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A Tale of Three Steinway Concert Model D

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In my 40-year association with Steinway I’ve had numerous opportunities to play and even record the Horowitz Steinway Concert D. Twice I have had the chance to meet for several hours with Horowitz technician, the renowned Franz Mohr, whose book “My Life with the Great Pianists” is a must-read for anyone who wants to delve into how the malleable Steinway allows you to fit the expectations of quirky and high-level concert performers.  

What I learned from my meeting Franz and so many other artists and technicians, as well as an opportunity to personally play nearly 1000 different Steinway Grands over the course of four decades, can be distilled into the two most essential elements that set each Steinway apart from one another: Individual Tone and Touch.

First let’s discuss Touch. There is a Steinway factory spec which puts the ideal touch-weight in the 50 gram range. (We can discuss after-touch and repetition elements, but that’s for another time). Franz told us the story bout how Arthur Rubinstein preferred his “practice piano” to have closer to a 65 gram touch-weight. A bit like running with ankle-weights to prepare for a big race, he felt that when the time came to play a concert, when he had a little bit of nerves, the lighter touch of the piano would be more forgiving, allowing him to play more freely.Vladimir Horowitz, according to Mohr, thought this was nonsense. He preferred a much lighter 38 – 40 gram touch-weight, and wanted to play concerts on the same piano that he practiced on, most often having a crane pluck his Steinway from his NY Penthouse to be used in each of his performances. (Was by chance in NY meeting with Franz the day Mr. Mohr accompanied this same piano to Moscow for Horowitz triumphant return home).

It can be said without fear of contradiction, Horowitz piano had the lightest touch of any of the modern classical pianists, and most folks who played this piano have told me that it runs away from you. “Blow on the keys and they almost move”. So is there a right or wrong? Indeed not, and this further illustrates how dramatically one can Customize a Steinway to suit each individual performer’s tastes and predilections – capable of being made one-off!

Now as for Tone, the best example of the vast differences that a Steinway can be “voiced” to achieve was made evident to me when I had Van Cliburn and Horowitz pianos side-by-side in the late 1990’s. Horowitz piano was brilliant, clear, precise. Van Cliburn’s piano was mellow, sonorous, and velvety. While not the most mellow(pianos voiced for opera or single violin accompaniment are often even more silky),the Van Cliburn piano had a warmth and roundness that most folks associate with a New York Steinway, whereas Horowitz piano had an edge that is more associated with a Hamburg than a New York Steinway. I admit I went to the showroom at 7 a.m. every morning for a week so that I could have some alone-time with each of these legendary instruments. In the end, my vocalist sensibilities had me completely enraptured with the Van Cliburn, whereas devotion to jazz had me in the Horowitz camp.

In summary, what makes Steinway the #1 piano on earth isn’t it’s use by 19 out of 20 concert halls in the world. What makes it special is the unique ability to fit the hand and the ear of each artist. Tone and Touch – Steinway alone can be manipulated to the greatest degree to satisfy the individuality of each performer. No other piano has the range of possibilities that Steinway possesses. No other piano even comes close! With apologies to a handful of other world-class grand pianos, none is so Chameleon-Like in the way it can paint tone-pictures.

Questions, Comments? Email – Thanks for reading !!

“The Stradivarius Misconception”

Steinway Hamburg D Concert Grand Piano Serial 603146 - pic 2There is a common refrain on the internet about “The Golden Age of Steinway”.

As a practical matter, this is Not a very good guide to selecting a Steinway or any hand-crafted musical instrument. 

 I want to replace that refrain with a new one:

“The Stradivarius Misconception”.

Fallacy: since a four hundred year old violin might be worth millions, the older vintages of Steinway are somehow also better than today. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A piano is a mechanical device with thousands of moving parts.

The only thing that moves on the Violin is the Bow!
So older is not better in most cases when it comes to pianos.
If we have better aerospace technology, better automotive technology, why is it so difficult to accept that there is currently better piano technology?  My experience is this: no Steinway I have played in the past 40 years (apart from meticulous rebuilt ones) – none hold a candle to the most recent years of Steinway.  In my expert opinion they’re simply getting better every year.  Veritas!

