Monday, March 28, 2011: The 1/2 Ton Gift

The Steinway Model D takes center stage at The Prague Conservatory

Riddle: What weighs nearly half a ton (990 lbs/480 kg), is nearly 9 feet (274 cm) long, has solid brass pedals, and no strings attached*?

Solution: The new Steinway Concert Grand piano given to The Prague Conservatory for its new concert hall which opened earlier this month. The top-of-the-line, Model D is a gift from the newly revived Society for Improvement of Music in the Czech Lands (founded in 1810) and one of its board members, Vladimír Kovář.

You can hear the first performance of the piano at a special concert this Thursday, March 31, in the conservatory’s new hall.

[*no strings attached: English idiom meaning with no requirements or obligations (here, a gift 100% free of charge)]

Steinway Specialties

The Steinway Model D is the kind of instrument every pianist dreams about. Each one contains more than 12,000 individual parts, includes 125 features and processes under Steinway patent, uses seven types of wood (poplar, birch, maple, walnut, spruce, sugar pine, linden), and takes almost a year to build, according to the Steinway website.

The rim — the horizontal wall just above the keyboard and flowing around the whole piano — is composed of 18 laminations of hard rock maple.

Fresh from Hamburg

Fried Dionys Weber, an aristocrat with something up his sleeve -- founding the early Prague Conservatory

Two conservatory representatives and donor Kovář had visited the company’s Hamburg showroom March 2 and carefully chose this one from an offering of seven pianos specially prepared for their final selection. Then their piano was voiced — each key was balanced and adjusted, and each wool felt hammer that strikes a string was shaped, hardened, or softened individually.

On March 24 the piano arrived in Prague and immediately took the stage, where it was adjusted and tuned.

“I venture to say this piano is currently one of the best concert pianos in Prague,” the conservatory’s deputy director Aleš Kaňka tells Opus Osm. He had gone along on the Hamburg trip.

We can’t resist asking: Did he try playing it?

“Of course I did,” he confesses. “It is a wonderful instrument.” oo

– Mary Matz

Who? Donors Kovář and The Society for Improvement of Music in the Czech Lands
Vladimír Kovář studied mathematical engineering at Prague Technical University’s Faculty of Nuclear and Physical Engineering. He worked as a chief programmer and then founded the Unicorn software company. He also plays the guitar.

The Society for Improvement of Music in the Czech Lands was founded in 1810 by a group of aristocrats frustrated with the lack of professional musical training in Prague. They went on a fund-raising drive and in 1811 opened what was later to become The Prague Conservatory. In 1919 the school was nationalized and then the Society was dissolved.
On March 31, 2010, 200 years after its origin, the Society was reconstituted, and one of its first acts was securing the Grand piano for the school, in commemoration of its 200th anniversary.

Photo Credits: Piano, The Steinway Co. website

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