A piano falls apart, 90 mins before concerto

collapsed piano

This happened on Saturday, 90 minutes before an orchestral concert in Frickingen, Germany.

Apparently the floor gave way after some recent extension work and the Steinway just flipped over.

But determination and efficiency got the show back on stage. Stefan Vladar went on to play the Brahms B-flat major concerto. Latest reports say the piano lid will have to be replaced, but the mechanism is undamaged.

UPDATE: And here’s why it happened.

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    • I remember years ago I was playing in an orchestra in Northampton when John Lill was the soloist. While he was playing his Grieg Piano Concerto, the Grand Piano literally sank through the temporary platform and poor John fell backwards. He was thankfully only shocked and not hurt too badly.

  • when the recital hall at the State University of New York at Stony Brook opened years ago, it was discovered — by accident! — that the stage was not designed properly and could not support the weight of a Steinway D. Fortunately no one was injured.

  • Thankfully, concert grands are built like battleships these days. If that had been a harpsichord, it’d be matchwood.

    It’s a mildly shocking/amusing story when the hall is empty – but if you’ve ever had to move a grand piano mid-concert, inches away from the edge of the platform and the unprotected front row of the audience (and found yourself battling against a wheel that’s determined to roll the other way), you’ll know why this is the sort of thing that keeps venue staff awake at night in a cold sweat.

    • But a harpsichord is far lighter than a grand piano so is less likely to cause the collapse of the stage in the first place. Indeed, if a stage was so under-designed that a harpsichord could collapse it, a person standing on it would be as likely to cause it to give way. That said, quite a few of us (me included) have “lost” a harpsichord before now, and whilst the noise as it tips over is utterly terrifying, they aren’t always reduced to matchwood – the frames, despite being all wood (or perhaps because they are all wood) are surprisingly sturdy and miraculously survive the odd knock…

    • From my seat in the orchestra, as I’ve watched stagehands carry out this delicate maneuver on well over 100 occasions, I always hold my breath!

    • When a grand piano weighing 990 lbs is on an unstable stage, gravity and the piano will always win. Please inform anyone who constructs temporary stages of the dangers and liabilities that poor stage construction presents, not only to the piano, but to the pianist and the audience. We should be glad that nobody was pinned underneath that piano (and no ruby slippers were sticking out!).

    • By the looks of the sports markings on the main floor, this is a sports hall that was turned into a concert hall for the night. So maybe the piano was inspired to have a go at a few cartwheels, backflips and somersaults. The Steinway really shouldn’t have tried that Olympic gymnastics sequence…

      Seriously, it’s amazing that no-one was badly injured: terrifying to see this photo.

  • Preparing a grand before a concert is a very responsible and not always easy job. It reminds me of a story – and it really happened – of a young pianist having accepted a gig with the Tchaikovsky piano concerto at an open air concert in Cairo. But his flight was very late, and he struggled to get trough the traffic in the city, and getting onto the square where the concert was about to take place, he saw that the orchestra was already seated, patiently waiting for the soloist to arrive. The square was filled to the brim with an a priori enthusiastic audience but standing, packed, and no straight pathway to get to the podium. The pianist struggled to work himself through the crowd, and when he finally appeared in sight of the conductor, who had been calmly sitting next to his stand, he immediately jumped-up and began to conduct the introduction while the soloist, exhausted and much stressed, climbed onto the podium. He arrived just in time at the piano before his Grand Entry – these thumping chords – and found the piano lid closed over the keyboard. At the very moment he had to join in the excited grandeur of his part, he opened the lid only to see that the keyboard was completely missing. So, there was no piano part and the orchestra fizzled-out into general confusion, after which someone had to find the keyboard and the concert could start again.

    Every time I think of this story, I have to laugh, it’s so crazy. It seems that the audience did not find it strange at all and took it in good humour, applauding for the stage hands who brought-in the missing piano bit after some time.

  • Once, while I was playing an étude by Cécile Chaminade at a home concert, the hinges on the lid of elderly piano parted from the lid, and the lid came slamming down, the stick somehow getting out of way and allowing the lid to rest on the top of the piano much as if I the lid were properly closed, but slightly askew. It made a terrific bang and several people in the audience cried out. And I, I must admit, allowed myself to be interrupted. We then removed the lid from the piano and I began again on a lidless piano.

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