Steinway & Sons has launched a new limited-edition grand piano designed by legendary musician Lenny Kravitz. On the face of it, this may seem a strange collaboration. Why would a four times Grammy Award winner better known as a guitarist be designing a piano?
There are two answers. Kravitz is a passionate pianist. His first instrument was the piano — it was the instrument he fell in love with. He’s subsequently owned a Steinway for most of his life and composes and arranges much of his material on the piano.
He also designs furniture and interiors. Kravitz Design was established back in 2003, and the company is highly regarded, with many blue-chip American institutions as clients. So perhaps the idea of Kravitz working with Steinway on a new instrument isn’t as far fetched as it might initially seem.
And the result of this partnership is a fantastic, conceptual instrument. The base piano is the Steinway Model B — a 6ft 11in (211 cm) grand. But Kravitz has transformed it into a visually exciting work of art. It is an eclectic mix of inspirational styles — African Art, Art Deco (French chic) and elements of Art Moderne (American sleek) are all on show here.
This is the most exciting design project I’ve ever worked on.Ron Losby, CEO Steinway Musical Instruments (has been with Steinway over 30 years)
Making this piano a reality took over three years. Kravitz states that when he brought his designs to Steinway he experienced a genuine, and really refreshing, “can do” attitude. Nothing was impossible. And the results are clear to see in this extraordinary instrument.
The legs are undoubtedly the most striking feature of the piano. And, it seems they were the most challenging to construct. Inspired by West African sculptures, the legs are made from poplar and have a charred timber hue that melds with the hand-carved motifs running around the rim, on the music desk and across the lid.
The rim itself is constructed from 15 layers of hard rock maple, finished with a Makassar (Macassar) ebony veneer. This is a valuable brown and black striped wood from Indonesia, much used for high-end furniture. It is also often used to make guitar fretboards and bodies!
The cast iron plate has an unusual yet attractive “crackle” metallic finish to it. This is just visible in the image above.
Weighing in at over 18 kg (40 pounds), the lyre (which supports the pedals) is cast in solid bronze and made by the Modern Art Foundry. The top stick, fashioned to give the impression of a piece of wood, is also solid bronze, as are the music trays, pedals, hinges and a numbered edition plaque.
The piano keys are finished in ebony and matt cream, and the Steinway brand logos on the nameboard are inlaid in faux tortoise shell by Pearl Works (known for their guitar inlays).
A special bench matches the piano. This too is made from Makassar ebony. The cushion covering has a faux leopard-skin print, further enhancing the African flavours of the instrument.
The Kravitz Piano incorporates Steinway’s Spirio|r high resolution player piano technology for perfect performance recording and playback.
Steinway are producing ten of these instruments, including one for Kravitz’s Paris home. Each will cost $500,000, and a percentage of the sale price will go to New York’s Harlem School for the Arts (HSA), where Kravitz was once a student.
Over the years, Steinway has released many limited-editions, but of the more recent models, this really is one that can be described as a true work of art.
More information is available on the Steinway & Sons website.
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