Daniel Barenboim designs 'radical' new piano

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Media caption,

Will Gompertz is at the unveiling of the Barenboim piano in London.

Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim has unveiled a new type of piano, which he says is "radically different" to the standard concert grand.

It is built with straight, parallel strings, promising a superior sound to a regular piano, in which the strings are installed diagonally.

Barenboim launched the instrument at London's Royal Festival Hall, in advance of his Schubert recital series.

He intends to perform the entire series on the new piano.

Image caption,
Barenboim demonstrated the piano at the launch in London's Royal Festival Hall

Modern pianos have become highly standardized, with few changes to their fundamental design over the last 100 years.

They are largely cross-strung, with the bass strings crossing over the middle and treble strings in an "x" pattern, allowing the sound to be concentrated on the centre of the soundboard.

Barenboim was inspired to experiment with the design after playing Franz Liszt's restored grand piano during a trip to Siena, Italy in September 2011.

"The warmth and tonal characteristics of the traditional straight-strung instruments is so different from the homogenous tone produced by the modern piano across its entire range," he said.

"The clearly distinguishable voices and colour across its registers of Liszt's piano inspired me to explore the possibility of combining these qualities with the power, looks, evenness of touch, stability of tuning and other technical advantages of the modern piano."

He developed his idea with Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene, with support from Steinway & Sons.

Image source, Chris Maene
Image caption,
The Barenboim-Maene piano is a "dream come true", says instrument maker Chris Maene

As well as the straight strings, the Barenboim-Maene piano features a double bridge and horizontal soundboard veins.

According to a press release, the piano "combines the touch, stability, and power of a modern piano with the transparent sound quality and distinguishable colour registers of more historic instruments".

Pianist Gwendolyn Mok, who plays an 1875 straight-strung Erard piano, has said that such instruments possess superior clarity.

"If you look inside your own piano, you will notice that the strings are all crossing each other," she told the San Francisco Examiner in 2013.

"With the straight strung piano you get distinct registral differences - almost like listening to a choir where you have the bass, tenor, alto, and soprano voices.

"It is very clear and there is no blending or homogenizing of the sound. It therefore gives you huge opportunities in experimenting with colour."

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