If you’ve ever wanted to get close up to one of Liberace’s spectacular pianos now is your chance. One of the flamboyant pianist’s mirrored grand pianos is the centrepiece of London’s Dorchester hotel’s new Artists’ Bar.
The Dorchester, situated in London’s Mayfair district, has just undergone a major refurbishment. And the Artists’ Bar is a glamorous sparkling new addition to the facilities. The bar features Lalique crystal designs and a mirrored ceiling perfectly complimented by Liberace’s spectacular piano.
A unique collection of original British artworks celebrating London’s landscapes and their connection to The Dorchester are displayed throughout the bar. But it is the piano that is the jewel in the crown.
Throughout his career Liberace mostly played Baldwin pianos — latterly he had an exclusive deal with the American manufacturer (founded 1857). He is said to have owned around 100 different instruments (his career did span almost 50 years), and many were spectacularly adorned with either meticulously etched mirrored tiles or rhinestones/crystals. John Hancock was Liberace’s full-time glazer, responsible for “blinging-up” the showman’s pianos and cars.
The grand piano at The Dorchester is one of Liberace’s finest instruments. It was probably made around 1976 and was originally located at the pianist’s Las Vegas home. It was subsequently played by Liberace’s protégé Eric Hamelin at the performer’s 1986 Radio City Music Hall shows.
The piano was sold by Christies, New York in February 1988 for $46,750. It was purchased by Emanouel Naghi of Emanouel Antiques, London. It was subsequently bought by The Dorchester but was not put on full display until now.
Liberace’s Mirrored Grand Pianos
There are at least six of Liberace’s mirrored show pianos in existence — but they aren’t all identical.
One is owned by Gibson Guitar in Los Angeles and used for stage and film appearances. Another is owned by the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts and is currently on loan to celebrity pianist Chloe Flower. These pianos appeared in the 2013 HBO Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra”.
A third was gifted to the extravagant Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi. It was subsequently purchased by a woman in Marbella. She later sold it to her gardener and he still has it.
A fourth piano is now owned by American singer-songwriter, record producer and actress Debbie Gibson.
The history of the fifth piano is somewhat unclear, but it is currently in the possession of the Liberace Foundation. And the sixth, as stated, is at The Dorchester.
These mirrored instruments shouldn’t be confused with the rhinestone/crystal decorated pianos. Two such pianos were created by Liberace and John Hancock. They are covered with individual gemstones rather than mirror tiles. Each instrument incorporates over 34,000 individual stones.
Restoration of The Dorchester piano
The Dorchester’s piano has been meticulously restored by Markson Pianos of London. The company, established in 1910, has been run by four generations of the Markson family and is at the forefront of piano restoration.
The work took five months and involved a comprehensive overhaul. The piano required re-pining, re-stringing, the replacing of felts and springs, and the installation of new hammers. The piano originally had approximately 1000 mirror tiles and around 400 of these needed replacing.
Transporting the instrument without damaging the mirrors at the edges was in itself a hazardous operation. But the end result is truly spectacular.
The piano takes pride of place in The Dorchester’s Artists’ Bar, which is located towards the end of The Promenade on the hotel’s ground floor.
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The Liberace Museum Collection
It is worth noting that The Liberace Museum Collection owns 19 of Liberace’s pianos. These include:
- A 1920 Chickering reproducing grand piano
- An 1885 Pleyel grand piano used in the film A Song to Remember
- An 1857 Kuhn and Ridgeway Harp piano
- An 1850 Collard & Collard upright piano with detailed inlaid cabinetry and brass ornamentation
- An 1830 Bösendorfer played by Schumann, Brahms, and Liszt
- A 7′ crystal Baldwin grand piano used at the 2019 Grammy Awards*
- The mirrored Baldwin SD10 grand piano currently on loan to Chloe Flower*
- A second mirrored Baldwin grand piano
- An upright Nickelodeon on display at Resorts World Las Vegas
- The 1900 Royal Blue And Gold Steinway Grand Piano (also known as the Dancing Waters piano)*.
The starred instruments are kept in prime playing condition and routinely loaned out for major performances. Some of the pianos can be viewed in Las Vegas. Tickets and further information on the collection can be found at www.liberacemuseum.com.
World Piano News would like to thank Jonathan Warren (Chairman, The Liberace Foundation for the Creative and Performing Arts) for his help in correcting some factual errors which appeared in an earlier version of this article.
See also: Liberace’s Blingtastic Upright Piano For Sale (May 2020)