Via the Guardian.
One of the world’s longest pianos has found a new home in the deep south of New Zealand after the fire brigade were called on to help shift the behemoth into place.
Adrian Mann began building the 5.7 metre piano as an “obsessive” high school student in a farm shed in Timaru, a small town on the east coast of the South Island.
Now aged 28 and working full-time as a piano builder, Mann’s keyboard has been played by some of New Zealand’s best concert pianists, and was once installed in the Otago Museum foyer in the hope Elton John would play it when he gave a concert in Dunedin.
Weighing more than a tonne, Mann said the instrument sounded very different from normal pianos, with a deeper bass and depth resulting from its extraordinary length.
“It was a gigantic experiment. If you think of a typical concert piano, of course they sound amazing. But with this piano, there is an extra level of depth and resonance again because the piano wires are more than 20ft long,” said Mann.
“You’ve got a huge soundboard, it moves a massive amount of air, and you’ve got that extra bit of grunt behind it. The keys are almost a metre long. There were huge engineering challenges to overcome. When it was first built the sound was quite raw, but it’s now much more refined and tuned and well-regulated.”Mann said most visiting pianists tended to choose big, powerful pieces and are surprised at the piano’s capacity to handle the subtler passages and softer notes.
The Alexander piano will now remain permanently in Mann’s workshop in Dunedin, where he hoped curious pianists from around the world would visit and have a play.
“A lot of people approach the piano with all sorts of different ideas. I had a pianist from London visit recently and he was quite pessimistic about the piano. He thought it was a gimmick,” said Mann.
“But when he finished playing, he was quite delighted with what he could get out of it. A lot of pianists come along and the first thing they do is play the bottom notes and go ‘oh my goodness’. It can be quite hard to pull some people away. I haven’t had a negative reaction yet.”