A recent posting to the MMD suggested that the piano sound on my recent
Telarc CD of Rachmaninoff's Ampico rolls resulted from my having played
the Boesendorfer 290SE piano for quite a long time in the studio, and
subsequently recording it without paying proper attention to the result-
ing tone quality.
This is about as far from what happened as one can imagine. To be sure,
the Boesendorfer piano brightened up considerably in the studio from
daily use, and several days before the recording session it was surely
too bright -- just as I planned.
The sequence of events was as follows. First the movers took the piano
to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Center, some 40 miles away, and placed
it on stage. Then we let the piano acclimate for 48 hours before
starting work. Following the settling-in period, Wayne Chen flew in
from Toronto, where he now lives and works, to take charge of the piano
for the recording sessions.
Mr. Chen was previously the piano technician for the Chicago Symphony,
but after moving to Canada he took a new position. He now maintains the
pianos used in public performances, broadcasts and recordings by the
Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Mr. Chen worked for one full day, touching
up the regulation of the piano, filing and shaping the hammers, and
voicing the piano down to the desired level. Of course, he worked in
one direction only -- downward. It is always best not to brighten
a piano artificially by using chemicals.
His judgment is this regard was augmented somewhat by the musical
advisor for the project, Gavin Martin, a graduate in piano performance
from the prestigious Curtis Institute, and a performing pianist in his
own right for several years. The other input came from the recording
engineer, Da-Hong Seetoo, who is also a graduate of Curtis. Mr.
Seetoo now lives in New York state, and he also came to town for the
recording sessions, bringing his equipment with him. The recording was
done direct to disk, without the use of tape of any kind, and using
only the natural reverberation of the hall.
I would never trust my own judgment in a matter as critical as that
of piano sound. I relied entirely on the judgments of others:
professionals whose judgments are far more valuable than mine could be.
The resulting piano sound was not an accident; it came about as the
work of a skilled technician and musicians who took their task
seriously. I hope this note sets the record straight.
[ I met pianist Gavin Martin at Wayne's studio and heard him play
[ -- very impressive. At the invitation of conductor Zubin Mehta he
[ performed the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto with the New York
[ Philharmonic Orchestra. An injury forced him to withdraw from stren-
[ uous concert work, but he still occasionally accompanies instrumental
[ soloists and plays with small ensembles in Los Angeles. -- Robbie