Playing the main role : the piano !

Since 1999, Pianos Maene has been actively involved in organising each edition of the Queen Elisabeth Competition. They’re always there to ensure that both pianists and audience have an exceptional musical experience during the event.

We invite you behind the scenes of this beautiful collaboration with ten fascinating facts about the Queen Elisabeth Competitions’ Steinway & Sons.

Who selected the piano this year?

A delegation from the Queen Elisabeth Competition selected an instrument for this year's edition at the Pianos Maene workshop in Ruiselede. Pianist and jury member Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden selected the most suitable piano for the piano session out of two pianos. A piano was needed that could have both the warmth and roundness required for a recital and the power needed for the concertos in the finals. A technician from Pianos Maene, jury president Gilles Ledure and the responsible for Steinway at Piano’s Maene also participated in the selection. All candidates will play the same piano from the first round to the final.

How does the piano get on stage?

Unfortunately, the Steinway D-274 does not fit in the lifts at Flagey. So it takes six men to carry it up to Studio 4 by hand. It's a perilous effort to get the piano safely on stage. In Bozar, the transport is a lot easier, and the heavy lifting is reduced to a minimum.

Why are there two pianos on stage?

Because the competition piano is used intensively during the rehersals and concerts, the Competition provides a 'back-up' piano. If, for example, if a string were to break, the competition would have to be stopped momentarily to change it. This would be a waste of time in a very tight schedule. That’s why there’s always a back-up piano that can be used at any time in case of a problem. The back-up piano is also kept perfectly in tune during the course of the competition!

Why is the piano at the Competition a Steinway & Sons?

In some international competitions, candidates can choose from several brands of pianos. In order to listen to the pianists in the most objective way, the Queen Elisabeth Competition always uses the same Steinway Model D for all candidates. Steinway pianos have been the instrument of choice of almost every renowned pianists for many years, and are famous for their versatility, control and tone.

Why does the Steinway D-274 for the competition come from Pianos Maene?

Pianos Maene selects each Steinway for their concert rental service from several identical models at the Steinway & Sons factory in Hamburg. After all, every piano is unique, and Piano’s Maene selects concert pianos with exceptional versatility.
Pianos Maene has four mobile Steinway D-274 pianos at its disposal, which are regularly used in concerts. In order to guarantee the artists a very recent piano, a rental piano is never older than 5 years. This means that they are always at the highest level to satisfy all pianists. Every year, the Competition chooses a piano that is suitable for the purpose: one that is ideal for chamber music (violin, voice, cello) or one that is suitable for the piano competition.

Are there so many differences between concert Steinways?

A Steinway concert grand piano of 2.74 m length, the famous D model, remains the absolute reference for pianists. It is truly piano royalty. Every Steinway D-274 that leaves the Steinway & Sons factory has exceptional qualities but also a personality of its own that makes it unique. You can find a piano with more volume than another, with a rounder or more brilliant sound. When choosing an instrument, a musician should consider his or her preferences and the room in which the piano will be placed.

Why is the lid of the Steinway D-274 covered with an opaque sheet?

There are many spotlights that illuminate the piano during broadcasted concerts. To avoid reflections that would dazzle the musicians when they are looking at the conductor, Pianos Maene places an opaque black adhesive sheet on the lid.

Why and how is the piano disinfected before each candidate?

The COVID 19 pandemic has obviously made everyone's job more difficult. In order not to take any risks, the piano is disinfected with 3% hydrogen peroxide. This product allows disinfection without damaging the piano keyboard. In the dressing rooms, the pianists also disinfect the pianos before playing.

How do the pianists rehearse before going on stage?

Every host family has a piano at home. In Flagey, Pianos Maene places an upright or grand piano in every dressing room that does not have one. Before going on stage, the candidate can rehearse a difficult passage one last time or simply rehearse the repertoire. The members of the jury are of course pianists themselves. Piano’s Maene provides a high-end digital piano in their hotel room, so they can play without disturbing other guests.

How is the piano kept in tune during the event?

There are a number of tuners at Pianos Maene who take care of all the instruments, both in the host families and in the boxes at Flagey and Bozar. The expert technician Svetlozar Siarov of Piano’s Maene is responsible for the piano at the Competition. He prepared it for many hours even before it arrived in Flagey. At every break, he tunes the Steinway D-274 so that it is always perfect for the candidate performing on stage. He tunes only by ear. He also checks all the settings and pedals. His work can be compared to the preparation of the racing cars in a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Nothing is left to chance!

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