For the Record with Ara Vartoukian

Voicing and Regulating the Steinway


















In a special edition of ‘For the Record’, we asked Ara what his favourite piece was during the 2015 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition.  His answer was not what many would expect:



“I was regularly asked during and at the end of the competition as to what were my highlight performances.


My answer was quite unusual to many, particularly to those who were unaware of the pre-competition procedures.


Certainly there were many musical and pianistic highlights, after all I did spend over 140 hours listening to some terrific playing. However, as a technician responsible for setting up and maintaining the instrument most used during the competition, the selection process is the highlight that I can nominate.


36 fantastic young musicians are given 20 minutes to try, consider and digest which instrument out of the 4 provided will be their ‘selected weapon’ to be used in the coming battle. To watch each of them as they test the instruments for touch and tone sequentially is a sight and sound phenomena that most audiences will never have the opportunity to see or hear.


The body language as they jump from one piano another in the first few minutes often defines the final choice they will make.


To hear how much of a difference each pianist can make to the sound of each piano makes the whole experience educational as well, as I try to understand from a purely technical perspective what can make these differences.


In a piano we are dealing with a very complex machine first and foremost. So how do the pianists produce such a diverse palate of sounds from each individual piano? How can one pianist, playing the same piece, make one instrument sound as if it needs a full day of voicing and another create the most idyllic tone?


This is why I am so fascinated by this section of the competition…before it even begins!”


For more information about Ara’s Moscow expedition, click here!

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