Recording sample, Debussy

Following my blog, here is a recording on my 1970 Steinway D with wapin modification on it. Pianist is Joshua Lau (Malaysia) playing Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau.

Joshua Lau performing Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau

Wapin Bridge, my impression

I first read about the Wapin bridge many years ago and being a resident in Malaysia, it is near impossible to get this modification. It seems very appealing as I am one that looks for enhancement to the instrument rather than keeping things as intended by the manufacturer. After scouting through the internet, I bought a used 1970 NY Steinway D from the US and had it rebuilt there, completed and shipped across the globe in 2016. Needless to say, I took the advantage and had the Wapin modification. Unexpectly the inventor Michael lives in the same city where my piano was rebuilt!!

As a player or even a listener, the sound floats out of the piano much easier and there seems to be very little restrain from fingers to the sound. Literally, there is almost a direct path from the brain to the sound, by passing the mechanical action and string/bridge/soundboard. The modification enhances the performance of the instrument, perhaps the way the instrument should have been in the first place, but never got to this point with the conventional bridge pin set up. With the sound floating out of the instrument, it seems like there is lesser effort in making the piano sing. In addition, more sound out of the piano, clean sound, not just any sound. A high level pianist commented that he could hear the intended dissonances of the piano writing much better.

Does that make me play or interpret music differently? Yes, due to the singing quality, I can afford not to push the phrase through so quickly and take a little more time as the piano allows me to do so.

Enjoying the effortless, floating, singing tone from the moment the hammers hit the strings, has never been better, not because it is a Steinway D, but because it has wapin on it.

No Copyright

I have always been careful not to violate digital or copyright laws. It seemed to have served everyone except me.

Here I post a recording I captured over an FM radio station of a performance of a very special live concert originally recorded in April 1998. The orchestra is the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jesús López Cobos. Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto is performed by Barry Douglas. The piano is a 1929 Steinway D with the Wapin Piano Bridge modification. There were two other Concert Artist (CA) Steinway D pianos which he tried before choosing the ’29 piano. Both of the former pianos were less than five years old.

It was the first time, to my knowledge, a much older piano had gone up against much newer pianos and had won the day. I remember two noteworthy quotes from Mr. Douglas. The first was after rehearsing on the piano the first time: “This is the most even piano I have ever played”, the second after the last performance was, “This is the heaviest action I have ever performed on.”

My observation, based on experience with Wapin, suggests that the sound the performer hears is very different from the sound the audience hears and that to the later it is much cleaner and easier to hear.

Listen to the live concert recording

One recording

I am choosing this recording as an example of the Wapin sound. The piano is a Baldwin C (about a 6’3″ grand) with the bridge modification. The pianist is Elaine Lau. It was recorded shortly after it was rebuilt (199*). The recording engineer was Darijus Spakauskas. Give it a listen.

Schumann Papillons Op. 2

History – piano manufacturers

I begin here with a collection of correspondence I assembled sometime ago. Comment or ask questions. Follow the link below to learn more.

Just starting…

After a long hiatus I have decided to try again. I have been generally loathe to wrap myself up in promoting Wapin, almost wishing it had never made its appearance into my life.

When something novel appears on the horizon and that invention applies to something as established over time as the piano, it gives rise to a whole group of naysayers who feel as if they must defend tradition at all cost.

Such as it was with Wapin. The piano industry would make fits and starts. Thinking it might be something worthwhile and at the same time trying to convince themselves it was really nothing, setting out to prove the latter. Artists were generally impressed but were reluctant to attach their name as an endorsement, fearing at career setback. Amongst piano technicians and rebuilders the story was somewhat different.

As I work with through this web revision, I will attempt to tell the story and possibly provide some insights as well as help to those technicians who feel that it might be of some use.

Michael J Wathen