In February 2017, the BSO launched its 125th Grand Piano Appeal to raise funds to purchase a new Steinway Concert Grand Piano in time for the 125th Anniversary celebrations in May 2018.
Thanks to the generosity of the BSO’s amazing audiences throughout the South and South West, the Appeal surpassed its target of £125,000 in less than a year.
In September 2017, a rigorous selection process took place at Steinway & Sons in Hamburg, which was led by pianist Sunwook Kim, with Steinway Master Technician Ulrich Gerhartz and BSO Head of Concerts and Programming Heather Duncan.
Prior to the visit to Hamburg, a detailed consultation took place with Steinway, Sunwook and the BSO to establish the desired tone of the new piano. From this consultation, Steinway were able to hand-pick 12 of their ‘Model D’ Concert Grand Pianos for Sunwook to trial when visiting Hamburg.
Before Sunwook trialled the pianos, Ulrich said there were two Steinway pianos which he thought would suit the BSO, and after trying all of the selected pianos Sunwook identified two pianos which he thought would be suitable for the BSO, independently reaching the same conclusion as Ulrich. Through this process, a suitable Model D Concert Grand Piano was identified for the BSO.
A number of leading BSO supporters of the Appeal also visited the Steinway & Sons factory in Hamburg in the days following the selection process. These supporters were among the first people to see the chosen instrument, as well as having the opportunity to have a tour through the factory, seeing the process of building a Steinway piano from beginning to end.
The Steinway’s debut performance took place at Lighthouse, Poole on Wednesday 31 January. Sunwook Kim performed Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, conducted by the BSO’s Chief Conductor Kirill Karabits.
Before the concert, Sunwook Kim said: “For a pianist, a Steinway of this quality is incredibly exciting. I was delighted when the BSO asked me to select the new piano, and it is a privilege to play the debut performance on 31 January.
“This piano is very special. It is full of personality and complexity, not only is it beautiful but it is also bright in sound. I am sure it will bring joy to BSO audiences for many years to come.”
The Grand Piano Appeal closed on Friday 1 December 2017. The BSO is extremely grateful to everyone who supported the Grand Piano Appeal, with 570 people making donations ranging from £1 to £20,000.
Due to the success of the Appeal, which surpassed its target, the BSO has been able to establish a new ‘Grand Piano Fund’, which will remain open to donations on an ongoing basis.
The Fund will support the specialist care and maintenance of this remarkable instrument and the BSO’s costs of programming piano concertos across the wider south west region.
(image: Chief Conductor Kirill Karabits and Sunwook Kim with the new Steinway ‘Model D’ Concert Grand Piano)
Philip R Buttall