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Frantic Freddie
02-19-2011, 09:21 PM
Another music store story,first the background:

I was working as a piano salesman at the local Steinway dealer (for you non-musical types,Steinways (http://www.steinway.com/) are one of the top pianos in the world),all Steinway dealers are required to have a 9' grand in stock for use by Steinway artists when they come to town.

So one day we get word that one of their artists is coming to Albuquerque,so the grand we had gets a tuning & cleaning by our piano techs,then it's tuned again,then packed up & transported to the Kiva Theater,where it's tuned after arrival,then tuned again before the artist's performance that night.Not knowing anything about piano concert artists myself back then I really didn't pay attention.Until the next morning.....

I was "up" that morning,meaning I got the first call for the piano department.
"Hi,this is....." And that's as far as I got before this woman started literally screaming at me,I pulled the phone away from my ear,looked over & said to the owner "Mr. R,I think you might need to take this call"

"What's it about?"

"I dunno,some woman screaming about last night's concert"

He buried his face in his hands,then told me to transfer the call.

All day long this kept repeating,with irate people calling the store,we found out later from Mr. R what had happened:

As the artist was playing,the piano was going out of tune.At the end of the concert Vladimir Ashkenazy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Ashkenazy) stormed off the stage loudly proclaiming in a thick Russian accent "I shall never return here again!"

That was in 1979 & he's never been back to Albuquerque.

OK,what happened,you ask?

The piano in question had been built,of course,in New York & stayed there for about 10 years before coming to New Mexico,where it sat in the store for about 5 years before it went to the concert.This is significant because NY's humidity is much,much higher than New Mexico's,5% is not unusual here in the summer.What happened was that the pinblock had dried out,the pins had just enough friction to hold after a tuning,but not enough for playing.
The piano had to be re-pinned,a fairly major operation that involved getting slightly larger custom pins from the factory & almost a week of work by the piano tech.

for you guitar players,a couple of years before that we had 3 brand new Gibson acoustic guitars,a J-40,a Dove & a Hummingbird that all had top cracks so big I could slip a quarter in 'em

Ben_Who
02-20-2011, 04:54 AM
I dunno. I should think that if you're doing a high-profile concert, you make more than one instrument available in the event of a technical difficulty. I'm not saying that the foremost pianist of his age (well, I never heard of him; I like Victor Borge) should bang out Beethoven on a tinny spinet, or that the responsible parties should have secured a second Steinway, but even the cheap open concerts my University put on had an upright waiting in the wings just in case.

I think that the thing that bothers me most about this story is the behavior of the star. Cursing an entire city for 31 years because one piano went glitch? What is he, two? I've seen far more high profile concerts (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_ZZI0ZX82M&feature=watch_response_rev) go off the rails and the performers just kind of soldiered on as best they could.

"Okay, Mr. Ashkenazy, your tour will take you to Barstow, then Santa Fe, then Albequerque, then Phoenix, then..."
"No! Not Albequerque! I shall never again play in Albequerque!"
"Why not, Mr. Ashkenazy?"
"Because one of their pianos went out of tune once!"

Hanzoku
02-20-2011, 07:41 AM
Exceptional skill doesn't mean they can't be exceptional EWs.

Frantic Freddie
02-20-2011, 05:03 PM
I dunno. I should think that if you're doing a high-profile concert, you make more than one instrument available in the event of a technical difficulty. I'm not saying that the foremost pianist of his age (well, I never heard of him; I like Victor Borge) should bang out Beethoven on a tinny spinet, or that the responsible parties should have secured a second Steinway, but even the cheap open concerts my University put on had an upright waiting in the wings just in case.

I think that the thing that bothers me most about this story is the behavior of the star. Cursing an entire city for 31 years because one piano went glitch? What is he, two? I've seen far more high profile concerts (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_ZZI0ZX82M&feature=watch_response_rev) go off the rails and the performers just kind of soldiered on as best they could.

"Okay, Mr. Ashkenazy, your tour will take you to Barstow, then Santa Fe, then Albequerque, then Phoenix, then..."
"No! Not Albequerque! I shall never again play in Albequerque!"
"Why not, Mr. Ashkenazy?"
"Because one of their pianos went out of tune once!"

