Making its grand debut during Opening Weekend with Zee Zee’s performance of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, TSO’s fully restored Steinway D concert grand piano made its long journey home from the Colorado workshop of expert Piano Technician Kevin Stock. The piano’s restoration journey truly started long before leaving the workshop with the Connie Hillman Family Foundation and their $25,000 challenge match. Twenty donors answered the call and met the challenge, raising the full $50,000 needed to restore the 43-year-old piano.
Before leaving for restoration the piano was showing its age both visually and audibly. The paint was scratched, the “e” was missing from the gold Steinway & Sons logo, and most notably the sound quality was vastly different from the first time it was played in a TSO concert by Emanuel Ax in 1981. Unlike violins that age like fine wine, pianos age more like cars requiring frequent maintenance and eventually complete overhauls. The metal strings which are under constant extreme tension begin to fatigue and become brittle, eventually becoming prone to breakage. During the restoration process most of the interior parts (strings, hammers and dampers) were fully replaced. Like a classic car getting a whole new engine, the TSO piano now has more in common with a brand-new piano than it does with another 1980 Steinway, and like a new piano it requires regular playing to break it in and get it back to optimal sound quality.
The restoration took a full 16 months. Pandemic related supply chain issues delayed parts and delivery during monsoon weather conditions was less than ideal, since pianos are sensitive to heat and humidity. Finally on the morning of Saturday, September 9, several TSO employees held their breath as the Steinway made its way on the Pianolift off the trailer and on to the stage of the Linda Ronstadt Music Hall. Home at last! The exterior matte black paint gently reflected the stage lights, and on the interior, Emanuel Ax’s signature, preserved from the piano’s first TSO concert on January 27, 1981, was still visible.
As a special thank you, the piano donors attended the final dress rehearsal with Zee Zee to hear and see the piano up close. The group proved that like the orchestra itself, beautiful things can be accomplished when working together. Their generous gift will have a lasting impact on all who enjoy TSO concerts for years to come.
Did you miss Zee Zee’s electrifying opening weekend performance? Don’t worry, you can still see and hear the fully restored Steinway played by phenomenal pianists David Fung during the Ravel and Dvořák concert on November 10th and 12th and Stewart Goodyear during the 100 Years of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on February 24th and 25th.
CONNIE HILLMAN FAMILY FOUNDATION PIANO CHALLENGE DONORS
We are tremendously grateful to the Connie Hillman Family Foundation who generously contributed a $25,000 challenge grant that was matched by the following donors to restore the TSO’s primary Steinway D concert grand piano. Everyone will enjoy the improved sound and performance.
Connie Hillman Family Foundation
Michael and Kay Anderson
Dr. Karen Bahnick
Mr. and Mrs. David C. Carney
Shirley J. Chann
Carol T. des Cognets
Dr. Mary Jo Ghory
Adrienne Knoll Utley
Jan B. Konstanty and Patricia Wallace
Martin and Barbara Levy
Jim Lindheim and Jim Tharp
Jeannette J. Segel
Howard and Marilyn Steele
Tucson Symphony Orchestra League
Sandra B. Um and Jonathan L. Pinkney