Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I have just finished watching this fascinating documentary that I am sure anyone who is into the piano would also appreciate. The main film itself is wonderful but do watch the extras too as they are a viewing experience in themselves!
At the center of the film is a collaborative work between Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Stefan Knüpfer Steinway's virtuoso piano tuner. Bach's The Art of Fugue is to be recorded and Pierre-Laurent Aimard has decided in favor of concert grand piano Nr. 109 for the Bach recording.  In order to prepare the piano succesfully for Aimard, Knüpfer feels he needs to to study instruments from the time of Bach leading to experiments with sound absorbers made from felt and with glass sound mirrors. But as fate will have it, the number 109 grand piano is sold to Australia a few months later; and that is not the last obstacle that gets in their way. Knüpfer and Aimard meet regularly and at times the tension is so thick it can be cut with a knife with Knüpfer saving the day with his sense of humor and incredible patience. In the end a highly succesful recording is made and already downloaded by myself I may say. One afternoon, a rather sleepy artist in jeans and sneakers shows up. It is the Chinese star pianist Lang Lang, who will be giving a guest performance in the Viennese concert hall. Still suffering from jet lag, he has to choose an instrument to play. His overcrowded tour calendar leaves little time for individual settings. Instead, and almost shyly, he asks for a heavy bench that will hold up through his extroverted style of playing without sliding around. The Piano superstar completes his performance in the large hall in a dark suit and wild hairstyle. The bench holds up, and he receives thunderous applause. I was less enamoured with the sketches of the comedy duo Igudesman & Joo always parody the elitist music world. Together with Knüpfer they come up with some of the craziest scenarios for the next show. The film also features on of Alfred Brendel's last concerts at the Grafenegg Music Festival. Knüpfer prepares the piano for him while the star pianist gives his directions humorously.