Renowned pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim has unveiled a new type of piano, which he says is a “sound alternative” to the standard concert grand piano that has not undergone much change over a century.
Barenboim, 72, launched the instrument at the Royal Festival Hall here on Tuesday, in advance of his Schubert recital series.
Declaring the new piano a “sound alternative”, Barenboim said: “I’ve fallen in love with it and I want to spend as much time with it as possible.”
The exterior of the new piano looks much the same as any other modern concert grand piano, but inside, there are some dramatic differences, The Guardian reported.
Designed by the Belgian instrument-maker Chris Maene, the Barenboim has straight parallel strings instead of the diagonal-crossed ones of a contemporary piano. The wooden soundboard veins go in different directions. The bridges, ribs and bracings are specially designed and the hammers and strings have been repositioned.
Barenboim, currently heading Berlin’s flagship opera house, the State Opera, said he intended to perform the entire series on the new piano.
Modern pianos have become highly standardised, with few changes to their fundamental design over the past 100 years.
They are largely cross-strung, with the bass strings crossing over the middle and treble strings in an “X” pattern, allowing the sound to be concentrated on the centre of the soundboard.
He developed his idea with Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene, with support from Steinway & Sons.
As well as the straight strings, the Barenboim-Maene piano features a double bridge and horizontal soundboard veins.
According to a press release, the piano “combines the touch, stability, and power of a modern piano with the transparent sound quality and distinguishable colour registers of more historic instruments”.
Pianist Gwendolyn Mok, who plays an 1875 straight-strung Erard piano, has said that such instruments possess superior clarity.
“If you look inside your own piano, you will notice that the strings are all crossing each other,” she told the San Francisco Examiner in 2013.
“With the straight strung piano you get distinct registral differences – almost like listening to a choir where you have the bass, tenor, alto, and soprano voices.
“It is very clear and there is no blending or homogenizing of the sound. It therefore gives you huge opportunities in experimenting with colour.”