Oscar Peterson, Count Basie And The Bösendorfer

The Bösendorfer is the Rolls-Royce of pianos. Its detractors might argue it’s the Cadillac – but I love ’em.

Particularly the ones with the EXTRA NOTES.

The company has been making superb pianos for nearly two centuries (if you want to see a classic example, hit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szHPfZConWk) and the ones with those extra notes, for about half that time.

You see, standard pianos have eighty-eight notes (but then you didn’t need me to tell you that). However, Bösendorfer‘s Imperial model (known colloquially as “the 290”) has NINETY-SEVEN – a full eight octaves.

The extra notes are at the BOTTOM – and when played individually, sound awful. But when played as part of a chord – or in concert with other notes – they add DEPTH to the overall sound.

Furthermore, they resonate with the harmonics above, giving yet more balls to the sound.

But since players rely on the standard eighty-eight layout as a reference, the early models featured a removable or hinged flap, to cover the extra notes – while in later years, they were negative-coloured (the white notes were black and vice versa).

Which didn’t help Ray Charles or George Shearing.

Anyhow, this (admittedly somewhat nerdy) piece isn’t about either of those guys – it’s about Oscar Peterson and Count Basie.

Bösendorfer are quite happy to ship their pianos to concerts – and many virtuosos take advantage of that service. But Oscar always had his OWN.

And back in the Sixties, he was doing a LIVE television concert, upon which Count Basie was guesting.

So at the appointed time, Oscar introduced his guest – exchanged a little by-play – then went off into the wings while Bill sat down to play.

But the piano was Oscar’s Bösendorfer – in those days, one of the earlier ones with the removable flap – and Oscar had forgotten to REPLACE it.

Thus his AMAZEMENT when the great man began playing “misses” (wrong or bum notes, to you and me) was quickly replaced with HORROR when he realised WHY.

Now Bill was the sweetest, gentlest man you could ever have wished to meet – but Oscar gave him a LONG time to cool down after THAT one!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cyrus Quick on July 10, 2014 at 2:52 am

    I remember the piano tuner coming to our house every little once in a while and doing his work with the tuning fork and the string tightening. I could tell no difference before or after. My father said it was out of tune and it had to be tuned again. OK…

  2. Posted by Vincent on July 10, 2014 at 11:24 am

    You tone-deaf twit!

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