”The need for more strength in pianos, to withstand the bravura-playing and virtuosity of the best artists was a challenge Steinway mastered marvelously. They strove to consistently build pianos which had both strength and fine tonal quality.”
And he continues: “The Steinway soundboard is the ‘soul’ of the piano. Constructed of close-grained Alaskan Sitka, Eastern seaboard or European spruce - a wood which has unusual stability and vibrancy under stress - the design permits complete freedom of movement, displacing a greater amount of vibrations into the air and thereby creating a richer and more lasting tonal response, as well as giving a tremendously wide range in tonal possibilities, from extreme pianissimos to super-forte.”
“In 1983, the first time Horowitz went to Japan for performances, we took piano CD-75, the one built in 1911 which I described as having just the right Spielart,” says Mohr [Spielart translates from German as ‘style of play’ or ‘way of playing’]. “When I found the CD-75 I knew right away that with just a little bit of work it would become the perfect ‘Horowitz piano’. He played it for a couple of years very happily, but then returned to his own 314503 Grand, which is the one we brought for his Moscow recital.”
The CD-75’s current owner, retired Steinway tuner Tali Mahanor, translated Spielart as “I like the way it feels, referring to how the action of the piano feels under your hands”.
Of course it is not easy for a young pianist to live up to a predecessor as legendary as Horowitz. Russo explains: “On this particular instrument, I of course felt a great ceremonial impact. What I had learned from listening to Horowitz had inspired me a great deal; but playing on this piano did not make me feel as if I were Horowitz, nor did I feel the need to imitate him or his mannerisms. It rather enhanced my own musical vision.”
When I invited Sandro to my house right after the recording of his DVD, he gave me a sneak preview of the recording, playing the beautiful Sonneto on my old Hamburg Steinway O Grand Piano, an instrument that has not been played by Horowitz, but, nevertheless, by some very spirited pianists, including Sandro Russo. He then shared the story of his very personal connection to Horowitz with me, and also told me about his personal experiences with the Steinway CD-75 during the recording process: