Shigeru’s son Hirotaka (born 1947) assumed control of the company in 1989 and has gone on to open new factories in the US and Malaysia. He also led the development of a new series of world-class concert grands, branded ‘Shigeru Kawai’, which were unveiled in 2000. These were followed in 2013 by the GX Series, featuring reinforced hammer shanks designed to improve tone and consistency.
Kawai pianos have a strong presence at conservatoires and concert halls around the world. Key institutions that own Kawai pianos include the Paris Conservatoire, Berlin’s Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler, the Escuela Superior Reina Sofia in Madrid, Baltimore’s Peabody Institute and all four London conservatoires. Shigeru Kawai instruments are also increasingly being played by top artists such as Mikhail Pletnev, Ivan Ili´c, Can Çakmur, Lara Melda and Warren Mailley-Smith. Alexandre Kantorow chose a Kawai Shigeru SKEX for his solo recital performances at the 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.
CURRENT INSTRUMENTS Acoustic pianos The sound of Kawai pianos is clear, mellow and expressive. Jeremy Nicholas describes their instruments as having a ‘rounded European tone’ (The Great Piano Makers).
Kawai’s flagship Shigeru Kawai series comprises five models ranging in size from 188cm to 278cm. These limited-edition grand pianos are handcrafted using the finest materials, from spruce soundboards and boxwood bridge caps to hand-wound bass strings and hardwood rims. All Shigeru Kawai instruments are fitted with Millennium III Action plus Kawai’s dual-pivot damper system, which allows smooth half-pedal control.
Kawai’s GX and GL Series grand pianos were unveiled in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Both feature Millennium III Action with ‘phenolic stabilisers’ to enhance hammer strike precision. The GX rim follows a similar design to the Shigeru range, comprising alternating layers of maple and mahogany, while the GL rim is made from a single variety of hardwood.
In their upright range, Kawai produces six K Series pianos. Models upwards of the K-200 include Millennium III Action and mahogany core hammers, while the top-of-the range K-800 also offers a sostenuto pedal.
Pricing of Kawai’s grand pianos starts at £9,888 for the GL-10 up to £127,999 for
Kawai grand pianos Model Length cm Weight kgs SK-EX 278 504 SK-7 229 400 SK-6 214 382 SK-5 200 351 SK-3 188 334 SK-2 180 324 GX-7 229 400 GX-6 214 382 GX-5 200 351 GX-3 188 334 GX-2 180 324 GX-1 166 314 GL-50 188 334 GL-30 166 312 GL-10 153 282
Kawai upright pianos Model Height cm Weight kgs K-800 AS 134 284 K-600 134 280 K-500 130 238 K-300 122 227 K-200 114 208 K-15 E 110 196
the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX. Uprights cost from £3,555 for the entry-level K-15 E to £11,999 for the K-800 AS. Kawai’s ultra-slow ‘Soft Fall’ fallboard comes as standard with all acoustic instruments. Some models are available in a variety of finishes at an additional cost.
AnyTimeX3 silent pianos Four of the K Series upright models come in variants equipped with Kawai’s AnyTimeX3 silent system: K-15, K-200, K-300 and K-500. Players listening to these instruments through headphones are immersed in the sound of the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX full concert grand, reproduced by blending multi-channel, 88-key sampling with the latest resonance modelling technology. Numerous other voices are also available, including multiple piano sounds. Models upwards of the K-200 offer integrated Bluetooth MIDI and audio connectivity, plus ‘USB to Device’ functionality for recording and playback. Pricing starts at £5,444 for the K-15 ATX3L up to £10,555 for the K-500 ATX3.
Hybrid pianos Kawai’s acoustic hybrid range includes two AURES upright models: K-500 and K-300. These are equipped with a transducer www.international-piano.com
International Piano Guide to Instruments & Accessories 37