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tour de force

  • 1.  tour de force

    Posted 13 days ago
    Well, multiple meanings in this case, but I meant the quality of the piano tuning.

    Alexander Malofeev -- S.Rachmaninoff. Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30
    YouTube remove preview
    Alexander Malofeev -- S.Rachmaninoff. Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30
    S.Rachmaninoff. Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30. Soloist Alexandеr Malofeev (17 y.o.). Russian National Youth Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Dimitris Botinis. Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. 30/12/2018 С.В.Рахманинов. Концерт № 3 для фортепиано с оркестром ре минор, соч. 30. Солист Александр Малофеев (17 лет). Российский национальный молодежный симфонический оркестр. Дирижер Димитрис Ботинис.
    View this on YouTube >


    Listen to the type of playing this tuning (on a Yamaha) is going through. You can hear the unisons going out, but never very far no matter what, and on being played at a more moderate dynamic level, they actually seem to improve again, what I sometimes call a "self-healing" tuning. And then during soft solo passages, the quality is back. Plus the stretch and shaping and so on are excellent.

    Some of this may be due to a particular trait that many Russian pianists have. They can play the roof off for hours, and the tuning is virtually untouched. The most striking example of this I've personally witnessed was when Alexander Ghindin came to Corvallis for the second time. They like to offer a returning pianist a solo recital as well as a concerto, to make the travel time and bother worth the effort. Mr. Ghindin's very long recital featured all Tschaikovsky first half, and all Liszt second half. The OSU Symphony conductor asked me to check the tuning after the recital, because they were going to rehearse (Totentanz and some modern concerto, one I didn't know) the next evening. So after the recital I checked the tuning and didn't need to change a single note. Backstage I asked Mr. Ghindin if he could teach the other pianists how to avoid ruining the tuning. He just laughed. But there is a reason they can achieve this, and he explained it to a group at a master class when I asked him a question about it.

    As for the very young musicians, they are beyond praise from the likes of me. For as far back as anyone has wanted to check, Russians have put up with one horrible government after another, but their power to train and foster young musicians is unrivaled and appears to be totally intact right up to the present moment.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 2.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 13 days ago
    Really cool post, Ms Kline!  I agree with your conclusion, for a fact.

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    Ted Rohde
    Central Illinois
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  • 3.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 12 days ago
    You can hear the unisons coming back in, as well? Quite an experience, listening to that. He comes up to a moderately soft solo passage -- I just had heard that he'd beaten out this or that --- but someow the playing is warm and clean. Remarkable.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 4.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 12 days ago
    Can you summarize what he said to the master class?


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    Cindy Strehlow
    Urbana, IL
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  • 5.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 12 days ago
    Hi, Cindy

    I eagerly offered the first question, because I really wanted to hear the answer. I told Mr. Ghindin that I had noticed he could play with tremendous power and volume, yet the tuning was never hurt. I asked him if he could explain how it was done.

    He had just talked about his first teacher. The government paid a woman to give him an hour lesson a day ("but it was usually four") and his mother sat in the room and wrote down everything she said. If I remember right, this started when he was about seven. Answering my question, he told me that very early in his time with this teacher, she told him, "If you hit the piano, it will never forgive you."

    Then he talked about always having the attitude of drawing volume from the piano, instead of forcing it into the piano. (I wish an otherwise excellent Korean pianist I tuned for last week had heard of this concept!) And he talked about how his body absorbs the force of the blow, with it traveling up his arm and shoulder and ending up way down in his back ribs. He demonstrated this. So, he retained resilience instead of having stiffness. He never jabbed at keys with stiff fingers or a stiff arm.

    So, I added a second part to my question. I explained to him my theory that pianists such as him or Constantine Orbelian had so much mass and muscular strength that they never needed to strain, they always had strength to spare. (Constantine Orbelian had played the Schnittke concerto on Newport's SD-10 with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra without hurting the tuning, though listening to the alternating triple forte dissonant passages interspersed with crystal clear extremely soft passages was a hair-raising experience.) And I said that it was 100 pound Asian women who were really scary to tune for, because they needed to force the tone.

    He disagreed. "Even a 70 kilogram woman has more than enough strength to bring out the full volume of a piano, if it is used right."

