The little voice whispers again

By about June 2007, some 6 months after the K-8 arrived, I had made slow but steady progress in regaining my keyboard technique. I had even started to play scales again, and the book of Chopin waltzes was now making an appearance. I’d even started to ‘get’ Beethoven after watching, on a flight, a very enlightening masterclass that Daniel Barenboim gave to Jonathan Biss (playing the third movement of Op. 109).

I had also learnt a lot more about all aspects of the piano, from its construction, to its regulation, its tuning, tone, and touch. One Friday afternoon I happened to be in Robert Piano’s Millenia Walk showroom browsing the music scores they had for sale. Out of curiosity I asked to play one of the Shigeru Kawai grand pianos on the floor. I recall that it was an SK-6. Hmmm, interesting! But the price was way above anything I thought I could afford.

Then I remembered how Wzkit on PW wrote in such glowing terms about his Sauter Delta 185, and about Alvin Wee, the Sauter dealer in Singapore. I also remembered how Robert Chiu and some of his sales staff had bad-mouthed Alvin. Sounded like Sauter might be something worth checking out. I immediately got Alvin’s shop number from Directory Assistance and rang. He was going to be in shortly, so I scooted over. Very nice chap. Seemed to be very knowledgeable about pianos. And of course he had to be because it turned out that he was also a piano technician and had apprenticed in the Sauter factory.

He had a Sauter Alpha 160 in the shop, and I played on that for a short while. I was a little puzzled about its seeming lack of tone and projection. And then I realised why – the pianist’s bench is not the best place at which to be listening to a piano. I discovered this fact when Alvin played on the Alpha while I was standing away from it. Absolutely sensational!

From then on I started to visit various dealers in Singapore to play on all the high-end grands that I could find. The main reason was to educate myself more about the differences between the high-end pianos and the rest. In Robert Piano’s Millenia Walk showroom I played more on Shigeru Kawai’s of different sizes (SK-5, SK-6, SK-7) and on Hamburg Steinways (Model A; the B had been sold). I tried Yamaha grands (C3, C5, C6, C7, S4) in Yamaha’s Plaza Singapore showroom. I experienced Estonia (L190), Fazioli (F183, F212) and Schimmel (189T) at Emmanuel & Sons, and Brodmann (BG187) at Pianoman. Then there was Bluthner Model 6 in Robert Piano’s Centrepoint showroom.

I told myself that I had no intention to buy a high-end grand because I simply couldn’t afford it. They ranged in price from about S$50,000 to S$180,000! And yet, I started to subconsciously harbour the thought that if I juggled my finances properly I might just be able to fulfill a lifetime dream.

Out of curiosity in early August I asked Alvin for the price of an Omega. He said that he had a personal policy of giving a deep discount on the first of every model he sold after regaining the Sauter dealership. If I bought an Omega these discounts would apply. But how deep they would be he couldn’t say for sure until after he had a discussion with Ulrich Sauter. He’d check and get back to me.

I got the number after a few days. Under S$100,000, but still an enormous number. The only things I had ever paid more for were my flat and my car! Oh, well. I’ll just have to buy more lottery tickets, or rob a bank! 😀

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