As seen in the Issue One 2013 edition of the Steinway Owners' Magazine.
Steinway dealers around the world are expert at communicating the unique attributes of a Steinway piano, whether it’s to an opulent establishment looking to maintain its traditional grandeur or a forward-thinking school seeking to engage a new group of young musicians. Francesca Twinn talks to two dealers who’ve recently covered both ends of the spectrum
Christmas at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi has always been celebrated with gusto, but last Christmas there was something extra special under the tree: a beautiful mahogany Hamburg Steinway Model S-155 baby grand piano.
The piano was bought through Steinway dealer BX Furtado & Sons of Mumbai, whose manager, Oliver Peters, oversaw the sale. “The Imperial is one of the heritage hotels in the heart of India’s capital,” says Peters. “This hotel also boasts one of only two wooden-floored ballrooms in Delhi, the other being the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s house). Since years gone by they have always had a grand piano in the lobby. This was the first hotel with an artist playing live music every evening.”
The Model S was bought for the hotel’s brasserie Nostalgia at 1911, which, according to General Manager Vijay Wanchoo, “promises classic evenings for couples, with live music and European cuisine flambéed at the table”.
The sale of this piano began a year-and-a-half back, when the Imperial’s purchase director Sanjay Verghese was asked to buy a grand piano by the hotel’s owners. But it wasn’t plain sailing. “He had a tough time in selecting a good piano with a limited budget,” recalls Peters. “He asked for quotations from Steinway and two other brands and after going through the quotations he realised the price of a Steinway far exceeded his budget.”
Peters spoke to Verghese and explained to him the Steinway philosophy. “After the discussion he understood what Steinway is about: build the best piano possible, simply the best. The high level of traditional craftsmanship, painstaking attention to detail and premium grade materials used to build every piano in Hamburg impressed him.”
Verghese went back to the owners and explained the Steinway philosophy to them, after which they quickly agreed to increase the budget. “The very next day,” says Peters, “Sanjay Verghese confirmed the order with us.”
The Imperial is the first Indian hotel in recent years to buy a brand new Steinway. The baby grand, at 155cm long, was first introduced in the ’30s, and that alone makes it the perfect choice for the Imperial, which was built in 1931. Upon delivery, the owners’ decision to extend the budget was seen to be a wise one. “It’s purely a masterpiece,” says Wanchoo, “which has been acquired for an extraordinary and international live music experience for enthusiasts. The whole idea is to engage the audience with soulful music while they enjoy a romantic evening at Nostalgia.
“Dealing with Furtados has been wonderful and we at the Imperial take pride in what they have contributed to music in this country. They have been extremely professional but with a personal touch; they believe in handholding the client till the last mile.”
Celebrations have also been taking place at Daynes Music of Midvale, Utah, following the marking of its 150th anniversary in 2012. Fourth generation owner Skip Daynes recounts some of the facts and achievements of his family’s business.
“Our store started in 1862. My great-grandfather was the founder and his son was appointed the first Tabernacle organist at age 14 and helped install the organ. He was the organist for thirty-three years.”
It was less than a decade later that the longstanding relationship with Steinway & Sons began. “We were appointed a Steinway dealer in 1873. [Co-author of The Official Guide to Steinway Pianos] David Kirkland’s research states that we are the oldest Steinway dealer west of New York State.”
Daynes Music’s longevity can be put down to a forward-thinking attitude that has passed down the generations. “Our company slogan for many years was ‘Everything in Music’. We pioneered radio, TV, stereo, and shipped music all around the world. Nowadays our industry is very specialised,” continues Daynes, who is enthusiastic about the firm evolving as the “new old-school” — embracing technology being key to its continued success.
Daynes has found great success with PNOScan, a method of turning a piano into a digital keyboard. “We have taken this product to the highest level. Daynes is working with international piano competitions, music authors, teachers and cool kids to promote the ability to plug your computer into an acoustic piano and use new programmes that promote Steinway piano sales.
“We have added PNOScan to almost every piano we have sold in the last two years. The word is getting out! Now young teens are bringing in their iPads to plug them into a Steinway.” Daynes gives praise to his Vice President, Kerwin Ipsen, for pioneering this exciting development.
It’s not just youngsters who are being won over by the new technology. Daynes tells the story about a couple, Ian and Anette, who came in looking for a used Steinway. “We had a very nice B in the warehouse, with carved legs and sides, made in the 1940s. It had one small crack in the soundboard, with the dark mahogany needing refinishing, action parts and strings. Anette called it a ‘funky’ piano.
“Money was no object but Ian said she couldn’t have it! Too big, needed work etc. The next day I talked him into seeing PNOScan. We pulled up ‘Home Concert Extreme’ and a keyboard appeared on the bottom of the laptop screen showing him in red where to put his finger. The orchestra played until he found the next red marked key. ‘We need this on our Steinway,” he said. Anette looked confused. ‘You know,’ he went on, ‘the one in the warehouse... the funky one.’
A SOUND INVESTMENT
A Steinway & Sons piano isn’t just a beautiful instrument, it is also a shrewd investment. Steinways normally sell on for 85 per cent of the price of a new piano. And because they can last for over 100 years if properly cared for, you could find yourself making your money back in time. That’s why it made sense for the Imperial Hotel, New Delhi, to find the extra budget to buy its new Steinway Model S.
It helps to have a bank that understands the value of art and beauty, such as Swiss private bank Lombard Odier, which manages investments for private and institutional clients and pays particular interest to their long- term ambitions and hopes, from owning an outstanding musical instrument to sponsoring music at the highest level.
With the right planning and advice, that new Steinway need not be a pipe dream.
“We refinished, rebuilt and delivered it to them in their beautiful home. It is a treasure for Ian and a centerpiece for Anette.”
Daynes, who helped launch the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition in 1976 by donating a Steinway piano worth over $50,000 to the winner, is proof that longevity comes from embracing the new, and he is passionate about nurturing young pianists. His latest venture is UPlay, a collaboration with the University of Utah and music software developer ePiano, which takes the form of an online piano lab for elementary schoolchildren. UPlay offers kids who would not normally have the privilege of access to a piano a chance to learn the instrument online.
“Our store is now 150 years old and I am 74. If we do not join our world, we will be left behind,” he says. And then with characteristic determination he proclaims, “We will not be left behind!”