Spivey Hall Director Tells Tale Of Two Pianos

Robert and Clara are soulmates who have been brought together onstage at Spivey Hall.
Robert (left) and Clara (right) are two Steinway grand pianos that were brought together at Spivey Hall. Photo courtesy of Spivey Hall.

Robert and Clara are soulmates who have been brought together onstage at Spivey Hall. The twist is that they’re both pianos. “Robert” came to Spivey just before the new year after an extensive search and a trip overseas.

The two Steinway grands are named after composers Robert and Clara Schumann.

“When is a piano not a piano?” Spivey’s executive and artistic director Sam Dixon asks City Lights host Lois Reitzes, who works with our partner news site, WABE. “When it’s a Maserati. If you think of cars as a metaphor, most of us get into our cars and go to work or to the supermarket. But at the other extreme, there are pianos like Clara [which] enable the world’s finest pianists to perform at their very best. That’s what we got for Spivey Hall with Clara.”

Hear an audio interview about this story >

“However no one piano suits the technical and artistic needs of every pianist,” Dixon explains. “We decided that Clara needed to place sort of a ‘singles ad’ when we started raising money for this. ‘Gorgeous, attractive, lonely piano at Spivey Hall needs a soulmate partner.’ And that’s when our search for Robert began.”

The search for the new piano was chaired by Dr. Michael Koch, advisor to the Spivey Hall Friends Council.

Robert was identified as a potential partner for Clara by Ulrich Gerhartz, director of concerts and artists services at Steinway & Sons London. Gerhartz is Clara’s “godfather,” (or the “mechanic to the Maserati,” according to Dixon) someone who knew her personality and Spivey Hall’s acoustics extremely well.

As far as the tonal differences between the two, Dixon notes Clara’s tonal depth.

“That requires a fairly sturdy technique in order to make the most of her,” he says. “Robert, by contrast, has a lighter action, and he sparkles a little bit more, and he doesn’t require as much physical weight to make tone.”

Dixon also announced a special performance during Spivey’s upcoming season announcement event to be held for donors in March. The second half of the program will feature pianist Inon Barnatan performing short works on both Robert and Clara.

This story originally appeared with an audio interview on WABE.org.

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