Skulduggery in Piano Land

Dear Larry,

About 18 months ago I asked if you knew anything about Cunningham Piano Company, in Philadelphia, as a restorer for my Mom’s Steinway L grand. You reported hearing good things about them, and she eventually decided to have the work done there. Her piano has just returned home from the workshop, and Mom couldn’t be more pleased. In the course of the restoration, however, we learned something of the piano’s shady past that I thought you might find interesting.

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Last Rites

I get a phone call from someone selling an old no-name upright in “decent” condition but that “hasn’t been played or tuned for many years.” I explain that there simply is no market for this kind of piano, and recommend junking it. The seller wants me to come out and examine the piano anyway, as he’s convinced of its value. More …

The Piano Move

by Lucille Rains

Scene I

The Piano Sale

It was a very peculiar piano sale. The woman saw my ad for an old Krakauer grand and called me. She asked me to play it over the phone, so I did.

“I’ll take it.”

I was astounded. “Shouldn’t you come and look at the piano?”

“No, that’s alright. The picture was good enough.”

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The Story of George

by Sheila Leverson

The Story of GeorgeHow shall I describe George? He is warm and wonderful, charming but not too overbearing, with a beautiful bass voice that is not to be outdone by the singing sostenuto of his tenor and treble. He was born in New York City around 1910 or 1912 — no one knows precisely when. At about the time the Titanic was sinking and the Girl Scouts were forming, the George Steck Company produced my George in what was the golden era of the American piano. (Thomas Edison owned a George Steck, on which his wife and daughters all played.) More …

The Piano Sale

by Lucille Rains

Scene I

It was unusual for anyone to shop for a piano on a Friday night, much less expect to have it delivered and tuned that same night, but this was a special occasion.  Istvan (pronounced ISHT-von) was getting married over the weekend, and he wanted to surprise his bride. He looked at the beautiful, high-polish ebony Kawai console that I had for sale in my home/shop and, in his thick Hungarian accent, said, “LOO-sil, I like, but must have valnut.”

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The Piano Match

by Nancy M. Williams

Nancy WilliamsIn my life I have bought two pianos. With my virgin purchase, I acquiesced to an arranged marriage of sorts, and ended up with a piano that I liked but did not adore. Five years later, fate presented me with a second chance to seek my true piano match. My first piano-shopping experience began not long after my 40th birthday, when my husband, David, enrolled himself and our preschooler, Cal, in father-and-son beginner piano lessons. David wanted to buy an upright; I suggested that we start with an economical electronic keyboard. More …

The Surprising Thing About Pianos

By Perri Knize

Perry KnizeOver the many months I searched for a piano—and the years I struggled to reclaim the sound of the piano I eventually bought—I made a challenging discovery: the piano is not just a machine. It is a living, breathing entity. It has a soul, a personality, and how it presents itself to us, how it responds to us on any particular day, changes. In fact, pianos are constantly changing. The room warms up and they go flat. The air becomes dry and they sound brittle, and in humid weather they get cotton-mouthed. Since I was in search of a very particular sort of sound personality, this discovery was disconcerting and frustrating for me. But it was also intriguing. More …