I was out and about on Friday doing what I do, and I was with The Sister Who Shall Remain Nameless. She has been calling for a while on a gentleman who she said has a nice piano. A lot of pianos are 'nice' because people toss that word around a lot (a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). I thought nothing of it, but then about a month ago, Br. Seersucker went with her and I got the skinny on the piano. He said the man has a Kawai, and that he told him it's worth about $50,000. Needless to say, that piqued my interest. The nicest piano I've ever played is a Baldwin baby grand, and at the time, I couldn't even really play (anything). I still can't. Anyway, I made it a point to tell Sis. Nameless that I wanted to meet this man and his piano. I did just that last Friday.
We walked into the house and turned to the left to see his Kawai. (This is about as close as I could find. This one is a 7' grand, and his is only 6'10".) It was beautiful. Beautiful. He was kind enough to notice the drooling awe-inspired look on my face, and offered to let me play. I have a Wurlitzer, and it's great for what I know and how well I play. I'm telling you, though, this piano was remarkable. I set my fingers to the keys and struck a chord, nothing fancy, just a major chord. It was the voice of angels. The clarity, depth, and resonance were outstanding. Obviously the difference between an upright and a grand piano are going to be night and day, but the depth and feeling she had was amazing. It seemed no matter how loudly or softly you played, you still had not reached the border of its ability. I got more comfortable, and played a few things I was familiar with, and he knew the words to a few of them, particularly the intro and first few minutes of Icicle (of course), and as I became comfortable with it, got a little more aggressive and realized how smoothly it played in any register at any volume. The feeling (in trying to relate it to someone who doesn't play piano) is like a little boat drifting gently across a pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't. Not really. [Plagiarism?] It's like being in a very nice sports car as compared to a Ford Pinto (or other lemon of choice). With said lemon, you can throw the pedal to the floor, and you feel nothing. There's no power there. It's very shallow. In an expensive Italian sports car, you don't even have to reach fourth gear to feel the power and depth a car like that has.
I could have spent all day playing scales, chords, and arpeggios, and would have been happy. The owner sat down when I got up and played some Chopin pieces that were incredibly impressive. He talked as he did it and described the differences between his piano and some others. He said he liked his piano on the whole, but enjoyed Steinways, Bösendorfers, or Bechsteins for different qualities. He displayed some of these, and said he had played all of the above. He also explained very well the benefits of a hand-made instrument (which would be lost on someone who DIDN'T have a decade of professional instruction or more years of professional concert experience under his belt). He said that he could play seven Steinways (or Böseys) blindfolded, and have someone assign a number to each one. Playing them for a few minutes each, he said he would have no difficulty returning to a piano at random and identifying which of the seven he had just played. This is because of their individual qualities and characteristics, which all come from not being mass produced. Remarkable.
The nice thing about his Kawai, and it may have been the people, the surroundings, etc., was that it wasn't intimidating. Much of the quality and character of a $100,000 Steinway would be lost on a novice and it would be intimidating to play someone's Steinway in their home, or at a dealer. It's like telling Einstein where to subtract, or trying to paint alongside Vermeer or Van Gogh. The Kawai was inviting; it wasn't so advanced that you couldn't enjoy it or appreciate it. Someone that enjoys cars may have no idea how to drive a Formula One racecar, but this I was able to appreciate. She was inviting and enjoyable and you could actually appreciate the craftsmanship and quality of a piano like that. I would feel almost asinine playing a Steinway, but this was very enjoyable. I had to call and share this with a few people. You just don’t understand.