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#2041816 - 03/02/13 11:28 AM Pianomania documentary
Euan Morrison Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/05
Posts: 1588
Loc: Edinburgh
I watched an interesting dvd documentary last night, called 'Pianomania'.

It's a journey behind-the-scenes of the concert hall, focusing on Steinways (head?) piano tuner, Stefan Knüpfer and his struggles to keep the world's top pianists happy with their instruments and sound.

It's not the easiest 90min documentary I've ever watched, but it's worth it to see the absolutely insane attention to detail and strive for perfection from both the pianists and the tuner himself - trying to prepare pianos for both concert use, and also recording.
Definitely worth a watch, if you can get it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pianomania

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#2041834 - 03/02/13 12:11 PM Re: Pianomania documentary [Re: Euan Morrison]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
Saw it on Netflix...outstanding for people who love piano.

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#2041887 - 03/02/13 02:39 PM Re: Pianomania documentary [Re: Euan Morrison]
UKPianoMan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/13
Posts: 43
Loc: London, UK
I too watched this only a few days ago. Interesting to see the work of Piano technicians, also a nice accompaniment to The Making Of Steinway L1037 (which unfortunately I haven't seen for a few years). I admire the technician's work having to constantly adjust tuning and action, among a million other things, to satisfy their customers.
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#2041933 - 03/02/13 04:33 PM Re: Pianomania documentary [Re: UKPianoMan]
Euan Morrison Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/05
Posts: 1588
Loc: Edinburgh
Originally Posted By: UKPianoMan
I too watched this only a few days ago. Interesting to see the work of Piano technicians, also a nice accompaniment to The Making Of Steinway L1037 (which unfortunately I haven't seen for a few years). I admire the technician's work having to constantly adjust tuning and action, among a million other things, to satisfy their customers.


Thanks, I hadn't heard of that documentary before, so off to order it. Looks interesting!

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#2041967 - 03/02/13 05:49 PM Re: Pianomania documentary [Re: Euan Morrison]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
Yes saw this a while ago. It's a bit dry and quite a bit on logistics and technical aspect of dealing with concert pianos and piano artists. It's worth watching for those interested in the life of a top piano tech.
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Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci

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#2043844 - 03/06/13 09:35 AM Re: Pianomania documentary [Re: Euan Morrison]
Brad Hoehne Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/22/11
Posts: 375
Loc: Ohio
I was browsing through NetFlix last night and ran across Pianomania, which I enjoyed very much as it expressed a great love for the beauty and nuances of the piano sound. Piano tech Stefan was a delight to meet. He seemed creative, passionate, resourceful, funny, and looked a bit like a younger brother of Garrison Keillor.

I didn't find the film dry at all, and there were several times when I laughed out loud. It's hard not to get sucked into the passionate enthusiasm with which these artists and technicians pursue the smallest detail of their work. (I was reminded of documentaries I'd seen about Glenn Gould.) I thought it was particularly funny when Stefan made a phone call to look for someone "important" to give weight to his request to scrounge up some movers at a late hour drag out piano #780 from the basement at Pierre's last minute request. Polite by nature, he didn't want to impose too much on anyone, but he had to get this one small task accomplished, so he enlisted "inside help." Brilliant.

Regarding the central theme of the film, I remember a few clear instances when the changes and tweaks he made to the pianos sang out to me. First, when Stefan was installing the sound reflectors on top of the piano and testing out how the higher register sound projected into the hall, the difference between the sound with and without a reflector as it died away in the room was clear. Second, when working Alfred Brendel, they seemed to run into a number of notes that were slightly "deader" than others. (This calls to mind another funny moment when Stefan walks towards the camera to leave Brendel alone with a freshly tuned piano, takes about five steps while Brendel plays, and then turns right back around again to fix something they both have clearly heard.) Most of what was done for Brendel in evening out the tone was fairly clear to me.

However, the documentary or my system streaming a video through NetFlix, it seems, did not readily allow me to hear most of the changes that Stefan was making. Perhaps somewhere in the chain of recording, digitizing, compressing, streaming, and filtering sound through my fairly good( though hardly superlative) sound system's speakers, something was lost. Because of this, the film gave me the impression (perhaps untrue) that these artists are living in a realm of subtlety and nuance that most of us will never- or are, indeed, unable- to hear. Or am I just insensitive?

Would the changes be clearer standing at the side of the piano? Or are these artists pushing for a tonal balance so refined that only they can appreciate it. In other words, are the sonic nuances in the recordings they make only really able to appreciated by those at their own level of mastery?

However, I wondered if what Stefan was doing was working as much on the minds of his pianist customers as he was on the pianos themselves. That he would be able to make, say, Steinway #245 more "chorus-like" or more "clavichord-like" with a little tweaking and voicing seems to me the most ephemeral of ideas. Since the changes were so subtle, I suspected, while watching, that much of his job was one of salesmanship- that is, one of convincing his charges that the piano was, indeed, as they liked it.

I wondered, too, about the amount of work and people involved in making a classical piano recording. Classical music (indeed music in general these days), does not sell all that well. With so much involved in getting all the nuances right, and the obvious costs involved in paying the technicians, for the hall, and in renting, moving, and servicing the instrument, I wonder how likely it is for the record label to break even on such an endeavor.


Edited by Brad Hoehne (03/06/13 10:34 AM)
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Casio Privia PX-330

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Chopin Etudes op 10 #12 "Revolutionary" and op 25 #2
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