World's largest concert piano strikes chord in Latvia

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
VENTSPILS
Published 29.07.2019 00:11
David Klavins stands next to his new creation, the M470i vertical concert grand piano, with a height of 4,70 meters, at the new Lativa concert hall in Ventspils, Latvia, on July 23, 2019.
David Klavins stands next to his new creation, the M470i vertical concert grand piano, with a height of 4,70 meters, at the new "Lativa" concert hall in Ventspils, Latvia, on July 23, 2019.

Soaring to new musical heights, a German-born innovator has crafted what is believed to be the world's largest grand piano.

It is without question one of a kind: attached high on the wall of a concert hall in Latvia, the steel-framed vertical grand piano hangs as if in mid-air some three stories above the audience.

To play it, pianists must climb a steep flight of steel stairs to a balcony. Although the Guinness Book of World Records has not yet measured the new instrument, it was made by David Klavins whose Model 370 piano unveiled in 1987 is currently regarded as being among the world's largest. Klavins' standard new model, the 470i Vertical Concert Grand piano, has strings that are 4.7 meters long.

The custom-built 470i piano installed at a new concert hall in the Baltic seaside port and resort town of Ventspils is even larger; its imposing navy blue-painted steel frame is six meters high. With some strings measuring almost five meters, the instrument emits bold, sonorous music.

"The most suitable music for this instrument would be all the very expressive works, for example Rachmaninoff, Scriabin but also Beethoven's sonatas would sound totally different on this instrument," Klavins told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The innovator, who has Latvian roots, has worked on pianos nearly all his life, driven by a desire to push the boundaries of the instrument first created by Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700.

High school dropout

"Since I was 16 years old and dropped out of school to become a piano restoration apprentice, I have been trying to explore new designs and principles, which deviate from the 140-year-old construction of the traditional grand piano," Klavins, now 65, told AFP while sitting at the 450i. He crafted his first vertical piano in 1985.

It is not just his new instrument's mammoth size that makes it stand out; having no wooden casing means that audiences seated in the concert hall can see its long, steely strings.

Opening this Friday in Ventspils, the Latvija venue where the piano is installed, boasts two concert halls with a combined seating capacity of 1,000. It is also home to a music academy for emerging young talent. On display to the public for the first time on Friday, the instrument has already created a buzz among piano enthusiasts.

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