10 Pianos - 80 Fingers

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 by Mary O'Connor | pianists


From October 5, 2010

There will be $1.6 million worth of piano on stage at the City Recital Hall on Friday night. With their legs and lids removed for transport, eight Steinway grand pianos will be trucked to the venue.

There they will be reassembled on stage and tuned, ready for eight of Australia's finest classical pianists.

In The Steinway Spectacular 16 hands and 80 fingers will play some of classical music's greatest hits.

Conducted by Guy Noble, the pianists will work as an ensemble to perform works by composers such as Ravel, Saint-Saens and George Gershwin. ''It's a very large affair,'' says Noble. ''Logistically, it's a nightmare.'' The piano technician Ara Vartoukian will spend hours tuning the instruments.

For past concerts in Melbourne the process sometimes took all night. ''The pianos all, in essence, sound the same, so they have to be absolutely in tune with each other.''

Even after the most careful tuning, things can go awry.

The pianists - Anthony Halliday, Roger Heagney, Clemens Leske, Tamara Smolyar, Mikhail Solovei, Evgeny Ukhanov, Gerard Willems and Alexey Yemtsov - usually perform as soloists. Every now and again, Noble says, one of them ''goes rogue''.

''One will suddenly break out and play their own thing,'' he says. ''I have to herd them back into the pride, glaring at them with eyes of death. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to conduct. It's like herding cats.''

There is no repertoire for an ensemble of pianists, so Noble has created new arrangements.

His favourite is a rendition of the children's staple Chopsticks. ''That just goes wild,'' he says.

The segment titled So You Think You Can Play Scales is also a crowd pleaser. ''It's like Piano Idol. People get voted off if they go off the rails.''

Other pieces will feature the organist Calvin Bowman and the soprano Shu-Cheen Yu. Bowman, who usually plays above the stage in a loft, will join the other performers on stage on an electronic organ.

''It's a relief for him to be down on stage because he suffers terribly from vertigo,'' Noble says. ''He's been terrified in organ lofts all over Australia.''

More boisterous extravaganza than a recital for purists, the performance will appeal to an eclectic crowd.

''We get classical music lovers, as well as people who are just curious. It's pure fun and enjoyment.''

The Steinway Spectacular is at the City Recital Hall on Friday.

From http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/a-piano-spectacular-for-80-fingers-20101004-164ac.html