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 larry@michellespiano.com – 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!

Pianist Hailey Sun

Pianist Haily SunMaking her debut at Carnegie Hall at eight, and winner of the Steinway Competition in her age category at Michelle’s Piano, Hailey Sun has already done more than most could ever dream!

Hailey began taking piano lessons at her own request when she was three years old. Since 2015, Hailey has actively participated in Period Festivals of the Oregon Music Teachers Association (OMTA), consistently receiving “Winner” rankings each time. In 2018, Hailey won second place at the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition and had the honor to perform at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City in May 2018. In addition, she won first place in the Steinway Competition for the Oregon/Southwest Washington State region in Division I Category. Her current teachers are Dr. Renato Fabbro and Paula Watt. In addition to playing the piano and listening to classical music, in her spare time, Hailey loves to read, travel, swim and do arts and crafts.

Hailey’s family has also just taken ownership of a brand new Steinway Model B to further enable her to reach her artistic potential. Michelle’s is thrilled to be part of this happy event!

Vladimir Horowitz playing Träumerei by Schumann

With the release of Vladimir Horowitz playing Träumerei by Schumann, Steinway’s Spirio Library now offers the listener an opportunity to hear the over 1000 shadings and variations of dynamics which they could never realize outside a live performance.

Here is the heart of the matter: no other piano can whisper like a Steinway.

Many pianos play loud (not always pleasing toned, but capable of high volume).

Only Steinway give you rapturous, riotous fortissimissimo with such a sweet tone, and yet render so many tone-colors in between its ‘thunder’ and its ‘rain-drops’.

And it is that pianissississimo that Howowitz creates in Träumerei that reveals a truly amazing and faithful rendering of the Maestro’s singular sense of touch!!

The Spirio has indeed replicated the Spirit of so many wonderful performances.

With utterly flawless nuance! Here’s why:

Spirio’s high resolution playback system uses proprietary software to measure hammer velocity (up to 1020 dynamic levels at a rate of up to 800 samples per second) and proportional pedaling, for both the damper pedal and soft pedal (up to 256 pedal positions at a rate of up to 100 samples per second).

Did I mention a Streaming and Continuously Growing Catalog is Free with a Spirio?

A fantastic library of artist performances that is growing every month.

So many compelling reasons for Players and Non-Player alike to own one!

Please contact Michelle’s Piano and schedule an audition. You’ll thank me later . . .

Carnegie Hall Preview Concert on March 3rd, 2018

“…an exceptional, gifted  young artist.”
Robert Mann, Founding Member Juilliard String Quartet

A pianist of extraordinary sensitivity, intelligence, and breadth of dramatic expression, Jeffrey LaDeur makes his solo debut at Carnegie Hall with this recital commemorating the life and works of Claude Debussy on the centenary of his death. Inspired by Couperin and Chopin, Debussy’s Études of 1915 are the summation of the composer’s mature genius in writing for solo piano. The three composers are presented in musical dialogue, tracing the unbroken line of tradition through centuries of French music.

“Awe-inspiring” and “ear-opening.”
Stephen Smoliar, San Francisco Examiner 

Sharing the stage with (his good friend) LaDeur—and celebrating his return to Portland audiences following his education at The Eastman School of Music (which began at age 15)—pianist and pedagogue, Johnandrew Slominski will perform a selection of Chopin Mazurkas and Barcarolle. In 2017, Slominski joined the faculty of Linfield College as an artist-in-residence and music theorist.

More information

I never got to see Horowitz live

I never got to see Horowitz live. I’ve listened to most of his prodigious discography on some of the finest electrostatic speakers ever devised.

I’ve watched his live performance in Moscow on a world class home theatre, and nothing in my aging audiophile’s ears can come even remotely close to the experience of being in a finely tuned concert hall with a magnificent Steinway Grand.

That transformative experience of not hearing a meticulous reproduction, but the original sound!

One might argue, the unattainable just became attainable.

Leave it to Steinway, who truly invented the modern grand piano to come up with the answer!

The Spirio from Steinway allows you an almost holographic experience of being in the room with some of the greatest pianists in the world. With thousands of audio and video available including Glenn Gould, Billy Joel, Art Tatum, and many more.

Actually comes with an iPad.

I never got to see Horowitz live . . . Spirio brought him to my living room!

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.


Melody Bober Alfred Clinician Thursday August 7th

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In partnership with Portland Music Company and the leading music publisher in the world, Michelle’s Piano Company is pleased to welcome popular and insightful clinician Melody Bober to our recital hall this coming Thursday August 7th from 9-12pm.

Melody graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana with a bachelor’s degree in music education. She later received her master of arts degree in piano performance from Minnesota State University, Moorhead. Melody credits much of her success to her influential teachers who include Joel Shapiro and Andrew Froelich (piano), Mary Hoffman (music education) and Tony Carmia (jazz).

As an active church pianist and accompanist, Melody has held the position of church music director. In addition to teaching piano in her private studio, Melody’s music experience includes twenty years of public education and two years of college instruction.

A dynamic clinician and innovative composer, Melody is in great demand at convention and workshops for piano teachers across North America. She resides in Minnesota with her husband Jeff.

Melody’s workshop will be concentrating on these components:
– Develop technic and reading skills by performing pieces in various keys.
– Develop practice strategies for enhancing rhythm,articulation, dynamics and velocity.
– Plan repertoire for your students with a fast paced review of new music.

Again, this workshop if free and open to the public from 9-12pm Light refreshments, Melody’s music will available for purchase, as well as check out the best selection of new and used Steinways in the Pacific Northwest.

Yi-Chuh Lu to Perform at PSU July 10 & Master Class July 11- Michelle’s Piano Recital Room


Yi-Chuh Lu is one of the youngest Taiwanese pianist to be getting the world’s attention with his amazing piano skills and he has the awards to prove it! Yi-Chuh has won the Arthur Schnabel, Sendei, Bratislava, Maria Canals, and many more.

Yi-Chuh Lu was born in Taiwan and at age five he began playing piano. He studied with Klaus Hellwig and Michael Krist at the University of the Arts Berlin. in 2006 he was awarded from the Vienna Cziffra Foundation for his outstanding achievements for performing the G. Cziffra Compositions. Yu-Chih Lu holds an Assistant Professorship at the National Taiwan University of the Arts.

Yi-Chuh has twenty-three concertos memorized. We look forward to hearing him at PSU July 10th- Lincoln in the small theater in the basement at 3pm, this is a ticketed event. He will be giving a free master class here at Michele’s Piano on July 11th in the afternoon at 3pm. We will be working with both advanced and beginner students.

Here is a sample of his playing:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts-Qdnz1Khk