A piano designed for middle-aged spread

A piano designed for middle-aged spread


norman lebrecht

July 15, 2022

Ever felt your keyboard was starting to press on your waistline?

Well, this new design could be just the thing for you.

The architect Rafael Viñoly has created a curved keyboard for greater performer comfort which Kirill Gerstein will bring to public performance for the first time at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland.

Kirill tells us there is 33% more soundboard surface area, which delivers ‘a different sonic signature’. He adds: ‘The Maene-Viñoly concert grand advances the discourse of what a modern grand piano is while acknowledging and utilizing the traditions and ideas of the past. Its curved keyboard, designed to follow the natural arc of the arm’s movement, is a starting point for a re-examined layout of the larger soundboard that follows along this curvature.’


  • Lachera says:

    Well, it reminds me a major piano player that had a couple of pianos built with a slightly narrower keyboard.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Domenico Scarlatti would love it if he had the possibility in his time. It seems that his belly posed difficulties with hand-crossings.

  • Una says:

    God, what next? An inflatable?

  • will says:

    A photo of this revolutionary curved keyboard would be interesting, please.

  • Sigh says:

    Wow, you really need an instrument specialist if you write this: “The architect Rafael Viñoly has created a curved keyboard…”
    Cuz obviously, it has nothing to do with Chris Maene in Belgium, his factory and expertise, and the fact that it’s straight strung v. overstrung is obviously irrelevant! I may have to volunteer, if the article writing on piano etc, doesn’t improve.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      It is straight strung?? That wee detail will blow away any enthusiasm some may have felt upon first seeing the instrument. I agree that there is an advantage for the performer in the curve of the keyboard, but that it is straight strung needs explanation. You are right, Sigh — SD needs your expertise (and the expertise of quite a few others on various (all, actually) subjects.

      • Sigh says:

        The paucity of discourse and shallowness of debate in the ‘article’ is somewhat tabloid. To be fair, it’s one minute click bait tripe.

        Personally, a great straight beats an overstrung from the top makers, for clarity and tone. If Chris has added sound board acreage to get over the slight dynamic deficiency of straight strung (shorter strings), then perhaps SS could be judged sonically superior to many overstrung pianos, under test condition comparisons between say this CM and a Fazioli of the same length/expense. See what I did there? That would be an interesting article versus this jingo about catering(!) to fat people.

        • Str8Strung4U says:

          more information on the instrument to be found here https://www.chrismaene.be/the-maene-vinoly-concert-grand/
          The curved keyboard is just one of the assets of this instrument. Kirill Gerstein played it yesterday at Verbier Festival, convincing both colleagues and audience by the blistering performance and expressive sound. Not by the keyboard. The straight strung principle was a natural outcome when using the curve as a basis for the concept, fanning out the strings. The sound board is 20% bigger than most standard concert grands.

  • nimitta says:

    Wow, can’t wait to hear this instrument, and if Kirill Gerstein’s performance is anything like the Stravinsky, Schubert, and Liszt he played in Rockport last weekend, the Verbiers are in for a treat. (Hope they’ll be recording, as usual!)

  • Margaret Koscielny says:

    It would be helpful to actually see the piano which is beautiful, inside and out. A link to the architect’s website. https://vinoly.com/article/introducing-maene-violy-concert-grand-piano/

    It seems time to re-invent some instruments to make not only the sound better, but to be more ergonomic. This might cut down on the tendenitis which plagues many pianists. Beside, the aesthetics of this piano is as great as the concert grand we have become attached to for so many generations.

    • Diane B says:

      I don’t think it will make any difference for tendinitis since it is not spreading which cause it – in that case Alicia de Larrocha would not have been pianist – and I need to look as how the keys are distributed for keeping or not the same distance as in a usual piano. Otherwise a pianiste has to learn from new the distance of the pieces of his repertoire !

    • Sigh says:

      CM should however have gone as far as Jean Michelle-Jarres famous curved stage klavier, a full semi-circle! On a serious level, the only reason the keyboard is straight on pianos is because of clavichord and harpsichord heritage especially. As you say, some evolution is overdue. I would love to see the design of this CM fused with the Peugeot Pleyel, especially the height drop of the case, so the pianist can see the strings and hear the glory directly.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Hmmm… it would be easier to just not get fat.

    The two-tone legs are interesting.

  • Craig Campbell says:

    Just say, “No.”

  • Freewheeler says:

    I wonder if they got the idea from fan-fretted electric guitars?

  • Freewheeler says:

    And when are they going to produce pianos for left-handed people?

    • Sigh says:

      Bach-Brahms for the Left hand, for dominant Rt handers. Play it 2 octave shifts to the right for Lefties. Twice a day for a couple of years. Sorted

  • japecake says:

    Not a “new” design by a long shot. I remember seeing this exact configuration in an old issue of The Etude magazine, with Rudolf Ganz sitting at the keyboard, and also this:


  • Roy Jones says:

    Good for playing the Beerbelly Variations?

  • Roy Jones says:

    Come on, that was a good joke : Diabelli Variations / Beerbelly Variations!!