Sydney Symphony sells off Ashkenazy’s piano

Sydney Symphony sells off Ashkenazy’s piano


norman lebrecht

June 25, 2015

Australia is an unsentimental country, gday and gnite.

Still, flogging off a maestro’s keyboard while the old bloke is still alive is pushing it a bit.

The Steinway in question was handpicked and autographed by Vladimir Ashkenazy for the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House in 1991. The building is about to undergo major refurbishments an they’re selling off some contents.

Anybody want a piano? Bid for it here.

Guess there’s no chance the maestro will come back for it.

ashkenazy piano


  • Angela Rodion says:

    If it had been David Helfgott’s piano it would have been enshrined in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum by now.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    If Ashkenazy picked it, it must be a gem.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    And after the refurbishments, they won’t need a concert grand?

    • Max Grimm says:

      It sounds as though the “Ashkenazy Steinway”, along with 2 other pianos they are selling, are being retired. I think the Berlin Phil did something similar 3 or so years ago, where they auctioned off Alfred Brendel’s “favorite Steinway”. The money in the Berlin Phil’s auction went to charity though, if I recall correctly.

  • Bang Bang says:

    A 24 year old instrument is unlikely to be worth more than 35 % of the current price of a new one, and that only when refurbished by a qualified dealer and sold with a 5 year guarantee. Plus financing of course, you can probably get a cheap loan with a low down payment.
    Concert grands are like cars, they lose 25% as soon as they leave the showroom but at least the depreciation is slower after that.

    • SVM says:

      The most important question is how a 24-year-old instrument *sounds*, not how much money it is worth. Blind(/double-blind)-testing is one very good methodology for that, and has yielded some intriguing results in the violin-world, so I hope that any concert-hall proposing to replace an instrument has taken thorough and copious soundings from musicians and connoisseurs *before* committing to such a course of action.

      Having said that, ‘cui bono’ is, of course, an important consideration. I cannot help wondering why so many concert-halls across the world are suddenly so keen to completely replace their *entire* stock of concert grands — have technicians suddenly become prohibitively expensive (to the extent that it is cheaper to replace an instrument than refurbish it), or have Steinway salespeople recently penetrated the artistic committees of the major concert-halls, or have the marketing hacks determined that only a ‘brand new’ purchase could possibly inspire people to donate to a fundraising campaign?

  • Andy says:

    I’m not an expert on classical music, but I love it, and I love the piano. My father’s recordings of Ashkenazy playing the Beethoven concertos with the CSO made me fall in love with it. I don’t know whether he was technically the best, or whether his interpretations were the best, but there’s something about his touch that I always found mesmeric, and still do.

  • Yvonne Zammit says:

    Just wishing to clarify … This piano was owned by the Sydney Opera House – the Sydney Symphony Orchestra doesn’t own any pianos. It is being sold via Theme and Variations and I am pleased to report that some of the proceeds of the sale of the piano will go towards the SSO’s very important education work for young school children.

    • JohnR says:

      It is probably a huge loss if Ashkenazy truly felt it was worth endorsing with his signature. (I don’t think that is ever done frivolously, is it? and, for my money, refurbishing (or rebuilding) a magnificently sonorous concert grand is virtually guaranteed to appreciate its value, financially and (more importantly) aurally.