Today, we are going to demonstrate some fundamental differences in American and European pianos. Naturally, there is a tremendous variance of pianos within Europe as well as in the United States. However, what we are going to show is how it is necessary to approach playing American and European pianos with dramatically different techniques in order to get the sound you are after out of them.
You will hear the beginning of Debussy Claire De Lune on the 9′ 2″ Petrof Concert Grand. Then you will hear the same section performed on a Steinway Model D Concert Grand.
Next, I will play the Debussy on the Petrof the same way I approached the keyboard on the Steinway. You will notice that the Petrof doesn’t require the same support of the keys. A more delicate approach is all that is required to get the sound out. Like a fine sports car, the piano responds to the most gentle motions. Playing on the Petrof with the technique utilized previously on the Steinway creates a crass, overblown performance.
Next, I play the Debussy on the Steinway with the technique utilized on the Petrof. It results in a lifeless sound that lacks projection.
Each instrument has unique responses to touch. You must approach every piano in a unique manner in order to achieve the sound you are after. Even the room acoustics play a large part in the technique you must use in order to achieve the desired sound.
I am also a French hornist.
There is a parallel with American French horn playing versus European hornists.
Generally, in the U.S., people play larger bore horns with bigger mouthpieces than in Europe. More than that, American horn players like myself tend to play more on the F-horn side of the instrument rather than the B-flat side as European hornists do. The thumb valve adds around 3 feet of tubing to the horn! So, European horn players have a more open sound and an elegance whereas American French horn sound tends to be bigger and fatter.
The same is true of American pianos compared to European pianos. American pianos require more arm weight which is analogous to using more breath which is necessary on larger French horns. While European pianos have an open, clear sound and respond to smaller gradations of touch and require a more refined approach than American pianos.
Naturally, these are generalities and there are many exceptions such as Hamburg Steinways which are much closer to New York Steinways in sound than they are to other European pianos. You are welcome to comment on your experiences playing American and European pianos. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com Your Online Piano Store info@LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729