From the Library: Pianoforte Performance

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by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 5 March, 2011

On this day in 1853, Henry Engelhard Steinway, a German immigrant to New York, founded his new company, Steinway & Sons, in a loft on Varick Street in Manhattan, to make pianos of the finest quality. Henry and his sons went on to build possibly the best-known name in pianoforte craft in the world.

Henry had built 482 pianos by hand in his native Germany. Number 483, the first made by the new company, was sold to a New York family for the princely sum of $500.

Over the next three decades, Steinway’s company essentially developed the modern piano, introducing 127 patents and dramatically improving the design of the instrument. Steinway’s musical innovations were both an art and a science: the 19th century was a time of scientific discovery, not least the birth of the science of acoustics.

In 1866, the company opened the Steinway Hall, a 2000-seater auditorium and home for the New York Philharmonic. By this time, the company had moved to new premises in Astoria, Queens, and built the Steinway Village, which located all the materials and craftspeople required to build Steinway pianos together in one place.

In recognition of the Steinway anniversary, today’s programme features piano music and piano composers, including a wide range of material, primarily but not exclusively in a classical vein. As usual there will be a few surprises — music of Erik Satie performed by chamber orchestra and solo Moog synthesiser, for example, and a collection of classical pieces interpreted by David Rees-Williams — and a few special treats, like the original piano version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition,  but throughout the day you’ll be treated to some wonderful music for the pianoforte. And if you’d like to read more about the history of Steinway, here’s the History page of their web site.

The ZBS Radio Hour

Then join us at 11am and 7pm Pacific Time, that’s 19:00 and 03:00 GMT, for two exciting adventures from our friends at ZBS Foundation in the ZBS Radio Hour. At the top of the hour, Jack Flanders returns to where it all began — his aunt’s mysterious Victorian mansion where all manner of strange goings-on unfurled and he discovered many other worlds both within and without, over 35 years ago, in Return to Inverness. Then at the bottom of the hour it’s Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe, in Ruby 5.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin and produced by Radio Riel in conjunction with our friends at the Alexandrian Free Library Consortium of Second Life. You can listen to the programme in-world now at, or simply click here to start your player, if your browser is configured to do so. Listeners in the United States are encouraged to tune in using this link:

For more information on the Alexandrian Free Library, current exhibits and the work of Consortium members in general, please visit the Alexandrian Free Library website, or one of their branches in-world.


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