Journey of a Steinway grand – From London to Caracas

In February 2012 Professor Jose Antonio Naranjo kindly asked me to help The National Music Company to purchase a piano for the Sala José Félix Ribas of the Teresa Carreño Complex. My heart skipped a beat! Professor Naranjo had been after this idea for 3 years until finally the then Minister for Culture Pedro Calzadilla approved the funds. I immediately made a small list of piano technicians I know in London and as soon as I got home in Wimbledon I met with Peter Salisbury.

To explain who Mister Salisbury is I will go back to the year 1989 when I played my first recital at the Purcell Room – Royal Festival Hall Room of the Southbank Centre in London. Peter Salisbury has been one of the technicians of that important cultural centre for about 25 years. He is one of the 5 or 6 technicians internationally with the level capable of servicing pianos for the greatest pianists and who is constantly on call from recording labels and other concert venues such as the Sydney Opera House, to name just one of them.

Peter Salisbury entered  Steinway  house as an apprentice at fifteen, ten years later he was considered to be a professional. What is this training about? Peter explains that he spent three years learning to tune, three more years learning to handle and make every part of the machinery of the instrument and as many years learning the art of calibrating each sound to perfection as well as the resistance of each key and making sure that the balance is equalized. It is the work of a craftsman with  artististic sensitivity . Peter is passionate about pianos and piano work. His life has been dedicated to achieving a level of perfection so that pianists can perform on instruments in which they can play dynamics that can go from subtle pianissimos to the most powerful fortissimos and most importantly, so that we can do the full range of nuances that good pianists know to exist between those extremes. Colours, shadows, different kinds of embossing musical phrases is what we seek when we perform in order to give life to the musical works. That, in my oppinion is the true artistic purpose of good pianists … or at least those from the old school!

Peter Salisbury complained a few days ago because he says that that tradition which comes from the greatest such as Chopin, Liszt, Clara Schumann is dying and he attributes the blame to the international competitions that reward those who play fast and loud, busting strings and un-tuning the pianos from the first notes they touch because they do not care much for producing sublime sounds through relaxation, but practically these are characters that could be defined as pugilists or “musical athletes”.

In my case, I had the joy of playing pianos served by Peter in about 15 concerts with great works from the universal repertoire such as the Sonata in B minor by Liszt as well as Chopin, Schubert, Brahams, Beethoven, Mozart without forgetting that I premiered many works by authors such as Federico Ruiz, Mirtru Escalona, ​​Alfredo Rugeles, Ricardo Lorenz and was able to perform Venezuelan and South American music for the wonderful London audiences there in the Southbank Centre.
The experience has always been the best you can have as a concert pianist. To have an instrument where the interpreter can let his/hers imagination loose and where the interpreter can concentrate deeper because we know that we can let the music speak as we thought, we can make our true interpretation of the selected works.

So I did not hesitate in contacting Peter Salisbury for this project of finding the best possible piano for Venezuela .

I have to say that I went to Steinway House in Marylebone Lane and they told me that Venezuela could not buy an European piano, they had to get an American one!, well, we all know the difference! specially in the tropics, humidity does cause horrible effects on the American Steinways.

By good fortune the Southbank Centre is in a period of renewal and this is one of the pianos they wanted to sell. Peter restored it and built a second mechanism or extra action which can be applied and removed with ease. The advantage of this innovation is that it doubles the life of the instrument, in addition there is a difference in timbre or colour.

I am infinetly grateful to our dear “Toñito” Naranjo who has believed in my word and after eighteen months of red tape, elections, the President’s death, new elections, new President, hundreds of emails, linked to the tenacity the love for my country has given me, the dream of having here an instrument of this quality plus the constant moral support from Peter Slisbury and the members of the National Music Company, I HAVE TO BREATH, the piano is ready to be performed in an inauguration on August 9, 2013 at 6.00 pm.

Among the pianists who have also played concerts and recorded piano CDs on the piano in question are Eugene Kissin, Maurizio Pollini, Alfred Brendel, Barry Douglas … yours truly.

