Samuel Ben-Horin - | Back to Home Page

Samuel Ben-Horin's personal and business blog - stories related to piano and piano repair, tuning, performances and artists. Samuel Ben-Horin (Samuel Ben Horin), a professional in the piano business for over 40 years.

Name: Samuel Ben-Horin

Monday, November 2, 2009

Piano Stories.

One summer, probably 1985, on a Sunday morning at 6am, the phone rings at my house in Milan, Italy. It is a renowned concert flute player, and she tells me that the Symphony Orchestra of Milan is at her countryside town in the Langhe, a beautiful wine country region 75 miles southwest of Milan, where she has a castle. The problem: they could not obtain a Steinway concert grand for their outdoor concert. "Please come and help us, Signor Ben (That's how they called me...)".

I get my wife, my two little daughters (it is summer and vacation time) and my tools, board my car and out we go. Arrived at my destination, I see the following scene: a small-town piazza with a Yamaha G2 medium-small grand piano baking under the August sun, with some orchestra members around it, telling me that the piano is impossible to play and that the pianist was exasperated after having rehearsed the day before and that he couldn't refuse to play because the whole orchestra was there, expecting him to play that night.

My task for the day: to prepare a frozen, terribly neglected and unlucky home piano for Beethoven's concerto #4 with a full-fledged symphony orchestra, by 7pm. The concert would begin with Schubert's 4th symphony!

I worked non-stop from 9am to 7pm, serviced the action, regulated it, shaped and fitted the hammers, tuned the piano several times, eliminated unwanted sounds and mechanical noises and voiced it thoroughly for concert use - the best I could do in those circumstances (at noon they fed me while I was working). At 7, the musicians who tested the piano told the well-known performing pianist to come and practice, because the enhanced piano was so much changed that he would not recognize it.

The concert started exactly at 8. We listened seated in our car, afraid that our younger daughter might disturb. We enjoyed that beautiful concert, with the intimate feeling of a village piazza surrounded by house walls with magically good acoustics, in the quiet night, with August perfumes and the orchestra gathered around a small piano.

I heard nothing further from the pianist until the next year, when Vladimir Horowitz came to play at La Scala. The two unrelated events connect in a strange way. But that comes next.

Posted by Samuel Ben-Horin.