Expo 2020 is now well underway in Dubai (UAE). The event, deferred from last year (for obvious reasons), is the latest in a series of World’s Fairs dating back over 200 years.
Arguably the first such exhibition was held in Prague in 1791. The French held regular Expositions throughout the first half of the 19th century, but the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London was the first major Expo that was truly international.
The purpose of these fairs is to showcase the technological and cultural advances of the nations of the world. Expos take place every few years and have become massive events attracting millions of visitors (see info box at the end of this article).
Pianos have always featured — unfortunately less so these days. But back at the Great Exhibition of 1851 there were over 70 different pianos from 47 different manufacturers!
The Flying Piano
Not to be confused with the remarkable Flying Fazioli in Canada, this installation is designed as a spectacle. It combines both music and amazement as it appears to defy the laws of gravity.
Eleanora Costantini, a pianist and piano teacher from Venice Italy, gets to “fly” some five metres above the ground with this unique instrument.
Dressed in a huge flowing white gown embedded with hundreds of lights, Costantini rises gently skyward whilst playing serene soothing music. It is, of course, the dress that hides the lifting mechanism.
The pianist says that being elevated allows her to focus more on her playing as she is less distracted by her surroundings. She also reveals she has been in training for this event for over a year.
Costantini and the Flying Piano can be seen every day at 17:00, 18:00, 19:00 and 20:30hrs at the Opportunity Pavilion Plaza until February 2022.
Stuart & Sons Grand Piano
Stuart & Sons is a bespoke, world-renowned, hand-crafted, Australian piano maker. Despite being a small company it has previously made one of the world’s largest pianos — The Big Beleura — a stunning 9-octave monster.
With so impressive a reputation the company was asked by the Australian Foreign Affairs department if it would supply a distinctive piano for Australia’s cultural programme at the Dubai Expo. Stuart & Sons had just the right instrument.
The company had earlier taken delivery of a shipment of flawless European sycamore. It was of such quality it was decided to use it to build a special 2.9m concert grand.
The ensuing piano’s casework with its Art Deco design features ebony and London plane tree banding and inlay work. The plane tree was sourced from 100-year-old plantings along Australia’s Murray River.
Stuart & Sons is keen to produce instruments that are more than just “ubiquitous black boxes” and the piano’s beautiful light wood cabinetry really dazzles.
The piano was unveiled by Australian singer/songwriter Missy Higgins at The State Theatre in Sydney. It now appears on stage in the Australian Pavilion of Expo 2020 for the duration of the show.
Fazioli M. Liminal Piano
The spectacular M. Liminal piano from Fazioli will be appearing in the Italian Pavilion. Fazioli has a history of creating stunning special editions, and the M. Liminal is possibly the most aesthetically pleasing of them all.
French luxury design company NYT Line in association with Philip Gendre designed the piano.
Originally built for a mega-yacht and inspired by the ocean, its shape suggests that of a wave. The design is assymetric, and its appearance constantly changes depending on the viewing angle. With the lid raised it does give the impression of a sailing boat on the water.
The piano has a central support instead of the traditional three legs. This effectively anchors the instrument to the boat’s floor. Initially this was thought impossible to construct, but eventually a way forward was found. And when the piano was finally built this single support actually enhanced the tonal quality of the soundboard.
Fazioli’s M. Liminal sits comfortably within the Italian Pavilion. Its futuristic appearance coupled with its use of new materials highlights Fazioli’s, and Italy’s, intention to look forward to the future rather than to remain reliant on past glories.
With live performances by the likes of Lang Lang and Alicia Keys at Expo 2020, more interesting pianos may appear over the next few months.
Expo 2020 Information:
Dates: 1 October 2021 – 31 March 2022
Location: South Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Participants: 192 countries are exhibiting
Visitors: 4.8 million attended in the first 8 weeks
Size: At 4.4 sq km, Expo covers an area equivalent to 600 football pitches
Transport: Expo’s Metro station can handle 22,000 passengers/hour
Websites: Expo 2020 / Interactive Map / Ticket Prices