Legendary concert pianist Vladimir Horowitz performed his final tour in 1987.
Thirty years later, his favorite piano still is on tour. And this week, it’s in Augusta.
Turner Keyboards on Washington Road is offering visitors the opportunity to see, hear – and, for a select few, even play – the concert piano best known simply as “the Horowitz Steinway.”
“It tours, really, the United States, and Steinway contacted us last December, and asked if we wanted to become of the dealers to showcase it and receive it,” Turner Keyboards owner Lisa Turner Maddox. “We said, ‘Uh – yeah!’”
Famed piano maker Steinway & Sons made the piano – production serial number CD 314 503 – especially for Horowitz in 1941, to replace another piano it made as a 1934 wedding present for him and his bride, Wanda. Horowitz died in 1989.
Horowitz kept the piano in his New York City townhouse. But often when he toured, the piano traveled with him – which meant carefully removing the instrument from his apartment with a crane.
For Turner Keyboards, having the piano on its showroom floor is like playing host to a global celebrity. Last Saturday, Drs. Martin David Jones and Clara J. Park – pianists who sit on Augusta University’s music faculty – conducted a recital on the Horowitz Steinway that drew an audience so large that people had to be turned away, and police had to be summoned to direct traffic in and out of the store’s parking lot, Maddox said.
As a brand name, Steinway stands out among pianos in the same way Rolls-Royce stands out among automobiles, or Cartier stands out among wristwatches.
Each Steinway is handmade, comprised of more than 12,000 parts. Every piano built by the company since 1853 is catalogued, chronicling all the production details that make each instrument as unique as a fingerprint.
“And I always tell people: You think you’re going to choose the piano, but the piano chooses the musician,” Maddox said. “There’ll be one that just sort of speaks to you. You don’t know why you like it. You can verbalize it sometimes.”
But what most prominently sets the Horowitz Steinway apart, even from other Steinways, is the uniquely calibrated action of the keys.
While pianists typically arch their fingers when playing, Horowitz kept his fingers mostly straight and his palms mostly flat. Without applying the extra pressure and strength of playing down, Horowitz still coaxed an extraordinary range of sound from his instrument.
“They adjusted the action to his personal specs, which is not what would be standard. So it’s extremely touch-sensitive,” Maddox said. “The colors that you’re able to bring out of the instrument are just above and beyond the norm.”
Area residents, at varying levels of piano proficiency, are lining up to play the Horowitz Steinway until it leaves town Saturday. And the line is growing.
Whoever logs time on the piano will be videoed playing it, then photographed and will receive a certificate offering further proof that the musician played the instrument.
The Horowitz Steinway is one of the company’s Model D concert grand pianos, which still are in production today. New Model Ds retail for about $167,000.
“And how much Horowitz’s grand is worth, one can only guess,” Maddox said. “How would you put a value on that when it’s literally irreplaceable?”
Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.