Repaired Steinway Grand piano to play a starring role in Rhapsody in Blue concert


Ian Burgess-Simpson fine tunes the Steinway Grand Piano in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. Photo: Jonathan Burton

THE Steinway Concert Grand Model D piano in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, which was damaged by rain water dripping from a leak in the city hall roof three years ago, has been fully repaired and will be back in action from 7.30 pm tonight (Saturday, March 19).

The water had damaged the felt on the hammers that strike the strings and had affected the rest of the string mechanism. When the damage was first discovered Mariitzburg-bsed concert pianist, Christopher Duigan, told The Witness that he feared that the piano would not be playable ever again.

It took nine months to repair the instrument, initially in Pietermaritzburg and later in Cape Town, using original Steinway parts.

“The piano had to be completely rebuilt,” Steinway certified technician Ian Burgess-Simpson said. “Everything had to be replaced inside … there are a thousand moving parts and they all have to relate to each other. It was a challenge to maximise every bit of tone the piano has to ensure that it sounds just like a Steinway piano should.”

Burgess-Simpson, a Maritzburg College Old Boy, spent two days in the city this week working with Duigan to fine tune the piano, which will be used for both solo pieces and with an orchestra.

“The piano is sounding incredibly fresh for a 50-year-old and is ready to go for the concert,” Duigan, who has helped organise the Rhapsody in Blue concert, featuring the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, said. “Msunduzi Municipality and Pietermaritzburg are very fortunate to have an instrument like this. Thank you to Ian Burgess-Simpson. He is a piano genius!”

Duigan will be playing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and an original composition, Four Nocturnes, at the concert, which also features the talents of Spanish saxophonist, David Salleras. The conductor is James Ross from the United States.

Tonight’s programme also includes Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture, arranged by Gershwin’s good friend and sometimes assistant, Robert Russell Bennett, in 1942 and a performance of Japanese composer, Takashi Yoshimatsu’s Saxophone Concerto “Cyber Bird”, Op. 59 (1994).

Tickets are R130 (R120 pensioners, R80 scholars) and R200 for premier seats. Book at the Parklane SUPERSPAR Coffee Shop or phone Jennifer at 033 342 3487.

There is secure parking in City Hall, Bessie Head Library and Tatham Art Gallery precincts.


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