The Concertgebouw Brugge is the first concert hall in the world to acquire Chris Maene’s innovative, straight-strung concert grand. Since its opening in 2002, this Flemish Art Institution has resounded with music from the Middle Ages to the present, all performed in optimal acoustic conditions.
It explicitly focuses on the richness of sound that can be generated by historical and contemporary instruments. The Concertgebouw has, for instance, already premiered unique creations by Belgian instrument builder Chris Maene. In 2006 a replica of the very first Steinway (1836) was presented, and in 2010 and 2013 Chris Maene presented copies of Chopin’s Pleyel piano (1843) and Beethoven's Broadwood piano (1817). Now, once again, the Concertgebouw is the first art house to support a real milestone in piano history.
‘As a Flemish Art Institution, Concertgebouw Brugge stands for tradition and innovation. We are enterprising and – also in this instance - initiate collaborations and the pooling of resources across the sectors. We also play our part as a catalyst for worldwide innovation, born in Flanders. In this way, we can continue to fulfil our mission: to give audiences and artists continual opportunities to discover and to push boundaries.’ - Katrien Van Eeckhoutte, General Manager Concertgebouw Brugge
‘The fact that Concertgebouw Brugge is the first concert hall to invest in our straight-strung concert grand is of great symbolic importance. My first fortepiano had its public debut in Bruges in 1976. And many other exceptional instruments I’ve built were presented to the world for the first time in the Concertgebouw. The Concertgebouw thus plays an essential role, as a link between instrument builder, artists and audience. I’m therefore extremely proud and honoured that the Concertgebouw has chosen our straight-strung concert piano.’ - Chris Maene
“I’m in love with my new piano and I want to play on it, as much as possible.” - Daniel Barenboim
Combining the best of three centuries of piano construction, the straight-strung concert grand is unique in several ways. It was first played in 2015, by world- renowned pianist Daniel Barenboim, during a closed test in Concertgebouw Brugge. Barenboim was so enthusiastic about the instrument that he immediately recorded a whole CD and took the piano out on tour with him. Barenboim’s opinion is meanwhile shared by the other top international pianists Chris Maene has given the opportunity to play the instrument.
‘Chris Maene developed a ground-breaking, innovative and disruptive new concert grand. In this new straight strung piano, he combines his exceptional know-how on historical and contemporary keyboards with up-to-date expertise in materials, acoustics and state-of-the-art digital design techniques. A brilliant example of the new Western Smart Industry.’ - Hugo Baron Vandamme, Chairman Concertgebouw Brugge
‘Everything is so clear and transparent and beautifully balanced, perfect for 20th century music’ - Alexei Lubimov
As of today, this straight-strung concert grand has been added to Concertgebouw Brugge's impressive collection of concert grands. Pianists can therefore choose their preferred sound qualities from among a range of instruments. We hereby invite our audiences to come and listen – to listen closely - and to get to know this wonderful new addition.
The audience will be able to enjoy this instrument’s various sound registers and transparent overall sound and will thus be encouraged to listen even more closely. Performers will be given fresh opportunities to push their boundaries. Intense experiences and artistic adventure are core values of the Concertgebouw.’ - Jeroen Vanacker, Artistic Director Concertgebouw Brugge
‘I am overjoyed to be able to play Ravel on this exceptional instrument!’ - Pierre-Laurent Aimard
THE STRAIGHT-STRUNG CONCERT GRAND – Facts & Figures
A modern alternative tradition & innovation
Contrary to popular belief, the modern concert grand is not the end result of an evolution from primitive to perfect. With regard to both its sound and its construction, the piano was in full evolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. At that time there were the inevitable regional differences between the Viennese, London, Parisian, German and American construction schools, and these were accentuated because piano building was closely linked to the evolving stylistic characteristics of the piano repertoire. Although there was thus a very great diversity of sound, all those instruments did, however, have one thing in common: they were all straight-strung. During their lifetimes, the composers whose work is played the most today, knew only - or mainly - straight-strung concert grands. During his lifetime, Brahms, who died in 1897, never owned a cross-strung piano.
The current cross-strung standard was set in 1859, when the bass strings were crossed over the strings of the middle register. The soundboard was also adapted (the grain of the wood was laid in the direction of the bridge). The cast-iron frame of these pianos allowed for greater tension, which maximised the instrument’s volume. Crossing the strings resulted in a blending of the tones.
Many of the innovations introduced in cross-strung instruments (such as cast-iron frames, modern mechanics, duplex scaling, etc.) were never implemented in straight- strung instruments. The growing interest in both the harpsichord and the pianoforte since the second half of the 20th century can be seen as a reaction to the growing cross-strung monoculture.
Chris Maene has been building and restoring historical instruments for decades. Over the last few years it became increasingly clear to him that there was a need for a contemporary, modern straight-strung piano as an alternative to the cross- strung variants.
After building his replica of the Pleyel piano (1843) – a version that was already leaning strongly towards the modern concert grand – Chris Maene felt an ever-increasing desire to build a contemporary concert grand. His underlying principle was that it should be designed as if the piano builders of the past had never crossed the strings, but had instead developed the straight-strung concert grand into a powerful modern instrument that could fill a concert hall built for an audience of 2,000. Chris Maene took his inspiration from the many original straight-strung concert grand’s in his collection. He measured and compared the various instruments, studying string length, string thickness, touch, the soundboard, the ribs, the lie of the grain, construction, etc.
Chris Maene’s straight-strung concert grand can rightly be regarded as a milestone in music history. It has been fully developed and built in Ruiselede, after years of intense research. This artisan piano builder was supported in this by VLAIO (Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship).
The general public was introduced to this straight-strung concert grand by no one less than world-renowned pianist Daniel Barenboim. This master was so enthusiastic about this new grand piano that he immediately recorded a whole CD and took the piano out on tour with him. His opinion is meanwhile shared by the other top international pianists Chris Maene has given the opportunity to play the instrument.
Because the Concertgebouw has bought Chris Maene’s straight-strung concert grand, this innovative instrument is now available to all the pianists who perform concerts in Bruges.
CHRIS MAENE CONCERT GRAND
* concert grand piano
* patented soundboard
* 284 cm long – 10 cm longer than ‘classic’ concert grands * 90 keys, instead of 88 – there are 2 extra bass notes
* hand-polished inside
* extra wide, sound-permeable music stand
* characteristic, distinct and transparent sound – 3 clearly manipulated and distinct sound registers, (bass-middle-high), like the pianos of the 19th century.