    Afterwards three people thanked me for asking the question.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 6.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 11 days ago
    I would like to thank you too Susan for sharing this story. After repairing the damage to an Everett baby grand piano in a home yesterday I wondered how it had gotten so traumatized. After ensuring that both father and son were happy, and that I was well compensated for my time, I heard the boy on the other side of the front door creating music by constantly hitting the piano. Made me wonder how long it would be before I got called back.

    Sharing your story is so valuable to me, I am taking a screen shot of this forum page, and keeping it near and dear should someone such as this young man have the ears to listen to a mere piano tuner if he should like for me to share the secrets of his beloved piano.

    Sent from my iPad




  • 7.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 10 days ago
    That's very gratifying, Kevin.

    There was definitely something very special about Alexander Ghindin. He has a very deep connection to the instrument, and he could project an emotional mood which changed every second, so that nothing he did ever seemed automatic. The flow was all part of a bigger picture.

    You know how a lot of pianists, if you want to shake hands, make theirs limp like a dead fish, so that you won't heartily greet them by crushing their hands? When Alexander Ghindin shook hands the first day when he arrived, he didn't exactly injure mine, but it was close. I sort of got a "who me, worry?" feeling. Certainly not scared of a handshake.

    After the recital so memorable for the totally surviving tuning, I attended two rehearsals and the symphony concert. He certainly didn't hold back on the Totentanz. I don't remember much about the other concerto, something modern. So, he got through the first rehearsal, and the piano still sounded fine! The second rehearsal I could hear the tuning was getting a little raw, so I walked down to the stage afterwards, and he said, "the piano is ready for some tuning." We had to arrange for me to get into the hall early, because he wanted to practice at 9 a.m. So, at 8 a.m., there I was. I had a lot of minor unison troubles to deal with and of course I wanted to make it stable. At 9 he came in, and I left. As I was walking away, finding my way through  the orchestra seating, for some reason I said a catch phrase I had probably been saying too often around then: "Every day a new adventure!" And, as he was playing his warm up things, he said, "Every day the SAME adventure."

    On YouTube you can find recordings (no video) from very early, which he made with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting. He recorded the original versions of Rachmaninoff concerti. Rachmaninoff's grandson had kept anyone from performing them for decades, but finally relented. Alexander Ghindin had recently won the Tschaikovsky Compeition at a very young age.

    Someone set up the first concerto with a two piano score scrolling along:
    Rachmaninoff - 1st Piano Concerto: 1891 version (sheet music)
    YouTube remove preview
    Rachmaninoff - 1st Piano Concerto: 1891 version (sheet music)
    Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 - 1943) - Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, op. 1. Composed in 1891. Performed by Alexander Ghindin (piano) and Helsinki Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Vladimir Ashkenasy. With the 2 pianos score of the Concerto. Rachmaninoff revised the Concerto in 1917, original version is performed and recorded very rarely.
    View this on YouTube >


    It's all very familiar --- and then it isn't!

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 8.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 10 days ago
    Here's a video of a young Alexander Ghindin.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsjihGksHpc

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 9.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 10 days ago
    Hi Susan,

    Thank you so much. I am not a concert technician in the normal sense. I am a regional field technician serving a rather large rural area who are grateful for my presence. Recently I was called by a concert association to tune for Judy Collins who was performing a quick stopover in Kilmarnock Virginia during a 37 city birthday tour. Being held on Mother's Day, I tuned and voiced the Steinway B on the proceeding Friday where it remained on stage through the Sunday performance. They had held one seat in the audience for me in a sold-out audience, but I chose to give it up because I did not wish to leave my wife at home on Mother's day. I have yet to know how that performance went without my presence.

    You have inspired me so that the next concert I have been called to tune for, is the same location and piano, and this time engaging The Northern Neck orchestra and soloist. I have resolved to be present at the rehearsal, dress rehearsal and performance. When this concert association heard this, they eagerly offered me two seats in the audience.