The piano didn't belong to the store,it belonged to Steinway.No one was really at fault here,the piano hadn't been used by any artists up to that point because Albuquerque was considered to be too much of a backwater cowtown for international artists,how UNM managed to convince Ashkenazy to play there I have no idea.
Concert pianists can be some of the worst prima donnas.

BTW,those of us that live here say "If you've never lived here,you'll never be able to spell it" ;):)

Jay 2K Winger
02-20-2011, 05:42 PM
BTW,those of us that live here say "If you've never lived here,you'll never be able to spell it" ;):)

I know how to spell it, all thanks to Weird Al.

A! (A!)
L! (L!)
B! (B!)
U! (U!)
...QUERQUE! (QUERQUE!)

SuperDan
02-20-2011, 07:01 PM
My old boss thought that he could save money by only ordering a tuning before sound check and not the second one between sound check and the show. He got away with it a few times, but an artist or two reamed him a new asshole for not following the instructions in their riders for a second tuning, so from then on we got a second tuning whether it was in the rider or not. While Steinways usually hold tune pretty well even through a lot of abuse as long as they're kept in consistent temperature and humidity, the artists have been happier, and the owner of our preferred piano rental house (who also handles most of their concert tuning calls) can go downstairs to the poker room and win a few bucks between tunings.

Just to attest to how well a properly maintained Steinway can hold a tuning through abuse, we once had a poorly secured leg collapse on us while moving a 7ft Steinway grand. (I don't remember if it was just a push across the stage, or if it was the time we had one artist wanting the grand up on a 18-inch riser one night, and the next night's artist also wanted a grand but on the stage deck not on a riser. I'm reasonably sure it was the latter, but not completely certain.) We removed the pedals, placed a moving blanket on the ground, and tipped the piano onto its long side, just how it comes off of the delivery truck. Fortunately, Ron was just downstairs in the poker room, having already done a preliminary tuning, and he also keeps some extra leg screws and tools in his tuning kit, so we sent someone down to get him and he was able to re-secure the leg. He checked the tuning of the piano after that, and didn't need to adjust a thing.

Freddie, I'm surprised your shop didn't use piano humidifiers in that environment. While I was in college in Wisconsin (humid summers, dry winters), my university had all of its grand pianos and two of its uprights fitted with piano humidifiers, which were always kept plugged in and filled during the dry winter months. We were also fairly anal about keeping these nicer pianos covered when not in use no matter what season it was.

TheSHAD0W
02-20-2011, 08:25 PM
A! (A!)
L! (L!)
B! (B!)
U! (U!)
...QUERQUE! (QUERQUE!)

I always thought it was "Albaquirky". :D

lobo94
02-21-2011, 02:27 AM
The piano didn't belong to the store,it belonged to Steinway.No one was really at fault here,the piano hadn't been used by any artists up to that point because Albuquerque was considered to be too much of a backwater cowtown for international artists,how UNM managed to convince Ashkenazy to play there I have no idea.
Concert pianists can be some of the worst prima donnas.

BTW,those of us that live here say "If you've never lived here,you'll never be able to spell it" ;):)

"grin" I grew up there.

jedimaster91
02-23-2011, 02:47 PM
well, I never heard of him; I like Victor Borge

Victor Borge FTW!

Concert pianists can be some of the worst prima donnas.

So can music majors. Li'l Sis was terrifed to use the pianos at college for this very reason. Li'l Sis, while not a music major, has been playing since she was 8 (turning 21 this year) and has some 1337 sight reading skillz. All she really wanted was a place to tinker once in awhile to keep her skills up. Lucky for her, the music department chair was very nice and told her if no one was using a room she was welcome to it.

Piano tuning is turning into one of my biggest pet peeves. We have 2 at church and the things are never in tune. Since we really only use the building a few hours a week, the heat/ac is left off most of the time. Thus subjecting the poor pianos to wide variances in temperature. Poor babies are out of tune as soon as the tuner leaves and they sound awful. It's way obvious on the lowest and highest notes. They're just grating.