Steinway & Sons introduces an innovative, unprecedented player piano, combining craftsmanship and technology.
Steinway & Sons is practically synonymous with meticulously crafted grand pianos, commissioned for royalty throughout the world and played in concert by everybody from Sergei Rachmaninoff to Taylor Swift. Its latest release, the Spirio, is the result of more than 150 years of artistry and more than a little bit of science.
The Spirio is Steinway’s first autonomously playing piano, and revolutionizes the entire concept of a player piano by introducing extraordinarily high-resolution sound. Through technological advancements, the piano’s “hammers” — when a piano key is struck, it activates a hammer to hit the strings — are measured 800 times per second, resulting in nearly perfect facsimiles of live world-class performances.
Ron Losby, president of Steinway & Sons – Americas, reports the company had been exploring the introduction of a player piano for more than 25 years, but resisted any concessions in tonal quality. “The technology needed to create an instrument worthy of being a Steinway simply didn’t exist until recently,” he explains. “The Steinway Spirio is a state-of-the-art, high-resolution player piano that has the ability to replicate all of the color and nuance of a live performance, but without compromising the touch and tone of the piano when it is played manually,” says Losby.
A Steinway grand piano is an exquisite addition to any room, an iconic, elegant piece of décor that makes an impression in any architectural context. “The Spirio is for anyone who is passionate about music, regardless of playing ability,” says Losby, who admits that some buyers are initially drawn to the physical beauty of the instrument. “Since the hardware is seamlessly integrated at the time of production, Spirio is virtually indiscernible from any other Steinway,” he says.
With a Spirio, however, somebody completely devoid of musical aptitude can recreate the sounds of Irving Berlin, Billy Joel or Yuja Wang. Playlists, themes and genres for any mood or occasion are curated by Steinway & Sons and controlled by an iPad with a special Spirio application. The Spirio debuted in April 2015, and there are currently 1,600 musical pieces available, featuring the roster of over 1,700 Steinway Artists, with more pieces added every month. The concept is not too different from selecting a song on Spotify, and is connected to the piano via Bluetooth technology. Steinway’s entire catalog of performances will be provided to Steinway Spirio owners at no additional charge.
According to Losby, “Steinway has acquired technology that makes it possible to translate archival recordings by Steinway immortals and bring them to life on Spirio.” He cites Van Cliburn, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Vladimir Horowitz, Thelonious Monk, and Arthur Rubinstein among the available artists whose music always will be with us.
“Spirio is a remarkable piece of technology, but ultimately it is art and craftsmanship that truly make it a remarkable instrument,” insists Losby, who distinguishes the product from other autonomously playing pianos. “The fact that Spirio is a Steinway — the world’s finest piano — sets it apart from other player pianos,” he asserts. The Spirio also can be played as a traditional grand piano, and possesses all of the superb craftsmanship one expects from any Steinway. The product, which has been well received by both individual consumers and institutions, ranges in price from $85,700 to $118,400.
Losby maintains that, despite its reputation for handcraftsmanship, Steinway has evolved into a 21st century company with an appreciation for technology. “Steinway & Sons has a long tradition of innovation dating back to the company’s founding in 1853,” he says, and suggests Spirio is just the latest example of that leadership.
The Ultimate Accessory
Because the Spirio represents a unique combination of world-class music and exquisite décor, it was only natural for Steinway & Sons to partner with one of the world’s most exclusive home furnishings purveyors. In Roche Bobois showrooms around the globe, intimate recitals on Spirio pianos have taken place to celebrate the synergy of music and interior design. Earlier this year, dynamic young pianist Yoonie Han performed at showrooms in New York, Seattle and San Francisco, and when the program returned to Manhattan in June, the talents of young French pianist Hélène Tysman were showcased. “Roche Bobois and Steinway share a passion for high-quality, handcrafted design, and we are thrilled to partner with a company that, like Roche Bobois, remains at the forefront of its industry,” says Jennifer Barre, the company’s U.S. marketing director.
Steinway pianos have also been used by real estate brokers to dress up luxury properties on the market, inviting talented musicians to seduce prospective buyers. The Spirio represents the ultimate in both visual and auditory staging for any penthouse or estate.
By Roger Grody
This article originally appeared in the fall 2016 issue of Homes & Estates.