“I know a professor who painted a piano…”
“WHAT? That damages the sound! How could he? Was it an old junker?”
“Actually, it was a Steinway…”
- Conversation backstage before an orchestra concert last week
You can cause some damage if you just start slapping paint on a piano in any old way. The frame of the piano affects the sound and resonance of the entire instrument.
It’s another thing if you are a trained artist, commissioned by Steinway to create one of their limited edition or special pianos. There are some absolute beauties that have been created over the years, and one recent one - called "Pictures at an Exhibition" is particularly stunning.
This piano was painted by the professor that was being discussed in the conversation above: pianist and artist Paul Wyse – who taught at SUNY Potsdam at the Crane School of Music until last year.
You can watch him create the “Pictures at an Exhibition” piano and explain his process in this video:
Read more and see other pictures in this profile from Steinway's website.
My other favorite of Steinway’s limited edition pianos was created in 1998 – Steinway’s Rhapsody. Only 24 were produced, based on George Gershwin’s age when he wrote Rhapsody in Blue.
They were created to commemorate the birth of George Gershwin and designed by Frank Pollaro. The pianos feature blue dyed maple veneer in high gloss clear lacquer with more than 400 hand-cut mother of pearl stars. The traditional golden bronze plate was replaced by gilded silver evoking the sophistication and style of the 1920’s. The music desk depicts a silhouette of the New York City’s skyline and the hardware is finished in a highly polished nickel-plate.
Beyond Steinway showrooms, painted pianos can also be found out in the streets of cities around the world. Rochester had the Pianos for Peace project a few years ago, and there’s a worldwide art exhibit that has brought pianos to different cities over the past three years called “Play Me, I’m Yours" by British artist Luke Jerram.
"Disrupting peoples’ negotiation of their city, Street Pianos are designed to provoke people into engaging, activating and claiming ownership of their urban landscape. Like a musical equivalent of Facebook, the street pianos together with this website, provide an interconnected resource for the public to express themselves.
The street pianos have also enticed many hidden musicians out of the woodwork. It has become apparent that there are thousands of pianists out there who don’t have regular access to a piano. ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ provides access to this wonderful musical instrument and gives musicians the opportunity to share their creativity by performing in public.
In cities like London, hundreds of perfectly good, working, second-hand pianos get thrown away each year. Luke Jerram transports dozens of these pianos annually, to countries where the instrument is rare and more valued, for the public to enjoy."
Any other interesting piano art that I'm missing?