Piano Recital

We had a very interesting experience recently with a musician from one of our Sunday night concerts. He was a pianist from Germany and he flew in his own grand piano! Because we already have a wonderful Steinway concert grand gracing our stage, it seemed quite unusual. The piano arrived at the JC at noon and it was necessary to tune it three times in the next 6 hours. Moving a piano can greatly affect its tuning, not to mention putting it on an airplane then transporting it via truck. A fine piano is a work of art. Therefore, to negligent a piano after moving is a crime against a beautiful piece of expensive craftsmanship. (A Beckstein baby grand piano, depending on its size, can easily cost up to $100,000!) The most common cause of a piano going out of tune is the fluctuation of temperature and humidity. The best temperature for a piano is the same as the comfort of a person. Inside each case is a very complex piece of machinery with up to 12,000 parts carefully engineered into an elaborate assembly of parts containing up to 40,000 pounds of string pressure! For anyone owning a fine piano, if a piano is allowed to go from Spring to Winter without tuning, it will probably drop in pitch. We tune our piano at the JC every 3 months and sometimes more often, depending upon the humidity and upcoming concerts. In our home in Arizona, we tune our Steinway in the winter about two weeks after we have turned on our heater and then again in the summer, about two weeks after we turn on our air conditioner. Maintenance on a fine piano is a must and no different than taking care of an expensive automobile. The instrument was a Beckstein piano and since nobody was in the auditorium, I couldn't resist trying it out. The Beckstein piano company was established in Berlin, Germany, in 1853 by Carl Beckstein and by the late 1800's had won awards and endorsements of famous pianists and composers. Saleem Abboud Ashkar was warming up when I walked into the auditorium one hour before his concert. I asked if I could take some photos and he gave me permission to do so and it's always fun meeting musicians who perform on our stage. He graciously shared a little about his family. He is married and has 7 year old twin daughters and lives in Germany with his family. His parents, however, live about two hours from here near Tel Aviv. Saleem Aboud Ashkar performed on our stage in 2009 but this time he also brought a film crew. He is filming a movie about Beethoven and I could better understand his desire to perform on the Beckstein piano and especially after learning that the Beckstein piano company is underwriting his film and 3 other concerts in Israel! Saleem and his crew asked for permission to return the next day for a private interview. Since we were on a field trip with the students, we unfortunately never saw it. Saleem made his debut in Carnegie Hall at the age of 22 and has since worked with many of the world's leading orchestras throughout Europe and the US. He also performs regularly with famous orchestra conductors. His first CD featured Beethoven's 1st and 4th piano concertos which were recorded live with Ivor Bolton and the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. His 2nd piano CD, released in 2014, features Mendelssohn's piano concertos and has attracted widespread acclaim. His program consisted of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas No. 2, No. 6, and No. 30. Saleem performs regularly in Berlin, Prague, Newcastle (England) and Italy. A dedicated recitalist and chamber musician, he appears in venues in Amsterdam, London, Salzburg, Vienna and Milan. He is ambassador to a Music Fund which supports musicians and music schools in conflict areas and developing countries. Our students are privileged to have the opportunity to attend the concerts, to meet the musicians and when the opportunity arises, have a photo taken with them. Before the program began, Garth and I had the privilege of meeting his parents. They were charming and graciously invited us to visit them whenever we are able to get away. Since they live near Tel Aviv, we would need an entire day for a visit. Our next concert isn't until July 3 and it will be the first in the Summer Concert Series. We are presently preparing for the opening of a new art exhibit so there is always a lot to do around here. However, we are grateful we can be engaged in such productive work and seriously doubt anything we would be doing in Arizona could even compare to this experience!