Apart from the professional relationship I have with Peter Salisbury there are two important anecdotes: he was for many years the technitian of my piano teacher in London, Phyllis Sellick and Peter ten years ago, married a pianist and my great friend for over twenty years, Eva Maria Alexandre.

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Travesía de un piano Steinway- De Londres a Caracas.

En Febrero del 2012 el Profesor José Antonio Naranjo me pidió de una manera muy cordial que consiguiera un piano para la Compañía Nacional de Música que ya el Ministro Pedro Calzadilla había aprobado el presupuesto. Los ojos me brillaron. Inmediatamente hice una lista de los técnicos de piano que conozco en Londres y al regresar a mi casa de Wimbledon me reuní con Peter Salisbury.

Para explicar quien es Mister Salisbury me remontaré al año de 1989 cuando toqué mi primer recital en la sala Purcell Room-Royal Festival Hall del Southbank Centre de Londres. Peter Salisbury ha sido uno de los técnicos de ese improtantísimo centro cultural por aproximadamente 25 años. Él es uno de los 5 o 6 técnicos con el nivel internacional que es capaz de afinar para los más grandes pianístas y quien es llamado por otras salas de conciertos como por ejemplo la Ópera de Sydney, por no comenzar a hacer largas listas. Peter Salisbury entró a la casa Steinway como aprendíz a los quince años salió hecho todo un profesional a los veinticinco. ¿En qué consiste ese entrenamiento? él me explica que pasó tres años aprendiendo a afinar, tres aprendiendo a manejar y hacer cada parte de la maquinaria del intrumento y otros tantos años aprendiendo el arte de calibrar a la perfección cada sonido asi como la resistencia de cada tecla para que el balance esté ecualizado. Es el trabajo de un artesano con oído de artísta. Peter es un apasionado de los pianos y del trabajo pianístico. Su vida se la ha dedicado a lograr que los pianístas podamos tocar instrumentos en donde se puedan hacer desde los Pianissimos más sutiles hasta los Fortissimos mas poderosos y lo más importante, que podamos hacer toda la gama de matices que un buen pianista sabe que existe entre esos extremos. Colores, sombras, relieves, tímbres diferentes es lo que nosotros los artístas perseguimos cuando tocamos para así darle la vida que se merecen las obras. Allí está el verdadero sentido artístico de los buenos pianístas…o por lo menos los de la vieja escuela!

Peter Salisbury se quejaba hace unos días porque dice que esa tradición que nos viene de los más grandes como Chopin, Liszt, Clara Schumann está muriéndose y le achaca la culpa a los concursos internacionales que premian a los que tocan más rápido y que revientan cuerdas al tocar debido a que no producen el sonido a través de la relajación, buscando la belleza sonora sino que practicamente son personajes que se pueden definir como pugilistas o “atletas musicales”.

En mi caso, he tenido la dicha de tocar en pianos servidos por Peter unos 15 recitales con obras del gran repertorio universal como la Sonata en Si menor de Liszt, así como Sonatas de Chopin, Schubert, Beethoven, Mozart sin olvidar que he estrenado muchas  obras de autores como Federico Ruiz, Mirtru Escalona, Alfredo Rugeles, Ricardo Lorenz y he podido mostrarle al maravilloso público londinense música de Venezuela y del resto de Sur América y el Caribe.
La experiencia siempre ha sido la mejor que puede tener un concertista. Contar con un instrumento así hace volar la imaginación del intérprete y ayuda a la concentración más profunda ya que sabemos que podemos dejar hablar a la música como la hemos pensado, podemos hacer nuestra verdadera interpretación de las obras escogidas.

Por eso no dudé en contactarlo con el proyecto de encontrar para Venezuela el mejor piano posible.

Por gran suerte nuestra el Southbank Centre está en un período de renovación y Peter consiguió que el Royal Festival Hall le vendiera ese piano por el que empezamos a  luchar. Él lo restauró y además le construyó una máquina o acción extra la cual se puede  poner y quitar con facilidad. La importancia que ésta ventaja tiene es que por medio de esa innovación se duplica la vida del instrumento ya que no siempre se usa la misma, además de que entre sí hay una gran diferencia en cuanto al timbre o color sonoro.

