Tickling the ivories of Vladimir Horowitz's Steinway

Storied piano makes a stop in Vancouver

A piano belonging to one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century, Vladimir Horowitz, is attracting a fan following in Vancouver this week.

The piano, also known as CD 503, is at Tom Lee Music on Granville Street until Nov. 25, after which it heads to Richmond from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2 as part of a North American tour.

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Tom Lee Music is hosting open houses on the weekends Nov. 24 and 25 in Vancouver and Dec. 1 and 2 in Richmond and the public can also book 15-minute private appointments during the week to play the storied instrument and/or have their photo taken with it. Slots are filling up quickly. As of Monday, Tom Lee Music vice president Graham Blank said more than 120 appointments had been scheduled over the two weeks with 60 more appointments available.

It would be the equivalent of Jimi Hendrixs Stratocaster. Its one of those things where if youre a piano player, this is the piano, Blank said.

He noted the price of a new Steinway Model D nine-foot grand piano is $130,000, while the Horowitz Steinway Model D is considered priceless. We have the actual Horowitz piano, as well as a brand new Steinway concert grand, so you can compare between them, Blank added.

The Horowitz grand piano followed Horowitz, who lived from 1903 to 1989, on tour. Steinway & Sons gave Horowitz and his wife Wanda a Steinway Model D, serial No. 279503 as a wedding gift in 1934.

This piano was replaced with No. 314503 in the early 1940s now known as CD 503. Horowitz kept it in his townhouse.

He used it in recitals and recordings in the 70s and 80s and demanded it be his exclusive touring piano during the last four years of his life, including his return to the former Soviet Union for performances in Moscow and Leningrad in 1986.

During a Friday press conference, Robert Silverman, a retired director of the school of music at UBC and a working musician, played a piece by Brahms on the piano.

Silverman, whos affiliated with Steinway as a Steinway Artist, calls it an extraordinary instrument, which also has historical importance.

Silverman played on the Horowitz Steinway during a full-length concert at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver about five years ago.

Its just such a responsive instrument. Its like a violinist playing an absolutely great Stradivarius as opposed to other instruments that are maybe good but not quite in its league, he said.

The keys [on the Horowitz piano] just work in such a way that each one is capable of producing an incredible variety of tone colours whether its sharp, angular or mellow thats what I mean by responsive. It just becomes an extension of the performing artists soul.

Silverman said both the skill of a musician and the instrument on which the musician plays are important.

You can only do so much with a given piano and this does more than any Ive ever had in my experience. And, on the other hand its also a given that some people can do more on any given instrument, including this, than others. In Horowitz, there was just a match of one of the most imaginative pianists around and an instrument that could do what he wanted.


Twitter: @Naoibh

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