Steinway rolls in
In this tough economy, it's notable that Steinway and Sons has chosen this particular time to open the Washington area's first exclusive Steinway dealership. The new Steinway Piano Gallery in the Tysons Corner Center, just opened, will be joined by a second branch in Falls Church in January. (Steinway prepared for this step this summer by cancelling its distribution through Jordan Kitt's Music stores, which had represented Steinway in the area for decades.)
I find it notable that Steinway has a near-monopoly on concert instruments in the world (a recent company press release claims that 98% of concert pianists play on Steinways). This is a shame, since it limits the audience's experience to the sounds of other instruments. "Steinway" and "piano" have come to be nearly synonymous in the minds of many concert-goers, despite the existence of Fazioli and Blüthner and Bösendorfer and numerous other worthy manufacturers, each with a distinctive approach to sound.
A Viennese piano restorer once cited to me the adage that Steinway makes pianos for the audience, while the Viennese piano manufacturers make them for the artist. I've certainly heard from a couple of artists that they preferred the sound of other pianos, but didn't feel they came across to audiences as well as a Steinway does. And I know some people -- in Vienna, at least -- who regard Steinway's hegemony as veritably immoral, and the sound of the instruments as unsubtle, even crass. I wouldn't go that far, but I do wish there were more of a chance, in one's regular concert life, to hear a wider variety of instruments.
I'd be curious to hear from other people about their experiences with Steinways, or with other makes of piano.
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