Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A piano search update

Although I haven’t written about it in while, the piano search has actually been going quite well. I've started to find more pianos that are priced better and that are in decent shape, although I haven’t quite found the exact thing I’m looking for. I looked at a beautiful used C7. It was played by a woman who passed away and her husband is trying to sell it. It is actually only 30 minutes from our house, so we went to see it shortly after I found it. It’s in beautiful shape on the outside, with hardly a scratch or mark on it, with the exception of inside the fall board, which was badly scratched from the woman’s nails. The only other cosmetic defect was the sostenuto pedal was a different shade of brass from the other two pedals. I wasn't sure if that was a question of usage or something else, and I also wasn't sure if it was something that could be corrected. That made it just like the fall board in that respect, as I’m not sure that could be buffed or polished back to normalcy. I checked the tuning on the piano with my Korg electronic tuner and found the piano was perfectly in tune. Perfectly. In fact, it was more in tune than any of the other pianos I have looked at so far. There were two things that were amazing about this. One was that the piano had not been professionally tuned in three years, and the other was that the piano was thirty five years old. 
A 35-year old C7, nice as can be. Could still be mine, as far as I know.
In all honesty, at the price the guy was asking and given the overall condition of the piano, if it had been only 20 years old, I would already own the sucker. So, age is the first problem. The second problem is size. At 7’4”, it will have to be placed in our living room, which means our house will basically be taken over by that piano. Mrs. S says she wouldn't mind, but she hasn't heard me play Piano Exercises for Dummies for an hour and a half on a booming piano in the middle of our living room yet. I think by the second of third week of that, she might change her opinion.
The GC1 in a sea of pianos. 5 year warranty, 100% trade up value, no fussing with piano movers...yep, it's looking quite attractive...
For comparison sake, we looked at some new and near new pianos at the local shop, our second visit there (almost a year to the day after the first, too, I might add). There was a very young, very clean divorce sale C1 for sale, but it was a little pricey and not quite what I was hoping for. If that one had been a C3, I might already own it, but I think it was overpriced and unexciting for a C1. I did like an Indonesian built Yamaha that I looked at, until I found out it was Indonesian. Then I played a Japan built GC1 that I quite liked. We would have the option to trade up at full purchase price if I got that one and at 5’3”, it would be much more easily accommodated in our house and furniture layout plans. We are leaning in the direction of buying that piano, once we get our master bedroom arranged and our dining room painted and arranged for turning into a music room. We also need to buy a rug to put under the piano, which will also affect our painting scheme. Lots of considerations, but good that we are getting some direction if not entirely getting closer to an actual purchase.

I've also been fine tuning (get it?) my practice routine for the arrival of the piano, so that I might actually get good enough to play the damn thing when it gets here. I’ll write about that soon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Edgar Meyer Redux

About a year and a half ago, Mrs. S and I had the privilege to see and hear Edgar Meyer as he performed his third concerto, a piece he was commissioned to write for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. At that time, I bemoaned the fact that his talent as both a musician and a composer was sorely under appreciated by the Alabama patronage. So when we decided to go see Mr. Meyer again in tandem with Joshua Bell in Nashville, I was, maybe not worried, but I was skeptical and doubtful of what kind of reception he would get. Fortunately, Messrs. Bell and Meyer’s performance was a bit more dynamic than Mr. Meyer’s solo work on his concerto, the orchestra was complete and well-rehearsed, and the piece itself was exciting, enthralling, and altogether amazing.
Edgar Meyer and Joshua Bell, hard at "work"
Of course, the dynamics of a piece written for solo violin and double bass are what make it so amazing. I mean, as somebody who has arranged a piece for a 17-piece jazz band, I understand a little better than most the difficulty of making dissonant, dissimilar instruments sound good when playing together. I can only imagine, however, the difficulty of getting the highest and lowest instruments of the same family to blend as well as Mr. Meyer and Mr. Bell made them do. Mr. Meyer also managed to hit a bunch of notes right at the low end of the bass neck, much higher sounding than you would ever think you could get out of a bass. It was a fantastic performance of a highly original and interesting piece.

Hard to miss a big guy in suspenders and bow tie, but most people did
They did not announce any autograph session with Bell and Meyer, so Mrs. S and I went about our normal intermission routine of stretching our legs to and from the restrooms. While I was waiting for Mrs. S, I noticed a guy in suspenders who looked suspiciously like Edgar Meyer run past the top of the stairs with a bottle of water and up the stairs into the foyer. I followed him and found that it was indeed Mr. Meyer and Mr. Bell was already seated with him at a table with a long line of autograph seekers already queued. I went downstairs and retrieved Mrs. S and we went to join the autograph seekers. We succeeded in getting a few good autographs and a few mediocre snapshots (what you see around here).

Mrs. S adds to her pile of Joshua Bell photos. (You could tell he does this a lot more than Edgar does.)
The performance after Meyer and Bell was some long Mahler symphony that was not completely depressing. The first violinist had to finish the performance with just three strings, as he broke the E-string just before the start of the final flourish. After the clapping and “bravos” I caught his eye and I said, “Next time, maybe you should just start with three.” He laughed a little bit and said, “Yeah, maybe it is just in the way.” After that we went back to the foyer to mingle with some of the orchestra members. I talked to the first viola about his ear plug. (I’m interested in things that not everybody notices or cares about.)

And, one of three CD's we now have with both their signatures.
Not sure why I didn't write about this concert earlier, as it was the start of our bourbon country mini-vacation (May 31), but like my blog, better late than never.

Coming soon: The piano search update.