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Rare Piano Destroyed During Move Is Now in ‘Piano Heaven’ (Hopefully)


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 on Sunday, Ms. 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.”

Ms. 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 Ms. 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,” the 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, Ms. 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, Ms. 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 Ms. Hewitt with a Fazioli F278 model for her upcoming concerts at the 92nd Street Y, Ms. Brown said.

In an emailed statement, Ms. Hewitt said she purchased the piano at the Fazioli factory in Sacile, Italy, in 2003, and had it moved into a house that she had built on the shores of Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy. “The house, and the road down to the music room, had been designed with a concert grand piano in mind, and the fact that it would have to easily be transported,” she said.

“It was my first ever full-size concert grand piano, and I was thrilled to bits when it was delivered,” she added.

She used it for all her recordings in Europe over the next 17 years, mostly in Germany and Italy, and in the occasional concert in Umbria, Florence, Rome and London. At other venues, she relied on dealers to provide pianos.

“Contrary to what some people think, this piano did not travel the world with me,” she said. “I had to have a very good reason to move this piano out of my house!”

Few other pianists had touched its keys, she said.

“Pianos take on the characteristics of whoever is playing them, and the sound is molded by the touch of the pianist,” Ms. Hewitt wrote. “This Fazioli had an infinite variety of sounds that I could call on, and it challenged my touch and imagination in a huge way. It took a lot of control, and other pianists might have found it too ‘dangerous’ to play, but I liked that.”

Ms. Hewitt, whose father was the organist at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, 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.”)

Ms. Hewitt said 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 that can cost several hundred thousand dollars.

Ms. Hewitt declined to say how the accident happened or comment on the value of the piano, saying that the insurance process was ongoing.

“It makes no sense, financially or artistically, to rebuild this piano from scratch,” Ms. Hewitt wrote, adding that it was kaput.

Now, there must be others: She said she must 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 Beethoven recording she had been making in Berlin, their last together.

“When I was practicing — maybe up to eight hours a day — at home on it, every minute was a complete joy,” she said in her emailed statement. “I’m happy to have so many recordings that show what a beautiful instrument it was. Now they mean more to me than ever.”

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