I have discussed with the piano expert who restored it, why families care so much about the legacy of family pianos? He said that these are objects which mean more than most people can explain. They are tied up with early memories of the pleasure of music, with much loved and influential musical people who share our genes and with the beauty of sound. In good shape, they are fine bits of furniture, adding refinement to any room. Piano retention is not about investment or money, which is refreshing. Pianos are not 'gold bars' these days but they far more meaningful than money, to sensitive people, speaking of love, music, culture, art.
Some families keep old family pianos that are essentially valueless (having a poor tone) because they belonged to their parents or grandparents. They still think they are worth every inch of their floor space and get boundless rooted pleasure from having or playing them. It is almost as if they have a soul, in themselves. I am fortunate that this piano has 'quality', partly thanks to my musical aunt (LRAM) who held on to it as an adored 'friend' to the very end of her life. It is therefore in underlying good shape, having never been in storage conditions, even though it was very chipped and 'tired' to look at, before restoration.
Made in Leizig, in Nazi Germany, in 1936, it soon found itself in my family's posession, as a professional tool to teach promising singers, privately. This Mark IV model was very popular in Britain, at the time. Each baby grand piano constructed by Bluchner's German workshops was unique, given its own identifying number, marked on constituent parts. Like tailormade 'haute couture', each wooden piece is handmade for one piano and even transferring parts to another similar model, might not fit or work. Piano construction is the art of fractions of a millimetre.
I must carry 'the burden' of this much loved piano which has already cost my family thousands of pounds to keep it warm and housed. Its ongoing care must influence all my life decisions, as piano conservation and carriage costs are a real challenge. It needs a ground floor, a relatively steady temperature, no moisture and never to be stored on its side, as the inner mechanism is fragile and can 'fall down', with gravity, which is hard, if not impossible, to remedy. The sounding board can soon warp, in the wrong storage conditions.
- Anyone storing a piano should employ a specialist piano storage firm, which can cost up between £1000-£2000 a year.
It may come to doing that, but it would be worth it. A family piano, with all its unique specialness, once gone, is forever gone. It is an emotional loss that cannot be remedied.