Friday, July 25, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Christopher Taylor to play Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” on one-of-a-kind Steinway with two keyboards.

Christopher Taylor and his two-keyboard Steinway will be showcased Friday, May 3, at The Mondavi Center. Courtesy photo

By
From page A9 | April 30, 2013 |

Christopher Taylor will play J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” on a Steinway like no other — a piano with two keyboards — on Friday, May 3.

“It is extremely rare. Steinway only built one,” Taylor said in a phone interview from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he is on the faculty.

The idea of a two-keyboard piano was promoted by Emánuel Moór (1863–1931), a now relatively obscure Hungarian composer, pianist, and inventor. Moór was well aware that many organs have dual-manuals (or keyboards), and some harpsichords also had dual-manuals — J.S. Bach wrote the “Goldberg Variations” with a dual-manual harpsichord specifically in mind. The second keyboard makes the “Goldberg Variations” easier to play, since doing the piece on a single keyboard involves complex (and sometimes hand-tangling) crossover moves.

“Moór was inspired by the example of harpsichords and organs, and thought that pianists should be in on the act,” Taylor said. And Moór must have been persuasive, because he convinced Steinway to build the special piano for him in 1929.

The lower manual has the standard 88 keys, the upper manual has only 76.  “The instrument also has a fourth (foot) pedal,” Taylor added, “so that if you strike one key on the lower keyboard, you get the octave higher note at the same time. Two hammers fire at the same time. But as far as tuning it is concerned, it is just like an ordinary piano — a normal set of strings. If you only looked at the instrument behind the keyboard, you might not think it is unusual.” But from the front, with the two keyboards, it is unique within the Steinway realm.

Having two keyboards means that “if you are smart, and you put your thumb on the lower keyboard and the pinkie finger on the upper keyboard, you can get these huge intervals that are impossible on a regular instrument — you can get organ-like sonorities,” Taylor said.

Moór’s unusual design had admirers — among them the composer Maurice Ravel, pianist Alfred Cortot and critic Donald Tovey. Several other piano makers took up the design, including Bösendorfer (which made an instrument now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

But in the end, 0nly around 60 dual-manual pianos were made. But Moór’s widow, Winifred Christie, continued to evangelize on behalf of her husband’s design after his death. Among her converts was pianist Gunnar Johansen, who joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin in 1939 — Johansen actually owned two dual-manual instruments (the Steinway, and a Bösendorfer). Johansen passed away in 1991, and eventually his widow donated the Steinway to the university.

That’s when Taylor got involved. By then, the instrument needed service. “We sent it to Steinway in New York and they wrestled with it for about a year,” Taylor said. “No one in the factory had seen anything like it, and there were no blueprints left from the 1920s.”

Once the piano had been rejuvenated, Taylor began giving performances of the “Goldberg Variations” using the dual-manual instrument, after rethinking the way he played the piece to take advantage of the second keyboard.

Reviewing a 2007 performance, Bernard Holland of the New York Times observed “Playing this music on one keyboard is like tap dancing in a closet. There is not enough room… Two keyboards give Mr. Taylor’s hands space to maneuver… the mouths of pianists in the audience must have been watering.”

The piano travels with Taylor whenever he does the “Goldbergs.”

“It goes on a truck, and arrives a couple of days before the concert,” Taylor said.

Local music lovers with good memories may recall that Taylor’s visit in December 2008 — he played Olivier Messiaen’s monumental “Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant-Jésus” in Mondavi’s Vanderhoef Studio Theater. That muscular performance  made such heavy demands on the piano that a technician came out during intermission and retuned the (single keyboard) Steinway Taylor played on that occasion. Taylor said the “Goldbergs” are “definitely less brutal on the instrument, Bach doesn’t use the extremes of the instrument’s range the way Messiaen does. The keyboard was shorter in Bach’s day. But the Bach is a hefty piece of music, intense and dense. It requires concentration, and some endurance on the performer’s part.”

The May 3 concert will be at 8 p.m. in Jackson Hall. Tickets are $35-$58 general, $17.50-$29 students, www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787. There will be a pre-concert presentation at 7 p.m. with Taylor in conversation with Jeremy Ganter, the Mondavi Center’s associate executive director.

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Tech Trekkers boldly go into STEM fields

    By Amy Jiang | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Decoding breast milk secrets reveals clues to lasting health

    By Pat Bailey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    California climate change policies to hit our pocketbooks

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

     
    Davis braces for six days of scorching heat

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Appeals court upholds high-speed rail route

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

    Carwash raises funds for funeral expenses

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Unitarians will host summer camp

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Artists, photographers invited to support Yolo Basin Foundation

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Sudwerk’s sales grow, floating on a sea of dry hop lager

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Wetlands visitors will see migrating shorebirds

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    ‘Bak2Sac’ free train ride program launched

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Explorit: Wonderful wetlands right at home

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Recycle old paint cans for free

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Where your gas money goes

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A12

    Americans, internationals make connections

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

     
    Can you give them a home?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16 | Gallery

    STEAC needs donations of personal care items

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16, 1 Comment

     
    .

    Forum

    Trio disagrees on best option

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Commenting system to change

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10, 32 Comments

     
    Support these local restaurants

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Let’s get the bench repaired

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    Predicting climate changes

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

     
    Clinton’s book is worth a read

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10, 3 Comments

    Thanks for emergency help

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Sports

    Hudson solid, Hamels better in Giants’ loss

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Petrovic, Putnam share Canadian Open lead

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Moss powers A’s past Astros

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Enriquez brilliant, but Post 77 season ends with Area 1 loss

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    The un-Armstrong? Tour ‘boss’ Nibali wins Stage 18

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Clyde Elmore: Art in the Wild

    By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    ‘A Most Wanted Man’: Superb espionage drama

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Musicians perform at Sunday service

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A17 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Accord’s latest model is most fuel efficient

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
     
    .

    Obituaries

    Mary Lita Bowen

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    James Thomas Feather

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Richard ‘Dick’ Robenalt

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, July 25, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A13

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

    Remax

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

    Sherman Home

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Tracy Harris

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Vaughan Brookshaw

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Lyon Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Julie Leonard

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

    Ciana Wallace

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

    Melrina A Maggiora

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Joe Kaplan

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Jo Vallejo

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Karen Waggoner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Jamie Madison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Malek Baroody

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

    Carol Coder

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Diane Lardelli

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Jason Sull

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER13

    Julie Partain

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Lisa Haass

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Leslie Blevins

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Yolo FCU

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    David Campos

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Heather Barnes

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Willowbank Park

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Kim Eichorn

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Dana Hawkins & Caitlin McCalla

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

    Dana Hawkins & Caitlin McCalla

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

    Susan von Geldern

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

    Open House Map

    By jboydston | From Page: RER19

    Chris Snow

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

    Travis Credit Union

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20

    Patricia Echevarria

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

    Lynne Wegner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

    Kim Merrel Lamb

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

    Martha Bernauer

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

    Open House Map

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER23

    F1rst Street Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER24