New Steinway Concert ‘D’ piano settles in at the MCM

March 15 / 153

Professor Ian Holtham and the Steinway Concert ‘D’. Image: Sav Schulman 2014
Professor Ian Holtham and the Steinway Concert ‘D’. Image: Sav Schulman 2014


A new, magnificent, gleaming nine-foot Steinway ‘D’ grand piano is settling in at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music’s Melba Hall. 


It is the school’s fourth Steinway D.


 “We are a Steinway school,” says Professor Ian Holtham, Head of Keyboard at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. 


“My strong feeling is that if pianists are trained on Steinways they are trained on the best pianos in the world and they will be able play any piano in the world. It is not vice versa! In the words of our piano tuner, ‘If you don’t know how to play a Steinway it will chop you to bits’!”


Professor Holtham visited the piano every day over the summer semester break, carefully working with it to not so much ‘break in’ the piano (as one would a wild animal) but ‘ease in’ the new instrument, preparing it for the countless fortunate students who will use it as part of their training at MCM. 


 “When you get a new Steinway, the instrument does not yet have fully-formed grooves in the hammers where they meet the string. These grooves hugely affect the sound character for the life of the instrument, so the ‘playing in’ process, to create these grooves and ‘introduce’ the hammer to the string, has to be done with delicate care.”


It is very important that a steady, experienced and consistent hand establishes those grooves in the hammers and eases up the mechanism. “I can tell when someone else has played the piano in these early days, it feels different for the first ten minutes or so when I sit down to play,” Holtham reveals.


The piano has been on stage as much as possible since it arrived and so far, and according to Professor Holtham, seems ‘very well behaved’! “The mark of a great piano is that is has balance in its temperament and the Steinway Concert D is a very stable and reliable instrument on the whole.”


Each Steinway piano has a unique personality or character that sets it apart. “The character of this instrument really suits Melba Hall, it is beautifully modulated. Its big sounds wouldn’t really be that big in a massive concert hall but in Melba, this piano’s fortissimo is perfect, very commanding. Excitingly, this piano can also be very intimate and deliver beautiful soft sounds. Melba Hall is wonderful for ‘soft’— exquisite pps and pppps. A good Messiaen piano!”



This article is an edited excerpt of an interview of Professor Ian Holtham by Kate Mazoudier. For the full article, please click here.  

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