I just heard of the passing of the great pianist Ivan Moravec. Not only was Moravic a supreme musician, his recordings of Debussy, Chopin and Ravel are especially noteworthy, but he was also known as a perfectionist when it came to piano mechanics.
Mr. Moravec, 71, is renowned for his gentle, unhurried touch in Chopin, Debussy and Mozart. But when he starts talking about the piano, he sounds like a mechanic discussing his favorite engine. He raves about the miracle of its design and the heroes who have raced it, and pores carefully over its humanlike weaknesses, which require endless vigilance and maintenance.
“The piano is built from very unreliable materials,” he said, sitting with his wife, Zuzana, who accompanies him everywhere and coaches him on his English. “Wood, felt, leather. These materials are very hygroscopic. They can change in one humid night.”
To counteract those effects, he spends several hours with his piano before a concert, warming up to its kinks and making adjustments by himself and with technicians, whom he befriends wherever he goes. Before his recital on Tuesday at Carnegie Hall, he will work on his chosen piano with Ron Coners, the chief concert technician at Steinway & Sons and Mr. Moravec’s friend and trusted aide for more than 20 years.
I am listening to a recording of his featuring the piano music by César Franck, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel: