Keeping a Canadian Icon in tune

by vkungs

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Originally posted on 11/19/2012 12:30

Ivories’ technicians regularly tune at some of Toronto’s biggest and best known concert halls. This means we’re often tuning for some of the biggest names in classical and popular music. While this for the most part finds us tuning high-end instruments by brands like Steinway & Sons and Yamaha, we also occasionally get to tune pianos that are special for entirely other reasons. Case and point is the Chickering Grand piano found in the foyer of the CBC’s Front Street Studio. This structurally and cosmetically aged Chickering would first appear to be nothing more than a prop or discarded used instrument, but it is in fact the childhood piano of one of Canada’s most well known and respected pianists of the past 100 years, Mr. Glenn Gould. Gould rose to fame in the mid to late 1900’s with his technically masterful, yet at times unconventional interpretations of pieces by masters such as Bach, Brahms and Haydn. The often eccentric musician was nearly as well known for his television and radio productions as for his recordings. While a composer himself, he often left works unfinished and preferred to record the music of the masters, his renditions of which lead to four Grammy awards in his lifetime.

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One of Gould’s most peculiar traits was insisting on playing in very warm climate controlled environments and at exactly 14 inches from the ground. It is unknown whether his insistence on playing in extremely warm temperatures contributed to the current condition of his cherished piano, but surprisingly, the weathered instrument is still used for recordings to this day. This is partially possible due to the care provided to it by our head technician Wolfgang, who regularly performs tuning and maintenance work on this prized instrument to not only preserve its history, but ensure that it can help nurture new Canadian greats for decades to come.