    Several years back when I tuned for this orchestra, Craig Richie, Hollywood Film score composer was to perform The Warsaw Concerto". When I thought I was alone in the theater at the time I was tuning, as I was applying torque with my tuning lever, I mumbled "I am going to make this piano sing". Then I heard applause and a voice cheering, "That's the language I love to hear!" I looked over and in the middle front seat was Mr. Richie. I explained to him that that was my slogan because when a friend of mine, Sherwood Shaffer heard I was going into the piano tuning business he told me that that was what I was going to do. Craig was in shock, "You know Sherwood? I know Sherwood. Both he and my mother were part of the founding faculty of the Performing Arts School at UNC Chappell Hill."  I thought how amazing it was that some invisible thread was so strong it could connect people so distant from each other at the right moment. That was the moment. After that introduction I stood right next to Craig and the Steinway with my tuning hammer on the ready as he whisked through passages of the concierto. He stopped at a treble note in the middle of a passage and hit the note several times and gracefully asked me if what he was hearing was possibly coming from the HVAC in the room. With a sheepish grin, without saying a word, I reached over and brought the unison of that note pure to its neighbors. So much joy for a rural country pano tuner like myself just traveling about servicing my little route.

    Again, many thanks. You have no idea how far your posts reach others in so many positive ways.

    Best

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    Kevin Magill
    Williamsburg VA
    757-220-2420
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  • 10.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 9 days ago
    What a lovely story, Kevin. I can tell that if you weren't in your rural area, you would be mightily missed.

    Going to all the rehearsals you can can give you wonderful experiences, plus you will be on hand if you are needed. You get more chances to interact with the pianists, which is invaluable. We know certain things, describe them certain ways, and have some ideas about touch and voicing and so on, but they have a more direct connection with it, they talk about it differently, and they notice things which we do not.

    Also, if they ask for something and you can provide it, they will be very grateful. I gather from this that most of the time if they ask a piano technician for some change, they are disappointed.

    Hearing your own work as it is actually used can show you a lot of things, so the more of it you are there to hear the better. For instance, I attended a rehearsal where a favorite pianist with the OSU Symphony (often hired) played a Shostakovich concerto. I attended the first  rehearsal, and found that the piece was so full of single and double octaves (pages and pages of them!) in all registers, including the high treble, that my normal stretch was too wide up there. I took a half hour and reset it, and the next rehearsal and the concert sounded ever so much better.

    I do enjoy a luxury: I live ten minutes from the stage door, and I have an eternal parking permit for the loading dock area. Showing up whenever I'm needed is a snap.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 11.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 9 days ago
    I do have the luxury too of living near back stage doors and am occasionally called by Backline and festival event organizers to tune for symphonies and artists coming into Williamsburg, Virginia Beach or Norfolk. I’ve bailed a few black tie events from total disasters by being called right before a show when the regular concert tech could not show for one reason or another such as CBN studio at Regents University or Jane Monheit performance at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Hampton, or Williamsburg Symphony at the Williamsburg Lodge.

    I am the premier technician for rural Northern Neck region of Virginia that begins after an hour and a half drive from my home on country roads. My “In retirement” busness plan was to be a regional technician with a hybrid car and having an excellent self-scheduling service that Gazelle provides. I will not work for piano dealers. I try to work smart always, love what I do and do it with love.

    I just tweaked my business plan a little better by your contribution to my reads to incorporate remaining on scene during concert venues, even standing in the back of the halls during performances to listen and watch if that’s the only place I have, then making my way back stage for touchups during intermissions and artist feedback.

    Sent from my iPad




  • 12.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 9 days ago
    Speaking of tunings, here's one with admirable clarity, which is an excellent example of European voicing. I seldom come across good recordings of Bösendorfers on YouTube. This one not is crystal clear, the tuner is credited, and the piece is a lot of fun.

    If I can find the same piece played on a NY D I'll add it for contrast.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzKErQpZhEw

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 13.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 9 days ago
    Okay, here's the same piece well played on what appears to be a New York Steinway D.

    Maxim Bernard - Liszt: Soirées de Vienne: Valse-Caprice No. 6 (S. 427/6) (after Schubert)
    YouTube remove preview
    Maxim Bernard - Liszt: Soirées de Vienne: Valse-Caprice No. 6 (S. 427/6) (after Schubert)
    http://www.maximbernard.com http://www.facebook.com/maximbernardpiano http://www.greatconcerts.com/bernard.html
    View this on YouTube >


    It also provides something else I've kept an ear open for. The tuning and voicing, while completely adequate by any reasonable standard, doesn't have the pixie dust for me. I don't feel like I've eaten chocolate after giving it up for a month. It certainly doesn't bother me, but it doesn't have that magic.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 14.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 8 days ago
    Susan,

      Could you clarify what you mean by 'European voicings' and tunings? Is it the tuning that doesn't have the pixie dust for you?

