The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts May 5, 2007

Con Acquires 200th Piano

The Oberlin Conservatory welcomed its 200th Steinway, the second Hamburg Steinway in its collection, with a concert in Finney Chapel last Sunday. The instrument was a gift from Oberlin alumni.

“It is a great honor for Oberlin to accept this gift from Alan and Marilyn Korest in the name of Jane and Fenner Douglass,” said Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music David H. Stull. “The Korests are great friends of both Oberlin and Fenner, and this instrument will serve generations of artists for decades to come.”

In his opening speech, Stull mentioned the century-long cooperation between the Conservatory and Steinway & Sons, making Oberlin the world’s first “all-Steinway school.” He thanked the Korests for their generosity and the Conservatory’s phenomenal piano technicians responsible for keeping all the instruments in great shape.

The spotlight quickly moved to the Hamburg, when Professor of Piano Peter Takacs’ original arrangement of Bach’s Air in D solemnly opened the concert. The energy, which vibrated inside the piano’s nine-foot length, was easy to hear in the deep, pulsating basses and the gentle, yet singing, melody. Associate Professor of Pianoforte Haewon Song and Professor of Piano and Director of Keyboard Studies Robert Shannon’s interpretation of Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole highlighted its exotic characteristics while the duo flawlessly executed the bravura passages.

When Professors Monique Duphil and Takacs played their exuberant and charming rendition of Mozart’s Sonata in C major, K. 521, the Steinway appeared in a different light. The 2007 Arthur Dann Competition winner Yu-Chien Shih played Chopin’s technically challenging Barcarolle, Op. 60, seemingly without effort. Later, Duphil’s rendition of Debussy’s Bruyeres and General Lavine-eccentric were truly masterful and utterly delightful.

Shannon’s thoughtfully interpreted Arcadi Volodos arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s “Andante” from Cello Sonata Op.19 came right before a selection of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, which Associate Professors of Piano Angela Cheng and Alvin Chow performed with vigor and sense of stylistic contrasts.

The Korests believe in supporting the education and the arts; the couple has also aided in the design and the building of Bower Chapel at Moorings Park, in Naples, Florida, and the establishment of the Bower School of Music at the Florida Gulf Coast University in 2006.

The Korests met the Douglasseswhile searching for a fine organ builder to help their Bower Chapel project, now one of the greatest organ performance halls in the country. Their close work relationship developed into a very personal one. Acknowledging “Fenner Douglass’s enthusiasm, high energy level and solid musical practical knowledge,” Korest decided that “as a team,” they would dedicate their generous gift to the Conservatory to their beloved friends.

The instrument was selected in Hamburg, Germany by Conservatory faculty and staff, including Associate Dean of the Conservatory Michael Lynn, Director of Piano Technology John Cavanaugh, Professor of Piano and Chair of the Piano Department Peter Takacs, Professor of Piano Monique Duphil and Associate Professor of Historical Performance David Breitman.

The Steinway, weighing 1000 pounds, boasts an ebonized walnut and birch case with a hard rock maple rim. This rim underwent 18 laminations and has a close-grained, quarter-swan Sitka spruce soundboard (the wooden panel underneath the strings, which vibrates in a way similar to the way a violin soundboard does) and cost $150,000.

The versatility of the Jane and Fenner Douglass Hamburg Steinway Grand was indeed proven in its exceptional debut.


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