In 2000 sculptor Michael Parekowhai brought us a Steinway Concert grand that had seen better days. The brief was for us to rebuild it, while he would carve and decorate the exterior.
We recently completed this ten-year collaboration with Michael Parekowhai rebuilding He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu, Story of a New Zealand River from soundboard to performance piano. The beautifully carved piano is the centrepiece sculpture of Michael's exhibition for the 2011 Venice Biennale - the world's oldest and most prestigious visual art exhibition.
The instrument was originally built in 1926 and came with the following delightful inscription on the frame from pianist Lili Krauss:
Dear friends, may this beautiful instrument bring you happiness and inspiration; with all my love.
London Xmas 1959
The project has moved along slowly. After the initial disassembly, the initial carving was completed. We installed a new soundboard, bridges and tuning plank in 2006. Then there was, for us at least, a hiatus of a few years while the carving - including the completely pierced lid - was completed.
In 2010 the instrument was returned to us fully carved and requiring additional internal laminating to strengthen the rim. The black frame was installed, the instrument was strung and the new mechanism installed along with a new sostenuto pedal system.
Final regulation, tuning and voicing was completed in time for the March 2011 Henderson, Auckland, preview. I hope you enjoy the progress pictures as much as we have enjoyed the project.
See photos of the collaboration below