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    Cindy Strehlow
    Urbana, IL
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  • 15.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 8 days ago
    Hi, Lucinda

    I like the tuning on the Bösendorfer, it was the tuning on the NY Steinway D, same piece, which I found adequate but not scrumptious.

    European voicing: it sounds more glistening. The sound has a little ping at the beginning of the note. It is lucid, but it doesn't have the warmth and body of a good American Steinway. The little ping can get out of hand, and it makes keeping the voicing uniform more difficult. If you want to explore this sound, the head tech of Steinway in Vienna made an excellent movie which shows a lot of it, all on Hamburg Steinway D's, of course. It's called Pianomania, and I got a copy on Amazon.

    They prepare the hammers very differently over there. They put them in a clamp on the bench all in a row, not even mounted yet, and stab each shoulder a lot of times. I'm going to have to work out what kind of needling is appropriate for this style of hammer, because eventually that nice new Hamburg B (the first Hamburg I've looked after) will start to need voicing. So far I've been leaning on what came from the factory.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 16.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 8 days ago
    I saw Pianomania  a few years ago, I may need to watch it again, as the voicing details you mention are not what stuck with me.

    I remember most his dilemma with having to work with the wrong piano (not his first choice) as well as the musician that wanted his piano to sound like a harpsichord but only sometimes or in only some areas. I think that I vowed never to complain about anything work related ever again, but of course that didn't stick!

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    Cindy Strehlow
    Urbana, IL
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  • 17.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 5 days ago
    European voicing: it sounds more glistening. The sound has a little ping at the beginning of the note. It is lucid, but it doesn't have the warmth and body of a good American Steinway. The little ping can get out of hand, and it makes keeping the voicing uniform more difficult.
    That's a very good description, Susan!
    They prepare the hammers very differently over there. They put them in a clamp on the bench all in a row, not even mounted yet, and stab each shoulder a lot of times.
    That's indeed the way we work over here. André Oorebeek writes about it very well in his book The Voice of the Piano, and there are good visual examples in the accompanying video. 
    In Northern America you can get the book from Jurgen at Piano Forte Supply.


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    Patrick Wingren, RPT
    Jakobstad, Finland
    0035844-5288048
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  • 18.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 5 days ago
    ... you can do the extensive shoulder needling with the hammers mounted as well, but if you're familiar with the hammers, doing it pre-mount is very fast and much more ergonomically convenient.

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    Patrick Wingren, RPT
    Jakobstad, Finland
    0035844-5288048
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  • 19.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 4 days ago
    Yes, great description Susan. I see that ping as the difference of a cold pressed hammer as in NY Steinway and a hot pressed Renner. Paolo Fazioli was asked that question about his hammers and he said,,, if I remember correctly, it was the Salt Lake Convention all day with Fazioli and the feed to Italy, the techs asked questions,,,
    He tried to get Renner to do a cold press. He insists the temperature is no more than 110*. He said Renner has a hard time keeping the heat down. The felt begins show damage at over 115* and they inspect each set of hammers with a microscope and send any back that show damage from heat. 
    I worked in Dale Erwin's shop so my experience is with cold pressed. I like the sound he gets. 
    Today is LaRoy Edwards 91st birthday and the PTG chapter meeting in Fresno is tonight. I am so lucky to learn from these masters.





  • 20.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 4 days ago
    If you see LaRoy tonight, give him my very best wishes.

    What you say about the hot pressed hammers makes sense, and also explains why the shoulders must be needled to give them resilience.

    It's really great that Paolo Fazioli travels to conventions. I made a field trip up to Seattle to see Faziolis brought from Salt Lake, and he was there. This must have been way back in 1997.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 21.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 4 days ago
    The question period with Fazioli was on a live feed from Italy that actually worked quite well. You could hear and see and he showed some soundboard stuff. Very interesting. I will say hi to LaRoy

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    Keith Roberts
    owner
    Hathaway Pines CA
    209-728-2163
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  • 22.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 4 days ago
    Thanks, Patrick! It's reassuring to learn that you agree with my impressions.

