Letter: Contrary to rumour, the piano is still forte

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The Independent Online
Sir: It seems to me that Stephen Hough's somewhat depressing article (4 August) is confusing two points. He appears to be associating the demise of the Bechstein with the decline of the piano generally.

As the owner of a Bechstein, a Model A that was bought for my godmother - now still a piano teacher at 83 but living and working in Zimbabwe - I naturally, in company with thousands of others I am sure, find this a sad moment in musical history. Mr Hough feels, I think, that the closure of the Bechstein firm is the beginning of the end. But in Ramsgate at any rate it is amazing how many people want to learn the piano.

Parents regard lessons as a significant part of their children's cultural life and have a respect for the discipline, mental effort and skill that have to be brought to piano playing. It is true that keyboards are everywhere, but in my experience, they are often only the first step to buying a piano. Teachers are oversubscribed, and even in the early stages of piano teaching with which I am involved, I frequently meet parents very anxious to buy pianos and much in need of specialist advice. Nor are these people well off necessarily, and some have large families.

From the level at which I work there is no sign of a decrease in those wishing to learn the piano. It is too, for many children, a mark of prestige with their peers, which must suggest its continuing status. From the top end of the spectrum things may look black, but from the bottom end there is still plenty of enthusiasm and demand. Most of us will, sadly, never reach the heights of Mr Hough, but, as far as I can see, piano playing at the pupil level is in a far from unhealthy state.

Yours sincerely,


Ramsgate, Kent

5 August