Agrdezco infinitamente que el maestro Naranjo haya creido en mi palabra con respecto a ese hallazgo y después de año y medio de trámites burocráticos, elecciones, muerte del presidente, nuevas elecciones, cientos de emails, ligados a la tenacidad que me ha dado el amor por mi país, el sueño de tener aquí un instrumento de ésta calidad y el apoyo moral y constante de Peter Slisbury y de los miembros de la Compañía Nacional de Música, RESPIRO, el piano está listo para ser estrenado el 9 de Agosto de 2013 a las 6.00 pm.

Entre los pianístas que también han tocado conciertos y grabado CDs en el piano en cuestión están Eugene Kissin, Maurizio Pollini, Alfred Brendel, Barry Douglas…ésta servidora.

Aparte del lazo profesional que tengo con Peter Salisbury están dos importantes anecdotas, él fue durante muchos años el técnico de mi profesora de piano en Londres, Phyllis Sellick y hace unos diez años Peter se casó con una gran pianísta y fantástica amiga de hace mas de veinte años, Eva María Alexandre.

Concert review: Clara Rodriguez and friends at Bolivar Hall by Frances Wilson

http://crosseyedpianist.com/2013/07/02/concert-review-clara-rodriguez-and-friends-at-bolivar-hall/

We didn’t have to travel as far as Caracas last night to experience the distinctive, atmospheric sounds, rhythms and textures of Latin American music. Bolivar Hall is attached to Venezuelan Embassy’s cultural complex in London’s Fitzrovia, a short walk from Goodge Street or Warren Street Tube stations.

London-based Venezuelan-born pianist Clara Rodriguez has curated a short series of concerts at Bolivar Hall over the course of the last month, showcasing the talents of established artists as well as up-and-coming young musicians in concerts featuring the best of South American classical music and jazz. In the final concert of the series, she was joined by Efrain Oscher (flute), Cristóbal Soto (mandolin, cuatro, guitar), Gabriel León (double bass) and Wilmerr Sifontes (percussion) to present a musical journey from Argentina to Puerto Rico with a selection of Tangos, Joropos, Merengues, Waltzes, Salsas and Sambas. From the foot-tapping sambas and merengues of Brazil and Venezuela to the passion and pathos of the tango (most notably in Astor Piazzolla’s heartfelt ‘Adios Nonino’, a hommage to his grandfather), the musicians played with commitment and conviction, and a very palpable and infectious sense of pleasure and musical friendship.

As a classically-trained pianist (she was a pupil of the late Phyllis Sellick at the Royal College of Music), Clara brings a deep understanding of musical shape and expression, phrasing, dynamic shading, texture and beauty of sound to her playing, even in the more raucous and rousing pieces. But her Venezuelan heritage shines through in her ability to handle with apparent ease the differing and complex rhythms of the music (although as she admitted at one point during the performance, it isn’t easy music to play, with the emphasis “off the main beat”, and on syncopation and cross-rhythms.

The other musicians were equally skilled: I was particularly struck by flautist Efrain Oscher’s performance. Haunting melodies, sometimes almost whispered, contrasted with bright motifs and some impressive technical/textural effects (triple tonguing). Meanwhile, double bass player Gabriel León showed the richness of the instrument’s voice in some soulful accompaniments and solos. My husband was fascinated by the percussionist, and the myriad sounds and patterns he was able to achieve with simple taps of his fingers or hands. The guitarist, Christobal Soto, brought perhaps the most distinctive Latin flavour to the music: flamenco strumming or the shimmering sounds of the mandolin.

Two encores confirmed just how much both musicians and audience were enjoying the concert. And on the homebound train, our feet were still tapping to the irresistible rhythms of the evening’s music.

Clara Rodriguez

A keen champion Latin American piano music, Clara Rodriguez has recorded the piano works of Teresa Careno, Moises Moleiro, Ernest Lecuona, and Federico Ruiz (a contemporary Venezuelan composer with whom she has enjoyed a close collaboration), as well as an impeccably presented album of the late piano music of Chopin, including the Piano Sonata No. 3 and the Polonaise-Fantasie Op 61. Clara’s recordings are available digitally on via iTunes and Spotify, and from good CD retailers.