Feast for the Ears: ‘Chocolatey’ New Steinway Like ‘Pudding’

When George Lopez was told that he could travel to Astoria, in the New York City borough of Queens, to visit the Steinway & Sons factory and select a new grand piano for Bowdoin’s concert hall, he was beside himself.

“I’ve done this a few times over the years, and it’s always a thrill. It’s like being a kid in a candy store,” he said. Lopez is the Beckwith Artist-in-residence at Bowdoin.

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Lopez described touring the “gigantic, extensive” facility, which is a warren of rooms, each dedicated to the manufacture of a different piano part. When he arrived, five pianos had been set out for Lopez to test. Though each was magnificent, he rejected them all. His specifications would eliminate most pianos.

“I was looking for an instrument with a very soft, sweet action, and with more of a poetic tone than the brilliant tone of [Bowdoin’s] 2007 Steinway piano,” he explained. The older piano is brassier, with brilliant and lively tones. Lopez wanted the two pianos to work as a pair, to have complementary qualities.

Then Lopez spied a piano standing alone in the corner. He recalls getting a sense that it sat mostly unplayed and overlooked. When he began to play it, he knew it was the one.

The new concert grand piano was delivered to the Studzinski Recital Hall and Kanbar Auditoriam last week. Lopez will play the instrument’s inaugural concert this Friday, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m, in the recital hall. He plans an evening of popular 20th-century Cuban salon music by Lecuona and Cervantes, and he will also talk about his recent travels in Cuba as part of an international artist exchange. In addition, Lopez says he will play a little of Bach and Beethoven to show off the new piano.

The new concert grand piano was made possible by a gift from the Perkin Fund in honor of John Thorne Perkin ’59, an Overseer of the College from 1973 to 1985. It’s identical in size and model (9′ Model D) to the 2007 grand donated by Nancy Kirkpatrick Morrell for the opening of Studzinski Recital Hall. 

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