Rare piano destroyed during move is now in 'piano heaven' (hopefully)
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Rare piano destroyed during move is now in 'piano heaven' (hopefully)
Angela Hewitt performs a Bach program at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, Nov. 2, 2019. Movers dropped Angela Hewitt’s Fazioli concert grand piano — the only one of its kind in the world — as they were taking it out of a studio, the pianist announced this week. She said it was beyond salvaging. Hiroyuki Ito/The New York Times.

by Christine Hauser

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- For 17 years, Angela Hewitt, one of the world’s foremost classical pianists, has been performing recitals and creating acclaimed recordings with a rare concert grand piano.

But their partnership has now ended. This week, she composed a eulogy for her beloved instrument, as full of emotion and longing as the music she once created with it, after movers dropped the piano, destroying it.

In a Facebook post Sunday, Hewitt described having just completed a recording of Beethoven variations at a studio in Berlin. She was elated with the results, she said, and as she was finishing up with her producer, the movers entered the control room, mortified.

“They had dropped my precious Fazioli concert grand piano,” she wrote.

“I adored this piano,” she continued. “It was my best friend, best companion.”

Hewitt said she was so distraught that it took her 10 days to tell the story.

“I hope my piano will be happy in piano heaven,” she added.

The piano was an F278 model with four pedals — the only one of its kind to have such a mechanism, she wrote.

“I loved how it felt when I was recording — giving me the possibility to do anything I wanted,” she wrote.

And over the years, in concert halls around the world, she gave audiences what they wanted, too, according to reviews by The New York Times and others.

“Ms. Hewitt is one of those rare musicians who seem to get something into their heads and hearts and find it at their fingertips instantaneously,” The Times wrote of a performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007.

Another review described Hewitt as an “excellent” and “brave pianist” for taking on Bach’s “The Art of Fugue” at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. The piece “places a heavy onus on any who would perform it to supply the flesh and blood,” Times music critic James R. Oestreich wrote in 2015. “And it creates no end of finger tangles if done by one player on a single keyboard.”

“So it is the brave pianist who will take it on, as Angela Hewitt did,” he said.

In November, Hewitt, a Canadian who lives in London, delivered “splendid performances” of a Bach program at the 92nd Street Y — the first of three to conclude her four-year survey of Bach’s complete keyboard works. The others are scheduled for April and May.

The accident will not affect her concert schedule, Jane Brown, Hewitt’s publicist in London, said in an email. “She will still perform on a Fazioli concert grand when one is available, thanks to the various dealers they have around the world.”

Klavierhaus, a piano shop in Manhattan, is providing Hewitt with a Fazioli F278 model for her upcoming concerts at the 92nd Street Y, Brown said.

Hewitt, whose father was the organist at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, Ontario, began playing the piano at 3. She also studied ballet, which she says contributed to her understanding of the dance element in Bach’s music. (The Guardian described her in 2017 as “one of the great Bach interpreters of our day.”)

Hewitt, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, added that the piano had only recently had new hammers and strings put on it.

She said in her Facebook post that the piano’s “iron frame is broken, as well as much else in the structure and action” of the instrument. It had been deemed “not salvageable” after an inspection by the staff at Fazioli Pianos, which produces grand and concert grand pianos in Sacile, Italy, that can cost several hundred thousand dollars. Brown declined to comment on the value of Hewitt’s piano.

“It makes no sense, financially or artistically, to rebuild this piano from scratch,” Hewitt wrote.

Hewitt said there would be others: She would be able to choose a new one in Sacile in the coming months, in time for a summer festival in Umbria.

And though gone, the beloved instrument that she lost has not been silenced. It can still be heard, both on her most recent recording and later this year on the recording she had been making in Berlin, their last together.

“You will hear on the Beethoven Variations CD (when it comes out in November, I hope) that it was in top form,” she wrote of the piano. “Now it is no longer.”

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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