The importance of a philosophy, a vision which becomes the ground for our work, is paramount to the act of restoring a piano. Like the metronome which guides the pianist through his practice, our vision of who we are and what we want to accomplish with each piano is what makes us tick, as it were.
The tag line to Piano4te—keeping the piano strong— may at first seem overly simplistic and for good reason. On the surface, it is meant to be direct, somewhat catchy. A play on the words piano and forte, soft and loud. On another level, it reminds us that by tending to the vast number of pianos that have been weakened, indeed ravaged by age, we might not only keep that one piano strong but the memory of what the Piano was, a memory which becomes even more critical as industry, and the piano industry in particular, moves to ever increasing robotic mechanization.
There is another meaning to this simple tag line, one that we hold close. This is where our particular philosophy begins. The cembalo che fa' il piano, e il forte, as the piano was originally called, was a descriptive term to describe a keyboard that was capable of being played both soft and loud, something novel in the early 18th century. The harpsichord which had been the de facto keyboard
The ensuing 200 years witnessed a fading away of the craftsman-apprentice system and the establishment of a competitive piano industry, an industry itself finally broken and to a great extent absorbed by dispassionate global conglomerates. With this evolution, genius and invention, traits which had inspired the pianos as well as the composers who wrote music for them, were now defined as marketing and the bottom line.
But perhaps the most insidious development was with the element of choice. No longer could one choose between many sounds, many tones, many characters. The choice now was one sound with many imitators,. Instead of a horizon of approaches from which to choose, one now would choose vertically based on price. And like the street merchant hawking his wares, a defining selling criterion would become how loud the piano could sound. The individual voice was gone.
Which brings us to our mission in keeping the piano strong: to re-invent the craftsman in his and her workshop; to reveal the unique voice of these artifacts once known as pianofortes; and finally, to make sure that the piano in pianoforte, that subtle nuance of tone which names the instrument, always remains strong.
instrument of choice for several hundred years, did not possess the mechanical means to make subtle variations in tone and volume. So it was that Bartolomeo Cristofori and the piano-makers who succeeded him had at their disposal the idea of a keyboard instrument that was capable of expression and to which they as craftsmen could impart their individual voices. This is the great tradition of 19th century piano making—a plurality of piano design, timbres, dynamics and mechanics.