    Yes, I have André's book, which I got from Jurgen.

    I can see that stabbing the shoulders of hammers held in clamps, before mounting, would not only be easier physically, it would be far less risky.

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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  • 23.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 11 days ago

    I've observed the baffling tuning issues Susan points out in her post, most recently after tuning for Lang Lang here Urbana a few years ago. I heard unisons wandering a bit during the performance, but upon inspection shortly afterwards could find nothing out of sorts.

    I've also come across those pianists who manage to trash unisons, regardless of how solid the tuning, and others who perform with equal intensity but walk away with clean unisons. I perceive it as an excess testosterone, if you will, driving the piano beyond it's capacity. I'd love to have heard the Russian pianist explain his technique! Self-healing tuning indeed. I wonder if others have observed this and can offer a plausible explanation?

    Finally, you make a very good point about the Russian school of piano performance overcoming the impossible adversity brought on by the  wretched governments!



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    John Minor
    University of Illinois
    jminor@illinois.edu
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  • 24.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 11 days ago
    I've found that a piano that is tuned frequently will tend to return to it's in-tune condition. I attribute this to memory in the wires and overall stability of the system. The same holds true for pianos tuned infrequently, they will tend to return to their chaotic condition after tuning. I tell my clients, the more you tune the piano the better it will stay in tune over time.

    Another major factor is room temperature, the tuning will rise and fall with the room temp. and return to its optimal state when the room is at the temperature at which it was tuned. Ideally, a concert tuning is best done at the room temperature it will be performed on as the different sections of the piano will respond differently to environmental changes.

    The X factor that can bring it all together on any instrument is, imo, musicianship. We are just the pit crew.

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    Steven Rosenthal
    Honolulu HI
    808-521-7129
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  • 25.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 8 days ago
    Edited by Jim Ialeggio 8 days ago
    Susan, re the self-healing aspect...

    Yesterday I was tuning a really nice Fazioli...it has such tone clarity that's its really easy to pay attention to what happens to the pitch when tuning. As well, the clarity helps the Only Pure follow the pitch during and throughout the decay envelope. With a program with this level of resolution, one can see that the amplitude at which one chooses to set the intervals and unisons is an important part of maintaining the clarity of the tuning. Play the notes, and place them at mp, then strike FF and watch the pitch temporarily drift, in my case a little north. As the decay envelope proceeds, and the amplitude more closely resembles the tuning amplitude, the pitch returns to the pitch it was tuned at. In this instrument the differential was about 0.3 cents.

    Whether the self-healing is about tension being playing back and forth between the speaking length and the stabilizing length (front termination to pin),  or wave behavior in the speaking length, I do not know. I also do not know whether a poorly rendering instrument behaves differently than one whose friction point rendering is compliant. This Fazioli's movement across friction points was quite compliant. Might not happen on a piano whose segments don't move very well...not sure...something to pay attention to.   

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    Jim Ialeggio
    grandpianosolutions.com
    Shirley, MA
    978 425-9026
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  • 26.  RE: tour de force

    Posted 8 days ago
    Interesting data about the self-healing tuning, Jim.

    My guess would be that counterbearing friction may affect how different pianos do this or don't do it.

    I don't think it's likely to be wave behavior in the strings, because I can hear that the unisons sound slightly bad, and then they don't. I don't see why that would change, but the tension in the different segments of the string could definitely get non-uniform, and then possibly mf playing might get them to equalize again.

    And I agree that it takes an instrument of considerable clarity for this level of tuning stability to be heard and assessed properly. Uniform rendering is possibly quite important as well. I'm guessing that medium friction in the counterbearing probably is best for tuning stability. Too much friction, and a massive enough blow to drive tension into the front duplex segment might not render back again from more moderate playing. Too little counterbearing friction, and the tuning might restabilize quite nicely, but the unisons might be more easily driven out to begin with.

    Smooth rendering across both the bearing and the counterbearing would seem to be necessary for this level of stability.

    For clarity, Fazioli, definitely, and I've known some Blüthners which are up to it. A new Hamburg Steinway B I am lucky enough to look after definitely qualifies, lovely piano, and came from the factory letter perfect, needing no prep. just a careful tuning, a fallboard lock, and a DC system (no bucket, it's in Oregon, we're lucky here.)

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    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
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