The Houston Symphony Central and Bay Area Leagues have given the orchestra a literal “gift of music” in the form of a brand new Steinway concert grand piano. Houston Symphony League, Vice President of Fundraising, Betty Tutor led the campaign that collected almost $130,000 in donations to fund the purchase of the new instrument. In recognition of the League’s 75th Anniversary in 2012, they wanted to do something special for the Symphony’s Centennial Season, as well as honor Symphony founder and the very first League President, Miss Ima Hogg, who was an accomplished pianist.
The arrival of this melodious gift couldn’t have been more timely. Some of the greatest pianists in the world will be performing during the Symphony’s Centennial Season. Superstars like Kirill Gerstein, Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Ingrid Fliter and Daniil Trifonov will each have the opportunity to dance their fingertips across the new Steinway.
The piano is a long-awaited and welcome gift to the organization. In 2001, the Symphony had the misfortune of losing two Steinways when Jones Hall was flooded from Tropical Storm Allison. The Symphony was only able to replace one of the Steinways thanks to a generous donation from Helen Rosenbaum in 2001. Currently, guest pianists can choose between that piano and another Steinway that is borrowed from Jones Hall’s Houston First. The addition of the League’s Steinway will give the orchestra great versatility, as guest pianists will now be able to choose which instrument best suits the repertoire that they are performing.
Selecting the new Steinway was an extraordinarily rare treat for a few lucky League and Symphony staff members. The final selection was made on Thurs, March 28, 2013 at the Steinway Factory in New York City. Kirill Gerstein narrowed the pool of pianos down to 4 or 5 and performed different works on the finalists for the Houston guests, including Mark Hanson and Steve Brosvik from the Houston Symphony staff and Vickie West, Lily Andress, Jo Dee Wright, Sybil Roos and Besty Garlinger from the Houston Symphony League. Gerstein then made his choice of one that he felt was the perfect fit for the acoustics in Jones Hall. According to Gerstein, this new instrument “has a larger sound than the current concert pianos and will be a great fit for all types of repertoire. If it sounds good now ‘at birth’ then it will only get better as it matures.”
Audiences can hear the debut of this new instrument when Kirill Gerstein performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Houston Symphony, led by Peter Oundjian, on September 12, 14 and 15. Kirill Gerstein and Houston Symphony Education and Community Programs Director Roger Daily will discuss the new Houston Symphony piano, how it was made, and how it was selected during the free Prelude pre-concert discussions that will take place at 7:15 p.m. before each of the concerts.
Check out this video of Kirill Gerstein working with a piano tuner to prepare our new piano for this weekend’s concerts:
Video by CultureMap. Read their full story here!