A famous piano is on the move
Published Thursday, February 11, 2016 5:16PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 11, 2016 6:51PM EST
It’s possibly the most famous musical instrument you’ve never heard of.
One day, it might even be heard in outer space. (But more on that later.)
It brought several people, including a concert pianist, an orchestra conductor, dignitaries, fans, and members of the media, to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Thursday.
They were there to watch, of all things, a piano being moved.
To be honest, the piano doesn’t even look that great. It’s scratched, beat up, and has a cracked sound board.
Nevertheless, it’s valued at $1.5 million. And many of the world’s most respected musicians have sought it out when they visit Ottawa. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to touch it and play it,” said acclaimed Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki.
So what makes this piano so special?
It’s known as CD 318 – a Steinway concert grand piano once owned by the late, legendary Glenn Gould.
The story goes that Gould discovered the piano in 1960 at the old Eaton Auditorium in Toronto, and immediately fell in love with its sound and feel. He recorded most of his works on it and had it shipped to wherever he was performing. After it was dropped and broken, he moved it into his apartment rather than get rid of it.
As is often the case between musician and instrument, the piano became an extension of Gould himself. “This instrument is almost a physical embodiment of his spirit. That’s why it’s very important,” says NAC Orchestra Music Director Alexander Shelley.
And how important was Glenn Gould?
Well, consider this. NASA included a sample of his music on a gold-plated disc mounted on the Voyager 1 space probe. Launched in 1977, the probe is currently leaving the edge of our solar system.
It's a long shot, but it means the sound of his famous piano might one day be among the first Earthly sounds heard by aliens!
That’s why a small crowd turned up just to watch it being moved. It’s not just a piano. It’s a significant Canadian cultural artifact.
The piano was moved into temporary storage while the NAC undergoes major renovations. For the next eighteen months it will sit in climate-controlled safety at the Canadian Museum of Nature’s special storage facility in Gatineau, Quebec.
The NAC hopes to put it back on display by Canada Day, 2017.