most recently completed piano of the five, finished just two days earlier, according to Steinway technician Dirk Dickten.

Even with the arduous selection process, there’s still a little bit of chance involved. A brand new piano is "raw" and it will take several years for it to settle in. Over time, the instrument will develop more depth in its sound, and will stabilize so that its tuning and regulation will be sustained longer. Right now, it’s a really good piano. In another two or three years, it should be a truly great piano.

The Flynn and the VSO thank the State of Vermont, Amy Tarrant, and an anonymous friend for helping make the down payment needed so the piano could be available for the inaugural performance and future use.


The VSO’s 7-foot Steinway grand piano is available for sale. The 1892 instrument was purchased and fully restored by the VSO in 1992 and should make an excellent instrument for a smaller performance venue, a school, or a church. Inquiries should be directed to Alan Jordan, executive director of the VSO: 802-864-5741, ext. 15, or alanj@vso.org.


photographs courtesy of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra

1 comment:

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