Handmade in America Steinway Sales Event




Hand Made in USA

Steinway and Sons has been hand crafting Steinway pianos since 1853 in New York.  The attention to detail and superb craftsmanship make Steinway one of the best piano manufacturer.  Henry Steinway sought out to create the best piano possible. 



Steinway History

View more information about the unique history of Steinway and Sons Pianos. It’s technicians and their lengthy, specialized manufacturing process make Steinway pianos the best available.


Portland Youth Philharmonic Fundraiser Event December 2014

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Kate Davis PYP Alum 2009 performs at Michelle’s Dec. 21st

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Kenny Regan PYP Alum- currently studying composition at USC

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Hallie Borror, Fumika Mizuno & Hannah Moon current PYP members performing at PYP Fundraiser Dec. 21- 2014

Michelle’s Piano Company believes in the advancement of music and this is why partner with Conductor David Hattner and the Portland Youth Philharmonic. This is a ninety-one year tradition and organization which is listed as the oldest youth symphony in the United States! Currently this youth organization has about four hundred students in their various orchestras of all levels. We were privileged to host PYP for a fundraising event here at the store this past December. Kenny Regan and Kate Davis, PYP Alum’s, entertained and presented a compelling case as to why we should continue to support and fund the next generation of musicians. As well as current PYP symphony performers; Hannah Moon, Halie Borro and Fumiko Mizuno who delighted the audience with Bach and other classical pieces. This partnership with non-profit organizations like PYP benefits all on so many levels. The advancement of the arts in the community, helping to raise the necessary funds in helping to enrich the musical education of our children, and continuing to raise the imagination of the human mind through the sound of music. Michelle’s Piano Company owner and staff are committed to standing alongside organizations such as PYP in this endeavor.

Press Release: Steinway & Sons Welcomes Portland Gallery to Elite Family of Dealerships

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (March 28, 2014) – Steinway & Sons, makers of the finest pianos in the world, has solidified its presence in northwest Oregon with the addition of Michelle’s Pianos to the company’s hand-picked network of exclusive Steinway dealerships. Michelle’s Pianos has been a foundation of the Portland music community since 1995. It now becomes the area’s only official Steinway & Sons dealer, bringing Steinway, Boston, and Essex grand and upright pianos to a vibrant community of musicians and music educators.

Michelle’s Pianos is a family-owned dealership offering piano sales, service, storage, education, and rentals. The gallery also hosts performances, children’s activities, and special events throughout the year. In coming months, said owner Lotof Shahtout, Michelle’s will begin a series of master classes taught by visiting Steinway Artists.

“Association with Steinway is a dream for everyone in the music world—from artists to businesspeople. I have always worked toward the goal of this partnership,” Shahtout said.

Shahtout has a long history of connection to the Steinway brand. A working musician, he was trained in piano sales at another Steinway dealership in 1990, and he received additional sales training at the Steinway factory in New York.

“My whole business was built on the Steinway approach,” he said. “Securing this partnership now feels like my comfort zone, like coming home. I love it.”

“Lotof and his wife Michelle are a perfect fit with Steinway,” said Todd Sanders, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Steinway & Sons. “They have a passion for music and for music education in particular. We’re proud to have them represent Steinway in the greater Portland area.”

To celebrate the new partnership, Michelle’s Pianos will launch a series of special events this spring. Watch for updates. Michelle’s Pianos is located at 600 SE Stark Street, Portland, OR, 97214.

About Steinway & Sons
Since 1853 Steinway pianos have set an uncompromising standard for sound, touch, beauty and investment value. Steinway remains the choice of 9 out of 10 concert artists, and it is the preferred piano of countless musicians, professional and amateur, throughout the world. For more information, visit


New Web Site is Live


Our new web site is live!  We worked with Azunga to create a new web site that was easy to find new products, allows us to add new functionality to the site over time, and is scalable for the future.  We’ve added a ton of new pianos (both new and pre-owned), updated many, many piano pictures, and updated our piano listings to now include piano videos!  Now you can see and hear your favorite pianos from the comfort of your computer.

In addition to the new piano listings and the new web site management system we have a new events management system in place.  Now you can see all the details about a new piano event in a list, on a calendar, or see a history of the previous events we’ve held.  Our new event management system even allows our visitors to export the dates to their favorite calendar so that they never forget about that next big piano recital at Michelles.  Keep a look out for new events in the future.