There will be $1.6 million worth of piano on stage at the City Recital Hall on Friday night. With their legs and lids removed for transport, eight Steinway grand pianos will be trucked to the venue.
There they will be reassembled on stage and tuned, ready for eight of Australia’s finest classical pianists.
In The Steinway Spectacular 16 hands and 80 fingers will play some of classical music’s greatest hits.
Conducted by Guy Noble, the pianists will work as an ensemble to perform works by composers such as Ravel, Saint-Saens and George Gershwin. ”It’s a very large affair,” says Noble. ”Logistically, it’s a nightmare.” The piano technician Ara Vartoukian will spend hours tuning the instruments.
For past concerts in Melbourne the process sometimes took all night. ”The pianos all, in essence, sound the same, so they have to be absolutely in tune with each other.”
Even after the most careful tuning, things can go awry.
The pianists – Anthony Halliday, Roger Heagney, Clemens Leske, Tamara Smolyar, Mikhail Solovei, Evgeny Ukhanov, Gerard Willems and Alexey Yemtsov – usually perform as soloists. Every now and again, Noble says, one of them ”goes rogue”.
”One will suddenly break out and play their own thing,” he says. ”I have to herd them back into the pride, glaring at them with eyes of death. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to conduct. It’s like herding cats.”
There is no repertoire for an ensemble of pianists, so Noble has created new arrangements.
His favourite is a rendition of the children’s staple Chopsticks. ”That just goes wild,” he says.
The segment titled So You Think You Can Play Scales is also a crowd pleaser. ”It’s like Piano Idol. People get voted off if they go off the rails.”
Other pieces will feature the organist Calvin Bowman and the soprano Shu-Cheen Yu. Bowman, who usually plays above the stage in a loft, will join the other performers on stage on an electronic organ.
”It’s a relief for him to be down on stage because he suffers terribly from vertigo,” Noble says. ”He’s been terrified in organ lofts all over Australia.”
More boisterous extravaganza than a recital for purists, the performance will appeal to an eclectic crowd.
”We get classical music lovers, as well as people who are just curious. It’s pure fun and enjoyment.”
The Steinway Spectacular is at the City Recital Hall on Friday.
1862 ~ Claude Debussy, French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, though he himself disliked the term when applied to his compositions.
More information about Debussy
• 1906 ~ The Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, New Jersey began to manufacture the Victrola (record player). The hand-cranked unit, with horn cabinet, sold for $200. Records sold separately.
• 1917 ~ John Lee Hooker, American blues guitarist and singer, born in Clarksdale, Miss. He began his career in Detroit in 1948 with the release of BoogieChillun, the biggest of his several hit records and a staple of both the blues and rock repertoires. He toured continually, and among “deep blues” artists, enjoyed an unusually successful career, appearing in concerts and on recordings with many of the leading figures in rock. He was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
1928 ~ Karlheinz Stockhausen, German composer
More information about Stockhausen
Read quotes by and about Stockhausen
• 1926 ~ Bob Flanigan, Singer with The Four Freshmen
• 1932 ~ The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) began its first experimental TV broadcast in England.
• 1938 ~ Count Basie recorded the classic swing tune, Jumpin’ at the Woodside, for Decca Records.
• 1942 ~ Joe Chambers, Musician: guitar, singer with The Chambers Brothers
• 1950 ~ Sam Neely, Singer
• 1960 ~ Debbi Peterson, Drummer, singer with Bangles
• 1961 ~ Roland Orzabal, Singer, guitarist
• 2002 ~ Frederick Selch, an advertising executive and magazine publisher who collected hundreds of antique musical instruments, died at the age of 72.
Selch began collecting almost 50 years ago and owned more than 300 musical instruments by 1977.
In that year, he founded the Federal Music Society, an organization dedicated to performing music from the Colonial-Federal period. The group’s 26 players used instruments in Selch’s collection to perform in more than 70 concerts.
Selch was also the owner, editor and publisher of Ovation, a monthly magazine about classical music, from 1983 to 1989. He produced the Broadway musical “Play Me a Country Song” in 1982, and in the past 10 years was involved in a series of American Music Festivals at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Selch, who received a master’s degree in radio-television production from Syracuse University, worked at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency from 1955 to 1974.
He is to be awarded a posthumous doctorate from the American Studies program at New York University.
• 2002 ~ Richard Lippold, a sculptor whose abstract works are featured at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall and at Harvard University, died. He was 87. Lippold created giant metal abstractions, many of which are suspended by wires so they appear to be hovering or moving through space.
His piece World Tree, a 27-foot structure of straight and circular metal tubes that resembles a radio antenna, stands on the Harvard University campus.
He is also known for Ad Astra, a double spire that rises 115 feet in front of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and Orpheous and Apollo, a constellation of bronze bars connected by wires in the lobby of Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.
Lippold studied industrial design, piano and dance at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago. He worked as a freelance industrial designer for several years before teaching art at the University of Michigan.
He later taught at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., and Hunter College in New York.