I’ve had the joy – and fun – of being able to play all kinds of pianos from portable digital instruments to upright pianos in places as diverse as Bali, Moscow and Istanbul – and even a custom made piano in Dubai – a $300,000 Fazioli made in Italy of multiple layers of white ebony veneer, the only one in the world.
But nothing compares to the spectacular Viennese-made, three metre long Bösendorfer Concert Grand 290 Imperial that I had the privilege of playing on September 29 at Tapestry Opera’s Ernest Balmer Studio in Toronto’s Distillery District.
The Bösendorfer, manufactured in Vienna since 1828, was the favorite of musical legend Franz Liszt and is considered the Rolls Royce of concert pianos – also favoured by Johann Strauss and Anton Rubinstein. The pianos were owned by the Austrian royal family as well as the czar and by Japan’s emperor.
I am absolutely in awe of this imposing instrument with its 97 keys instead of a piano’s normal 88 – and worth a quarter of a million dollars. Its rich, resonant bass notes send shivers up the spine. I’m still in a bit of disbelief that I had the privilege of performing on it.
“Arash composes music with his soul. All his feelings are put into it. I was tearing up a bit – beautiful, beautiful, absolutely beautiful.” Yass Sadr.
A generous gift from its previous owners, an Ottawa couple, the piano now resides in a small studio performance space in one of The Distillery District’s historic buildings. Victorian industrial architecture has steep staircases – and no elevators – so this precious cargo had to be hoisted by crane through one of the third-floor windows at a cost of $20,000.
I’m able to adapt my style of playing to the nature of each piano but this was different. My heart pounding with excitement on that September evening, I sat down to play for a rapt audience in the intimate studio.
“He brings out the deepest emotions that everybody has gone through. He has a special way of touching people on a really deep level.” Kyan Nademi
In the glow of flickering candles placed around the piano’s base, the mesmerizing orchestral sound, enhanced by Sam Bisson’s haunting cello, reverberated through the small space while images from my music videos provided a visual backdrop on a screen above the piano
“You close your eyes and you realize the beauty of the moment he puts you in with his amazing music.” Dariia Vereshchak
It was an exceptional auditory experience but also one of sensation as the deeply vibrating sonorous notes penetrated to the core of each individual’s being. What a joy to perform my compositions on an instrument of such depth.
“Wow! What a fantastic journey. Arash’s music makes you happy. It makes you sad. It makes you vulnerable. His music takes you on a journey – for yourself and for everybody in the room together.” Anastasia Kedrova
The evening was an unforgettable experience, both for me and for my beautiful audience. I hope I have the privilege one day soon to play this incredible piano in this unique, intimate studio once again.