Saturday Concert to Commemorate 10th Anniversary of "Colodny Steinway"
- By Jeffrey R. Wakefield
The autographs traverse nearly every angle of the piano’s curved harp, the gold painted, cast iron structure inside the instrument that anchors its strings: Peter Serkin, Olga Kern, Fred Hersch, Grace Potter, more than 100 in all.
These are the artists who have performed on the magnificent “Colody Steinway,” and graciously agreed to leave a graphic reminder of their artistry, over the 10 years UVM has owned the instrument.
On Saturday, April 20, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., UVM will hold a free 10th anniversary concert in the Music Building’s Recital Hall featuring the world class instrument. Music department faculty and students will perform an eclectic mix of classical music and jazz, including music by Chopin, Sousa, Irving Berlin, UVM's David Feurzeig, and others.
The piano came to UVM through the generosity of Edwin Colodny, who served as UVM’s interim president from 2001 to 2003, and his wife, Nancy. When, near the end of his term, trustees asked how Colodny would like the university to express its gratitude for his service, he didn’t hesitate. A long time patron of the arts and a performing violinist in his youth, Colodny suggested that the university and its alumni and friends unite behind a fund-raising campaign he and Nancy would lead to purchase a first rate new concert grand piano for the Music Department.
While the department had one decent grand piano, it also possessed a clunker, whose performing life was “used up,” in the words of Jane Ambrose, then director of the Lane Series.
“Ed called up out of the blue,” says university organist David Neiweem, then chair of the Music Department, to make sure the department really wanted a new piano.
Neiweem and his colleagues jumped at the chance. When the fund-raising campaign was successfully completed, Neiweem and a contingent that included fellow pianists and Music Department faculty Slyvia Parker and Paul Orgel, headed to the Steinway factory in Queens to pick out an instrument.
They spent the day playing 12 pianos, and finally chose the one they thought was both beautiful sounding and best suited to the live, ambient acoustics the Music Building’s Recital Hall, with a lyrical middle register, high notes that wouldn't overwhelm in the hall’s boisterous environs, and a low register that would project clearly in the space, which tends to muddy the bass range, Neiweem says.
The result is a truly stellar instrument.
“Almost every pianist that the Lane series has brought here, and there have been some very famous ones,” says Lane Series director Natalie Neuert, “warms up on that piano and comes off, and they say, ‘You’ve got a really nice instrument, and believe me, 90 percent of the ones I play on are not this good.'”
"This is the kind of legacy that makes universities really bloom," Neiween says of the Colodny gift. "It enables the wider community to hear a fine instrument, of course, but it also allows people just beginning to develop their skills to work with a world class tool ... that will enable them to become finer artists than they are able to on a more limited instrument."
The original dedication concert was held in the Recital Hall on Feb. 3, 2003. More than two hundred people attended, including the Colodnys. The concert featured piano performances by faculty members and students. The Colodnys and the artists who played signed the inside of the piano that day, which began the tradition of asking artists who performed on the instrument to leave an autograph.