The novel instrument was developed jointly by master piano maker Chris Maene and renowned architect Rafael Viñoly. Its design? Lies in the piano’s curved ergonomic keyboard that matches the natural sweep of a pianist’s arms rotating from the shoulders. The keyboard’s radial arrangement has strings that fan out over a much larger soundboard that augments the instrument’s capacity for nuance, clarity, and power.
Mr. Viñoly is an avid amateur pianist whose own experience and close friendships with master pianists has sharpened his awareness of the instrument’s biomechanical demands. In a 2016 conversation with legendary artists Maestro Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich, he was encouraged to develop the concept. Soon after, Viñoly sought out a partnership with Chris Maene, who had previously developed a straight-strung grand piano for Maestro Barenboim.
“Chris Maene’s obvious expertise, sensitivity and commitment to excellence can only have come out of a lifetime of probing and learning about making pianos. But more than that, no other piano maker has the courage to challenge the status quo of a culture and industry that has seen little innovation on behalf of its most important exponents, professional artists. Chris has the courage of an artist because he is one, as well as a consummate craftsman,” Rafael Viñoly said.
First, the team collaborated with noted piano kinematics researcher Renzo Pozzo, professor at the Department of Medical and Biological Sciences at the University of Udine (Italy). And later, with German pianist and researcher Dr. Henriette Gärtner to determine the keyboard’s ideal arc.
“Rafael Viñoly is an exceptional architect with a clear vision and a profound passion for his creations. In the instrument’s design, the visual aspects are a logical extension of the drive to meet its acoustic and ergonomic goals,” Chris Maene said.
“By considering it as an integrated whole, he drove us to challenge a grand piano’s traditional set-up and embrace the consequences of the foundational idea. The physics of conveying the forces applied to the ergonomic keyboard lent itself to a radial straight strung arrangement and to our unique expertise. The result is astonishing: from Rafael Viñoly’s ideas arose a radically new concert grand, with unique looks and an exquisite sound!” Maene added.
The further technical and aesthetic development leveraged time-honored piano-building traditions, computer-aided design and acoustic modeling. Support from prominent piano technicians and artists include Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Kirill Gerstein, and Stephen Hough, among others.
Celebrated pianist Kirill Gerstein’s performance at the Verbier Festival — broadcast live on Medici.tv on 19 July — will mark the public debut of the Maene-Viñoly Concert Grand Piano.
For more information about pianist Kirill Gerstein, click here.
For more information about Chris Maene and the Maene-Vinoly grand piano, click here.
For more information about Rafael Viñoly Architects, visit their official website here.