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Samuel Ben-Horin's personal and business blog - stories related to piano and piano repair, tuning, performances and artists. Samuel Ben-Horin (Samuel Ben Horin), a professional in the piano business for over 40 years.

Name: Samuel Ben-Horin

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Horowitz at La Scala.

In the mid-eighties Vladimir Horowitz came to play a spectacular concert at La Scala. He also recorded a Mozart piano concerto with Carlo Maria Giulini and La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, in addition to a Mozart Sonata, at Teatro Abanella, a suburb theater with loud acoustics, that was often used by La Scala for rehearsals. The floor had to be covered with sand to improve the acoustics for the recording (by Deutsche Grammophon).

Well, Horowitz's wife is a friend of a certain countess whose piano I used to tune, who expected the maestro and his wife to come and visit her. So she asked me to prepare her beautifully ornate early 1900s Erard French grand piano which, I told her, would definitely not fit the needs of the maestro, but she insisted. So I worked on the piano for several days making it somehow playable and fit for the occasion.

As it turned out, the maestro prefered to stay at his hotel and didn't play the piano. So, to compensate me for all that I had done, Horowitz invited me to a dinner he hosted there but, since I could not come that day, he autographed for me a Peters edition of Schumann's Kreisleriana , which he had played at his La Scala concert.

But how does all this connect to the previous story?

Well, one night after 11pm, my phone rings (very unusual then for a well-mannered Milanese to call so late). On the phone is the same well-known pianist who had played the 4th Beethoven concerto with the Milano Symphony Orchestra on the salvaged and enhanced Yamaha G2 last August. He is at the house of the countess and has just played the Erard grand piano which I prepared for Horowitz. He felt compelled to call me right away to tell me how outstanding the piano is and how much he enjoyed playing it. Then he ends with these precise words: "Signor Ben, solo un'artista come me puo' apprezzare il lavoro d'un artista come Lei" (Only an artist like me can appreciate the work of an artist like you) - period!

The whole thing sounded somehow amusing to me: neither of these two pianos approached even remotely the quality of the usual Steinway, Bosendorfer (and early Fazioli) concert grands which I used to tune on stage.

Posted by Samuel Ben-Horin.