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MMD > Archives > April 1997 > 1997.04.03 > 07Prev  Next

Concert Grand Reproducing Pianos
By Craig Brougher

With all respect, Robert Taylor is partly correct in regard to the concert rolls intended to be played with full orchestra-- on occasion-- in some discrete places in the score. However I have to take exception to his universal characterization that all concert rolls were the same, coded the same way, and were all 'way too loud for home use. That is not at all true. He wrote:

> It must be remembered that if a piano plays a concerto with
> orchestra, that the piano must play extremely loud to be heard in
> certain passages. If that same piano and roll were to be transferred
> to the ordinary living room, the results would not be very musical.
> To begin with, the orchestra just won't fit into the living room. So
> in the case of these special concert demo rolls, yes they are coded
> differently. They are coded extra loud. The reason for the different
> coding is not the piano or its size but rather the intended LOCATION
> of the performance.

I think that Robert Taylor is confusing the concert accompaniment rolls with the stage solo rolls. There were different concert rolls, of course. Some were intended to be played with the orchestra. Some were not so intended. I hope that those following this thread do not leave with the impression that the solution was simple -- you just jack the expression up to play louder. That is absolutely not the case at all!

I don't want readers to MMD thinking that artists on the concert stage playing piano solos purposely play louder so they can be heard. That is absolutely not correct! However, an accompaniment roll is certainly coded with the orchestra in mind. Concerning solo rolls, however-- which is what we were discussing in regard to the Steinway DR to begin with:

Any concert pianist knows full well that it is not his responsibility to ignore artistry and be obligated to bang away at the piano so that the folks in the nose-bleed section can hear. He is an artist, and that is the definition of an artist. So it stands to reason that were the Duo-Art or Ampico people wishing to duplicate his feat, they would want their pianos to simulate an artist.

Claudio Arauo (sp?), I recall, played so softly at times that you had to strain to hear the notes-- but that was the effect he wanted. He really didn't care if you missed it. He was relying on the hall acoustics and the mikeing (later) to carry his performance. He was listening to himself!

If you are going to perform on a stage and be considered a great artist, you are NOT going to play louder so everybody can "hear it." You are going to make them want to hear it! And when they do, they have, in a way, "participated" with you in your playing. They have become one with the artist. Believe me, at no time would a true artist give up his dynamic range -- which is actually his power of performance, hence his career -- to make up for what the hall acoustics or engineer could not provide! And, they _never_ did. Bob Taylor is suggesting a compromise that no artist would ever consider and still be considered an artist.

Likewise with automata. No Duo-Art or Ampico is going to be hiked up to "Very Loud," either with zero intensity or roll coding, just so everybody can "hear all the notes." Unless the artist is playing with a full range of expression, then he is not playing well. And frankly, not even with full orchestra is he going to do that throughout! Likewise, unless the reproducing piano is duplicating the full range of pianistic expression, it is not "Reproducing." Period! What else can be said? Either the Duo-Art is able to take full advantage of the dynamics of its piano, or it is not!

I recall that the New York Times ran an article about a comparison performance and it said, (in effect) "Music critics were delighted and amazed at the realism presented by a reproducing piano." I can't give you the exact quote. But it was very clear that New York art critics did not universally commit to the anvil chorus version of Sinding's "Rustle of Spring," or whatever.

I surely think that Bob just failed to consider the different kinds of performances provided as well as the fact that accompaniment rolls with full orchestra cannot be generalized as "Louder" if they are also to be considered "Artistic."

Craig Brougher

[ Performer's comment:
[ There was a time when I manfully attempted to be heard above the
[ bands I played with -- and I bloodied my fingers in the process.
[ Later (and more wiser) I just grinned at the audience and let them
[ complain to the producer that they couldn't hear the piano. Of
[ course, I'm not performing on the big-time concert circuit, where
[ I might demand and might receive a decent piano; no, I get hotel
[ cast-offs to play upon. (And Rock-Band sound engineers.)
[ Some artists will play as loud as they can in order to be heard;
[ other artists demand that the orchestra play softer. The remainder
[ either play solo piano or find another job. Such is life!
[ -- Robbie

(Message sent Thu 3 Apr 1997, 23:31:57 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

Key Words in Subject:  Concert, Grand, Pianos, Reproducing

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