Conversation about Period Pianos

Conversation With Patrick Period Pianos on 18th November about 11:30 p.m., 2011. I’ll see if I can find the recording and share it later. This is an imperfect transcription.

P The guy who made up the first ________? for the piano. Won’t come to me now. Anyway, this little piano museum in Concert Hall is named after him. So we went there to hear …
J This was Vienna you said?
P Mm?
J Vienna?
P No, in Florence.
J Oh, Florence, Florence.
P Ja, so the guy who made the first pianos is named after him. Aaand they were doing all Beethoven sonatas and several concerts with pianos from the period.
J Aha!!
P So, of course, modern piano sounds nothing like the pianos from the period.
J Ja, ja.
P If you want to know what it sounded like to Beethoven, you got to play on a piano from the period.
J And poke your eardrums out.
P Mm hm, why? Oh yeah!! Hahaha
J Hahaha
P Oh yeah, that’s a good way to go. Hahaha
J Hahaha
P That was only toward the end.
J Yeah! Hahaha
P But eh, forte piano, forte piano and there was a revelation that really sounds different.
J Ja, ja.
P Really sounds different. So then I really became interested and I was thinking I should have kept one, Rumiko Goth piano from 1840.
J Wow!
P Rebuilt.
J Mm hm
P And so that sounds pretty authentic forte piano. Of course that’s still later than Beethoven.
J Ja, because he is what 1803? He was _______? of our times.
P Ja, 1790 something until 18 … ’40. I don’t know his dates.
J Ja
P But the piano really sounded Haydn. Of course, that’s what Haydn was ready for too. And the Haydn trios which we played a lot of about, trios almost always. Emmmm … they sounds so different. The left hand of the normally, the cello in the Haydn Trios duplicate what’s happening to the left hand of the piano? Yeah! And when it’s a forte piano playing it can, it’s really, it sounds like the same instruments, the cello or the piano, they mix so well. But with the modern piano there is quite a difference. The Hammonds are different, the attack is different, the escapement is different so you can’t repeat the notes as fast.
J Oh, okay
P So that limature tempe and so just like the bows, the early bows would bounce sooner when you start doing this stuff and so that can tell you more about the tempe that they played…
J Ja
P … in those days. So that early, the early music player, generally speaking, played the fast movements slower…
J Mm hm
P … than modern musicians…
J Okay
P … and slow movements faster than moden musicians. So, if you’re playing Beethoven with a modern instrument and you get repeated things, the bouncing ________? is sooner with an old bow.
J Oh, okay.
P So that changes your mind about how fast to play things.
J Mm hm, yeah, it’s interesting.
P But also the sounds are very different and the tension of the strings is much less, and the strings, the violin strings were, are gut strings.
J Mm hm. And they were tuned, I mean, the tuning has risen over the years until they finally had to play to the standard of 4.40-4.48.
P Ja, 4.40 is sort of the world’s standard. 4.42 if you’re going to be playing with wind instruments. The Berlin Philharmonic is about 4.42, the Moscow Philharmonic is about 4.48.
J What’s the _________?
P Gives it more power.
J Ja
P Louder.
J Ja, but the higher the pitch the more tension in the strings.
P Ja, that’s part of the instruments.
J Ja, especially instruments that were built for, you know, for 4.20.
P Ja, well, ja, most are under 4.30. Mozart’s sound is 4.30 em … and Bach, it depends on what city we’re playing in.
J Mm, okay
P You go by the organs or the flutes from the period…
J Oh
P … to determine what the pitch was that he wrote for.
J Right!
P So mostly black wood, for instance, which are a half tone lower than now which means 3.92 I think.
J Oh, okay
P Ja
J Ja, I’m not sure. I know 4.40 has some nice mathematical characters stick in terms of …
P Ja, but it was never until recently the official pitch.
J Ja, right.
P That’s new.
J Yeah, I think that when they had you decide on a pitch because people were breaking instruments, they said, we’ve got to come to, agree on something here or at least recognize something and …
P I got to return about the wind instruments.
J Mm hm … ja
P Flute, the guy is a manufacturer in flutes.
J The difference between 4.40 and 4.42 is so fine. I mean it’s audible.
P Eh … we had a guy here playing clarinet. He came for a concert in An_____?, first concert in a series I did there. The piano tuner came and went. He left the piano at 4.40. The clarinet player came with his instrument and if he pulled it out any farther it would be out of tune on almost all of the notes. So he left before the concert started and said "I can’t play with this piano". The difference was too great. Possibly the piano tuner also attuned it a little low because it was already down, you know, and he insisted but take the whole thing up because he had to tune in twice.
J Right, right.
P Because he tuned it up and then if you’d take it down you’d tune it up again.
J Ja
P And then he went home and he went to the other side of the island where he lived and there is no way to get him back in time to retune it with the people coming in and having paid for the concert.
J Ja
P But the clarinet player ended up putting a note in the piano. I didn’t know he wasn’t there.
J Oh, oh
P So everybody is sitting down waiting and I open the piano … hahaha
J Oh boy hahaha
P Ja, so, and I canceled the first concert in the series, a new series in a castle in Andrache. It was going to be a great success. It was a full house that first night.
J Mm hm
P The patio of this castle. After that it kind of went ….. Anyway, the damp caused so many problems with that Steinway that eh … there was a singer who came the next concert and Gundel Deckert, the german pianist, was playing with him and I was turning pages and then she pushed the keys down they would stick and I was going underneath pushing them back up. Hahaha
J Hahaha
P So, she was playing on top of the keys and I was playing underneath the keys. Hahaha
J Hahaha. Wooow!!
P That was a weird night.
J Ja
P A couple of the concerts came out okay. The wind, wind quintet, because they can play anywhere and they go up and down the page according to the temperature anyway.
J Ja, okay.
P But the ________? drops more and the oboe drops less, the flute, you know. And so you have to sort of keep it warm while you’re not playing.
J Mm hm
P Blow into it without making it sound and warm it up before you blow your first note. And then condensation starts and …
J Ja
P … it goes out into the ear of the guy in the first row.
J Mm hm ja hahaha
P Hahaha, ja but eh … so that Beethoven _______? that’s what cut me off and then …
J Ja, and I do believe that, that the pianist I was thinking of was Edwin Fischer, I think it was Fischer, F I S C H E R
P Mm hm ja
J Ja
P Ja. Philadelphia, I believe, teaching __________________? if I’m not mistaken. Anyway!
J 18th November about 11:30 p.m., 2011