by Michael Caruso
Germantown’s Cunningham Piano Company was recently named by the legendary Viennese piano-maker Bosendorfer as its official destination for restoring pianos of owners living in North, Central and South America. For many years, Cunningham has been the region’s sole franchise for selling new Bosendorfers, instruments likened to a Rolls Royce for their peerless quality.
In addition, Vox Ama Deus, the collection of musical ensembles founded and led by Romanian-born conductor, pianist and organist Valentin Radu, has struck an arrangement with Cunningham for them to provide Vox Ama Deus with Bosendorfer pianos whenever the ensemble includes a work for piano and orchestra in any concert during the 2014-15 season.
“The parable about finding diamonds in your own backyard is a famous one,” Radu said. Such a “diamond” was found this past summer, right in our own backyard.
“One of Vox Ama Deus’ singers, tenor Timothy Oliver of Roxborough, is also co-owner of a Cunningham Piano,” Radu said. “At the suggestion of Paul Marchesano, Vox’s office manager, we approached Tim about an arrangement between Cunningham and Vox Ama Deus. The result was that Bosendorfer pianos are now the exclusive concert grand pianos for Vox’s 2014-15 season.”
Radu recalled that as a piano prodigy in Romania, he regularly performed on Bosendorfer pianos. The Austrian firm is the chief competitor in Europe of the American-based piano maker Steinway & Sons, founded by the German immigrant Henry Steinway (Heinrich Steinweg) in New York City during the mid-19th century. The company eventually opened a second factory in Hamburg, Germany, where its pianos are still made.
Although Steinway remains the overwhelming choice of classical concert pianists throughout the world, Bosendorfer maintains a sizable cadre of devotees in Austria, Germany and England. Its singing tone and clear resonance make it a convincing instrument for the 18th century repertoire, and its 9’6” “Imperial” concert grand (with its 97 keys instead of the usual 88) provides the necessary volume of sound for any concert hall in the world.
Vox Ama Deus will return to Chestnut Hill with “Sempre Vivaldi” Friday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m. in the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. More information at 610-688-2800 or www.VoxAmaDeus.org.
The Germantown Branch of Settlement Music School, 6128 Germantown Ave., will host a special Open House from noon until 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13, to introduce its new series of Music Play Shop programs for children as young as six months old. The branch, directed by Glenside’s Eric Anderson, will be offering two classes during the regular academic year.
Teaching the classes will be Michael Koehler, who also teaches guitar in Germantown. “I have always been fascinated with the nature of music and how it facilitates interaction between people,” he explained. “Music affects everyone differently. Infants and young children are at a highly expressive yet verbally limited stage in their lives, but music has the power to remove the developmental barriers of verbal communication.
“As a father, I’ve witnessed the effects of music on a young child. I’d play music for my daughter before naps or bedtime, and even before she turned one year old, certain songs relaxed her into sleep. Now she’s four, and when she hears music you can be sure there will be major dancing.”
For more information call 215-320-2610 or visit www.smsmusic.org.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I have been a member of the piano faculty at Settlement Music School since 1986, teaching at the Mary Louise Curtis Branch in the city’s Queen Village section.)