Since its foundation in 1853 by the Saxon Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg – who became Henry Steinway after settling in Queens, New York – associated with his sons Theodore and William, Steinway pianos have spread all over the planet. In 1875 the London store was opened and in 1880 the Hamburg factory.
Steinways remain the favorite instruments of musicians. 1,500 concertgoers practice them exclusively, and the big halls of the world snap them up. And if professionals play them regularly, amateurs dream of owning one.
Manufacturing being 80% manual, not a piano sounds the same. A “concert queue” consists of 12,000 pieces. Two years of drying the wood of a dozen species (maple, lime, ebony, spruce, acacia, beech, etc.) are required, one year of manufacture and one month of varnishing. The metal frame of the box comes from the USA and must withstand twenty tons of tension! As for the German mechanics, it is the property of the Steinway brand. The family of these prestigious grand pianos includes eight different models.
Cutting-edge research and technology
To launch its digital product Spirio/r, developed since 2015 by its research and technology department, Steinway invited its most popular ambassador, pianist Lang Lang, to Hamburg. In the large concert hall of the Elbphilharmonie, 1,500 guests attended the demonstration of this electronic tool. Once the room was dark, the spotlights focused on a wide-open concert piano and an empty stool.
On a large screen then appeared two hands running on a silent keyboard, while the instrument on the stage began to play Gershwin, its keys alone ringing the strings. Spectators were then able to listen to Lang Lang interpret “in real life” thearia of the Goldberg Variations of Bach, moreover adopting a tempo very slowfollowed by three such variations, before resuming thearia…
Virtuosos at home
HD reproduction system, Spirio/r is quite an amazing invention. The two largest piano models in the house can be equipped with it. As we saw with Gershwin, he records the performances of pianists which he then reproduces in their absence. Alive or dead, the musicians can thus “play” from platforms accessible via tablets, the database counting 343 different pianists from yesterday and today. 1,020 dynamics and 256 pedal positions were captured in real time. “You now have the possibility of transforming your interior into a concert hall and listening to the greatest pianists from your home and in acoustics”promises the advertising pitch of Spirio/r.
Wealthy amateurs and professionals
For the moment 67% of users are not pianists themselves, their objective being to listen to their favorite artists directly on their domestic instrument. But given its cost, the application is primarily aimed at professionals, who can work and develop technique, sound, musicality and play with colleagues remotely, an experience that has brought together up to 1,000 pianists! As for teachers and their students, Spirio/r offers a new way of working from home, in real time or in delayed time.