Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Steinway Piano Man arrives in Waterford

Piano Man Ulrich Gerhartz photo Guardian pic

One of the single most important figures in the piano world visited Waterford last week but you'll struggle to find his name on the programme. Steinway surgeon, (piano tuner seems too mundane a term) Ulrich Gerhartz artrived in Waterford on Thursday  to overhaul one of Waterford's treasures-the house Steinway housed at the Georgian Large Room. I was sorry to be out of town to miss seeing one of the 'key' figures of pianism in action. I am grateful to Pat Grogan of Waterford-Music for this report on the service history of this much admired instrument.  You can hear it next when Finghin Collins to open the 74th season of Waterford-Music recittals
Steinway, Model C, s.n. 525785.
    Manufactured 1995, Hamburg factory. Purchased February 1996 from Steinways of London, having been vetted at Steinway Hall, by Philip Martin, John O’Conor and Jan Cap, during visits to London, on our behalf. We had intended replacing our old ‘D’ model with a similar second-hand instrument, on grounds of cost, but on urgent advice from Philip Martin, who found that the sound from the 9 foot D model would be too big for our venue, we bought the smaller 7’ 5” instrument,as being more suitable venue with it’s bright acoustic. The price was  49,350 sterling, with 5,000 ‘institutional’ discount, and 5,000 trade-in allowance on our  1908 American Steinway. The Arts Council of Ireland and Waterford City Council had agreed to help in the purchase with matching funding of 17,222 Irish pounds each, with loyal Waterford~ Music members making up the balance. This was achieved only after intense lobbying with City Council, in the persons of Manager Michael Doody and Asst. Manager Terry O’Sullivan, and The Arts Council through Dermot McLoughlin, and Government Ministers of the day, Michael D Higgins and Brian O’Shea.
     The new piano was delivered 6/2/1996,and prepared for first performance by Alex Jeffers of Bandon, by Dearbhla Collins, with Michael d’Arcy, violin, Annette Cleary, cello, on 7/2/’96, who performed Beethoven Trio E flat, op.1, no.1, Rachmaninov Trio op.9, Shostakovich Trio E minor, op.67. It received a free inspection and tuning by chief Steinway technician, Ulrich Gerhartz, on 11/4/’96, who has continued to look after our piano ever since. Specially prepared by Gerhartz for the much publicised visit of Vladimir Ashkenazy on 18/5/’97 [who due to arthritis in his fingers was unable to perform], but whose last minute replacement Finghin Collins, well prepared for the Dublin International Piano Competition, who performed brilliantly. Just a few of our sell-out audience accepted refunds rather than hear Collins perform.
    Mr Gerhartz has been to over-haul our piano in April 2000, October 2003, November 2006, and November 2010. This is an expensive but necessary operation to maintain this valuable instrument in perfect condition.The  recommended interval between overhaul of 3 years could not be adhered to in recent  years, due to severe financial constraints on our funds. He has just completed the overhaul on last Thursday, 13th August, at a cost of €1794.00, and which would be even more expensive if he made a special trip to Waterford only. He found the piano to be in excellent condition, due to the perfect storage conditions at the Georgian Large Room, and the fact that the instrument is not over-used or indeed, abused. For the record, it was used in 20 full performances in the period 3rd November 2010 and 16th April 2015, as part of our regular recital seasons, with 15 bookings by other groups [generally for a tuning fee], in the same period. The piano is made available free of charge for charitable fund-raising purposes, and for purposes connected with City Hall—as part of the original funding agreement.

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