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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