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The Gershwin Piano @ U-M SMTD

This summer an incredible delivery arrived at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance — George Gershwin’s 1933 Steinway grand piano!!! The composer’s nephew, Marc George Gershwin, was moving from his longtime NYC apartment and the burgeoning collaboration with the University gave him a place to send the instrument—a new home in which the piano would not only be cherished but where it would be used regularly in performance.

U-M Director of Piano Technology Bob Grijalva with the U-M Gershwin Piano

U-M Director of Piano Technology Bob Grijalva with the U-M Gershwin Piano

The instrument is a relatively rare Steinway “Long A” model, which has exceptional sound characteristics for its size (6′ 4″). We’ve played the piano just a bit and it sounds great! The piano was made in 1933 and — according to Steinway Company records — was delivered to George in January of 1934. At this time, the composer was preparing for the 10th anniversary tour of Rhapsody in Blue for which he composed the “I Got Rhythm” Variations for piano and orchestra, which he dedicated to his brother Ira. Gershwin would also have likely used the piano to compose his landmark opera Porgy and Bess, first performed in 1935.

The keyboard of George Gershwin's piano will be preserved without modifications.

The keyboard of George Gershwin’s piano will be preserved without modifications.

The piano is one of three George Gershwin pianos in the United States—the others are held by the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, in which George was inducted in 1970, in New York City. The instrument in Ann Arbor will be the only one regularly available for performances and accessible to students. The U-M Gershwin Piano was in George’s New York apartment at the time of his death and was then owned for many year by his mother Rose. It was not actively played during these years.

George Gershwin’s instrument is currently undergoing renovation overseen by certified Steinway Concert and Artist Division technician and U-M Director of Piano Technology and Assistant Professor Robert Grijalva. Our hope is to rededicate the instrument at a concert on U-M’s campus this coming spring. Details to follow…

In the meantime, Bob will update readers of this blog about the experience of welcoming the piano to campus and preparing it for its premiere public performance. Check back soon for more…