For me it was an exhilarating experience to spend a week and a half exploring and getting to know one of Stein's pianos just as Mozart had done two and a quarter centuries earlier. It was a voyage of discovery that I felt we shared. But I quickly came to the realization that, like Mozart's own early sonatas, each of Stein's instruments was an experiment, a work in progress. Like all piano makers of the period he relied on the comments and demands of performers for suggestions on how to improve and modify his designs. In our day, we are used to pianos that are designed to do what the pianist tells them to do. If for some reason it doesn't, then it's the technician's fault not the pianist's. But in the eighteenth century things were different. Pianos and piano technique were still in their initial stages of development. It took a musician with great imagination and vision to make these new types of keyboard instruments sing. And two hundred years later, even with expert restorers, an old Stein doesn't just play itself. Many of its virtues are hidden behind some rather primitive mechanics and still incomplete design elements.
The Instrument - Fortepiano
Johann Andréas Stein, Augsburg, 1788.
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