Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The old piano roll Rhapsody in Blues

I got a card in the mail the other day. Nothing personal: Maureen Rogers or Current Resident. But the offer sure was interesting.

Did I want to have Vladimir Horowitz perform at my holiday party?

Well, maybe if he can tickle the ivories and give us “Christmas in Killarney,” “Good King Wenceslas”, and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” And, for an encore, how about “Little St. Nick”

Would having George Gershwin play a medley of his Broadway hits impress my friends when they visit?

Georgie Gershwin? Playing “Someone to Watch Over Me” (sniff, sniff)? “I’ve Got a Crush On You, Sweetie Pie”? That would be ‘s wonderful. I would be rhapsodizing in blue all over the place.

How about spending an evening relaxing while Thelonius Monk serenades me with some cool jazz piano?

I would be donning my shades and my finest black turtleneck if that cool cat showed up chez moi. Snap, snap.

But, say, isn’t Thelonius Monk, like, dead, daddy-o? Vladimir Horowitz, too. And I seem to remember Georgie Gershwin breathing his last in some old b&w weeper they used to show on Boston Movietime.

Ah, worry not.

These and other pianists – dead and alive – can play on your very own piano, thanks to the marvels of technology, as realized by the Steinway Spirio.

“The world’s first ultra-high resolution re-performance piano…Spirio recreates live performances by world-renowned artits, right down to the subtlest nuance, right in our own home, on your own piano. It’s not a recording, it is a virtual live performance.”

Alas, Horowitz, Gershwin, and Monk don’t come cheap – even if it’s a re-performance - especially when you factor in that you can also get Anderson & Roe playing Katchaturian’s “Sabre Dance,” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo” from West Side Story.

I know that these are available, because they’ll be performed this Thursday at a demo (concert?) at Steinert Hall in Boston, part of M. Steinert and Sons, less than a two minute walk from where I live. (And soon, alas, to go out of business. Probably because more and more people are having virtual piano played for them than are playing piano for themselves.)

Anyway, back to ‘don’t come cheap’. A Spirio will cost you about $110K. So not exactly a stocking-stuffer. But you can also play it for yourself, and given that a regular, non-virtual Steinway concert grand will set you back maybe $80K, what’s $30K on the margin? And I’d sure rather listen to Anderson & Roe playing “Mambo” than listen to myself play “Chopsticks,” “Heart and Soul”, and a bit of “Frankie and Johnny”, which are pretty much the only tunes I have to show for my five years of piano lessons.

In my defense, I didn’t take from a real music school. The organist for our parish gave lessons in the living room of her flat in a three-decker right next to our school, and a lot of us went there for a buck a throw. She wasn’t much of a teacher, nor was I much of a student. (Practice? Are you kidding? Not when there are Nancy Drew books to read.) All she ever told me was that I had good rhythm. (Should have taken up the drums…) And all I ever wanted out of a piano lesson was catching sight of one of her cute high-school aged sons.

I’m actually thinking of going to the demo.

Never saw Glenn Gould perform. I would like to hear his “Well Tempered Clavier” played virtually on a really well-tempered clavier.

Bravo, bravo, bravissimo!

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