[NEWS] Self-playing piano brings top pianists to NZ - for a price - NZ Herald

Jason Bae with a Steinway Spirio Piano which uses an iPad app to play like no piano you've ever heard - or seen - before. Photo / Doug Sherring

Jason Bae with a Steinway Spirio Piano which uses an iPad app to play like no piano you've ever heard - or seen - before. Photo / Doug Sherring

By: Dionne Christian
Arts & Books Editor, NZ Herald

At first glance, it looks like an ordinary Steinway piano — if you can use the word ordinary to describe a hand-crafted instrument, with some 12,000 individual parts, produced by a company with 160 years of heritage behind it.

Oh, and a starting price tag of $225,000.

But the Steinway Spirio has a surprising — possibly spooky — feature which could shock those who have previously seen pianos where the keys move by themselves and the music booms only at the movies.

It's the world's first self-playing piano and now it's launching in New Zealand. The Spirio
comes loaded with pre-recorded performances, played by some of the world's finest musicians.

Keys move with the music and the sound is so rich it's impossible to differentiate the system from the pianist's original playing and is guaranteed to raise the pulse rates and send a shiver down the spine of piano music fans everywhere.

Piano specialist John Eady, from Auckland music store Lewis Eady, says it works by using an iPad app (an iPad is included in the price) which is programmed with classical, jazz and popular music recordings.

Select which track you want — and there are performances from more than 1700 Steinway artists — sit back and enjoy. Eady says the blending of art and technology is the most significant development in 70 years and, despite the price tag, there is good interest in the Spirio.

He's already sold three — a smaller model is $225,000; the larger $275,000 — including two to a rich-lister who wishes to remain anonymous. He bought one for his Auckland home and another for a property in Hawke's Bay.

Eady says no matter what audio system you have at home, you'll never be able to get the same sound quality using speakers and acoustics as you get from the piano itself.

"You could spend more on a sound system than one of these pianos and still not get the same quality."

Best of all, when you want to tickle the ivories, it becomes a "regular" Steinway.

"It's actually creating more work for pianists," says Eady, "because some are buying a Spirio, listening to a performance and then deciding to invite the pianist to play for them and their friends."

Multi award-winning New Zealand pianist Jason Bae, based in South Korea, is one of those who have recorded performances for the Spirio system including Rachmaninov's Moment Musicaux No.4 Op.16 at the Steinway Piano Gallery in New York.

Bae admits when he first heard about it, he was sceptical but has become a devotee.

He now describes it as a joy to play, saying no machine-manufactured instrument produces the same sound as one that's handmade.

He's looking forward to the next innovation - a piano where the pianist can record themselves and play it back.

A pianist from a young age, Bae was the youngest concerto soloist when, aged 13, he performed with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra for the SkyCity Starlight Symphony Concert in the Park; at 20, he became the first NZ Young Steinway Artist and a fully-fledged Steinway Artist in 2016.

He's returned home to play — and not play — at the Steinway Spirio launch in Auckland before a New Zealand tour which will take him to Wellington, Christchurch, Cromwell and The Hills in Queenstown.

No, the Spirio isn't going with him but he'll perform on other Steinway pianos before returning to Auckland later this month for a performance at Lewis Eady Music.

[NEWS] Jason records for the new Steinway 'Spirio' Piano in NYC.

New Zealand pianist, Jason Bae has been chosen to record for the new Steinway 'Spirio' Piano in Steinway Piano Gallery, New York City.

The 'Spirio' will be having its big launch in New Zealand next April 2018 at Lewis Eady Showroom in Auckland. 

Jason has recorded three tracks; Puccini/Mikhashoff - Portrait on 'Madame Butterfly', Britten/Stevenson - Peter Grimes Fantasy and Rachmaninov Moment Musicaux No.4 Op.16. 

Jason with two technicians; Lauren and Melody

Jason with two technicians; Lauren and Melody

Jason and producer, Jon Feidner.

Jason and producer, Jon Feidner.

[REVIEW] Jason Bae Debut Concert Chamber Recital

The blood red background certainly set the scene for what was to be a fiery performance by young Jason Bae.

The Lewis Eady Charitable Trust has been supporting this exciting talent since 2008 and Jason currently has a grand piano on loan from the Trust.

Last Tuesday’s recital (25th September 2012) was a culmination of that support, a huge amount of hard work on Jason’s part as well as the wonderful input from Rae de Lisle - Jason’s teacher and mentor.

The blood red background certainly set the scene for what was to be a fiery performance by young Jason Bae.

I can’t remember the last time I attended a ‘sold out’ solo piano performance at the Concert Chamber but it was a fitting recognition of the progress that Jason has made.

The programme was a ‘tour de force’ and the sort of music you play when you are 20 and have endless energy. For me the favourite was the Rachmaninov Sonata No. 2 which I had had the pleasure of hearing Boris Giltburg perform earlier in the year for the New Zealand International Piano Festival. This is a work seldom performed, so to be able to hear it twice in such a short space of time was refreshing.

I spoke to Jason before, during and after his recital and felt very proud to have been able to assist him thus far.

Well done for a masterly performance and for those of you who couldn’t get tickets (I’ve been dying to say that) the concert was recorded by Radio NZ, so will be going to air at some stage.

Post by John Eady