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music during the summer. Festival artists often rehearse at Steingraeber House, and we enjoy lots of visitors to our Steingraeber halls and selection rooms, as well as our factory tours and theatre. We have even created several unusual instruments for Wagner’s Parsifal – including a set of ‘Grail bells’. In short, Wagner is a real marketing advantage for Steingraeber.

Nevertheless, Liszt is more important for us. From him, Eduard, the founder Steingraeber in Bayreuth, learned that it is essential to combine the best possible piano sound with stability and reliability. Eduard was Liszt’s concert technician in Vienna in 1846, and was made to suffer when Liszt’s playing destroyed the piano!

As a result of this experience, Eduard built his masterpiece Opus 1 piano, combining all the elements that he considered modern as well as reliable: a Viennese action with the hammer rail of the English action, fitted into a rim which is reminiscent of a Broadwood but equipped with iron bars according the Erard system. This shows that he was an openminded engineer who was looking for new solutions. His Opus 1 is still in use, including for recordings: it continues to inspire us to be creative, open-minded and never to stop thinking about extending the possibilities of the piano.

The current trend in piano-making is for big, powerful instruments, but at Steingraeber you are focusing on soft sounds – notably your Mozart Rail and Sordino systems. What prompted you to pursue this path? We are used to treating pianists as our bosses – they are the best people to inspire us, and we learn from them every day. The Sordino system was suggested by the pianist Jura Margulis, who urged us to think about renewing the old ‘moderator’ (by Graf, Vienna) and ‘pédal céleste’ (by Erard, Paris). The arts do not stand still: our way of hearing and feeling is developing, so instrument makers should adapt to meet these new demands. Other high-end piano manufacturers mainly target solo pianists, and their construction designs are determined by the need to balance with huge orchestras in large auditoriums. But Steingraeber has never regarded maximising volume as the main objective of piano-making. Even in the age of high Romanticism at the end of the 19th century, Steingraeber’s designers were more interested in creating an ideal sound: colourful tone with transparency and polyphony. Musical ‘painters’ need a suitable instrument, just as much as the ‘athletes’!

Are these innovations welcomed by performers? Yes, absolutely. Remember that Sviatoslav Richter once told his concert technician: ‘You are responsible for the

Master craftsmanship:

carving the complex pattern on a Baroque-

style Steingraeber grand

International Piano Guide to Instruments & Accessories 63

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