Fate, I Defy You: The Robert Silverman Liszt CD Page 4
John Atkinson: You had mentioned at the sessions that while it was the same Steinway you'd played on Concert, a year had gone by and it actually felt more responsive under your fingers. To the lay person, all instruments look the same. Are they really individuals? How different are pianos?
Silverman: How different are amplifiers? [laughs] I'd say pianos are more different. By a lot, actually.
But it's a hard question for me to respond to. Pianos can be extraordinarily different, but, as we found out on this session, even the same piano a year later in the same hall can sound different. It had been voiced differently, it was much better regulated. I felt I had much more control over it than I did in Concert. In addition, it was fairly new, I believe, when we had it for Concert. For the Sonata sessions, it had been played-in for an extra year. Pianos do have to be played-in, just like wine has to breathe, and that would have helped. Also, the weather outside was different. There's nothing electrical about it, but it's one of the technological wonders of our age—there are so many moving parts in a piano, to get them all to work together is just amazing.
Atkinson: This was a New York Steinway. Do you have a preference for a New York-made instrument over a Steinway made in Hamburg?
Silverman: I am a Steinway artist; I own one of each. There are Bösendorfers and Bechsteins, and one shouldn't even discount some of the better Yamahas—I've played on some glorious ones. But I love the New York Steinway sound—that, to me, is the right sound for a piano. Period.
Atkinson: That rich midrange, where each note has a unique tonal identity as its sound decays?
Silverman: Yes. Other people may like the European Steinways and feel comfortable with them, but my concept of sound as I hear it is best realized in a New York Steinway. There was a period when they were totally different instruments, and particularly in—let's say, about the '60s and '70s, and maybe into the early '80s—there was a different quality about the Hamburg piano. It was a more serious instrument...but the more recent New York Steinways, there are some really glorious ones.
Atkinson: This one, in particular, had a literally visceral bass register that really seemed to reinforce the power of the left-hand writing in the Sonata.
Silverman: That is what is so characteristic of the New York Steinway sound. I'm sure that some people will say, "Silverman plays it too much, too heavy"—they would prefer a thinner sound—but Steinways are the instruments that actually do what I feel best suits this music.