Steinway breaks down in Moscow recital

Steinway breaks down in Moscow recital


norman lebrecht

January 12, 2020

The Russian pianist Ekaterina Mechetina began her recital on a few days ago in the Great hall of Moscow Conservatory only to find that the Steinway was mechanically out of order.

After playing the Chopin f minor Fantasy she stopped the recital and called for the piano technician. In full view of the audience he worked for 40 minutes before the recital could continue. Nobody left the hall. Mechtina writes:

I want to thank my extraordinary audience, the best listeners in the world.

Unexpectedly for me there was a certain unfortunate situation that put me in a difficult position at the beginning of the concert, which forced us together with piano master Alexey Shubin to announce a technical intermission to put the piano in order; the duration of this break was impossible to predict, and I was in the same unknown as the people in the hall.

I understand very well that the mood, the emotional state of the listeners could have been spoilt by the forced waiting. Believe me, I was not at all relieved in these seemingly endless moments of uncertainty, with a “knocked down at the start” state. Thank you to your colleagues from the Moscow Philharmonic for their invaluable moral support at that moment…

The more valuable is the fact that when I returned to the stage and continued the concert, people without any irritation or dissatisfaction met me again, and together with you we managed to create a feeling of a long-awaited holiday for each other.

It was absolutely priceless. You are the most beautiful listeners in the world, I am grateful to each of you, grateful for your trust, for your nobility, for your respect, for your delicacy, for your love of music.

An artist who has such an audience can’t help but be happy. My sincere gratitude and love – to each of you!
Ekaterina Mechetina


  • V.Lind says:

    Pretty impressive. I imagine here would have been a few exits in most western houses.

    Maybe they should buy one of Lang Lang’s Steinways.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    Considering how many Steinways are used for concerts and how infrequently we hear of breakdowns (and have no further info on this particular incident), we can infer that Steinways are extremely reliable.

  • Jack says:

    I remember a similar situation many years ago with Paul Badura-Skoda when he was artist in residence at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I think it was his Bosendorfer that went haywire. After a protracted attempt to get it back in order, another piano had to be moved from PDS’s studio to complete the concert.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    What was the problem?

  • WHO says:

    The pro-Putin signing pianist. In 2014 she joined 511 like-minded Russian cultural figures in signing an open letter of endorsement of President Vladimir Putin’s military invasion of Crimea and Ukraine.

  • Nijinsky says:

    I’m sure they tuned it so nicely, with all of the beating going on, they might as well have simply handed her an axe, and said….

    “It’s the Chimes….”

  • Bruce says:

    A lovely story.

  • fflambeau says:

    A wonderful outcome from a bad experience.

    Kudos to the audience, the performer, and the technician.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    “In full view of the audience he worked for 40 minutes before the recital could continue. Nobody left the hall.”

    This is when having a bar in the lobby would be useful.

    I wonder what the circumstance was that this problem was not detected before the concert.

    • David says:

      I thought of this also, well, to be honest I thought of the undetected mechanical issue by myself. Mr. Holmen easily convinced me that a lobby bar could have done extraordinary business.

  • Elvira says:

    Bravo for the public, brave musician but what went wrong with the piano?

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Sviatoslav Richter played on worse instruments, frequently. The show went on regardless.

  • Karl says:

    Something happened to the Steinway in Springfield earlier this season. We had to hear Tchaikovsky’s 2nd concerto on a Yamaha. All halls should have a back-up Yamaha.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    It’s a beautiful letter from Ekaterina.
    Pianos break down often if they are not regularly maintained, just like autos do.
    And even if they are maintained, parts break unexpectedly.
    I saw a Steinway break down at the convention of the American Liszt Society at the SF Conservatory of Music a few years back. They just rolled out a backup piano (which unfortunately was an inferior-sounding instrument).

  • Wayne Johnson says:

    I remember a hilarious but true review of a piano recital held in Bankok many years ago. The piano was in such horrible shape from the heat and humidity that the pianist kicked the leg in anger and it collapsed on stage. Then to add insult to injury, he went backstage, procured a fire ax and then commenced attacking the piano in front of the audience. Glad this story with Ekaterina had a happier ending!

    • Karl says:

      I hope the pianist didn’t hurt himself. Gary Graffman injured his hand when he got frustrated playing a bad piano. He should have used an ax!

  • Paul Carlile says:

    In 2009, the live BBC lunchtime concert from Wigmore Hall was halted by the faulty Steinway; Ingrid Fliter stalked off stage and the piano was hastily replaced with the untuned backup. The pause meant that the concert’s duration ran over time so the radio audience missed most of it.

    Another unlucky BBC lunchtime live : Jeremy Denk coped with a woefully out-of-tune middle register, middle-C sounding more like a grandfather-clock chime in, of all works: Beet op 111 (c-minor…UGH!). All credit to him for staying the distance.

    Swineway and Stuns!