Christopher Taylor - Dual-Manual Steinway
This model D concert grand by Steinway & Sons and is the only Steinway equipped with a double keyboard developed by Emanuel Moór (1863-1931). It was built by Steinway for Werner von Siemens of Berlin and sold to him in 1929. The piano was purchased by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1961 for the use of Gunnar Johansen, artist in residence at the university at the time. After Johansen's death in 1991, it remained unused for many years until John Schaffer, director of the School of Music, and Christopher Taylor, professor of piano at the school, began discussing the prospect of restoring it to optimum playing capacity several years ago. The completion of the rebuilding project by Steinway in 2007 marks the beginning of a new stage in the instrument's life. It will now be used for selected tour dates by Taylor and heard in concert at its home at the university.
The lower keyboard of 88 keys resembles that of a typical piano. The upper keyboard of 76 keys is one octave shorter in the treble but sounds one octave higher than the corresponding key on the lower keyboard. Each keyboard can be played independently but both can be coupled together by depressing a pedal located between the una corda (far left) and sostenuto (second-from-right) pedals. A catch mechanism allows the pedal to be retained in its depressed position. When the keyboards are coupled, each note played on the lower keyboard sounds both its own pitch and that of the key directly behind it on the upper keyboard, one octave higher. As a result, polyphonic textures available to the player are greatly expanded, volume levels may be increased, and chords which extend over two octaves may be played with one hand.
Since the piano's restoration in 2007, Christopher Taylor has brought the instrument to life for complete performances of the Bach Goldberg Variations in select venues across the country. The instruments 21st century debut took place in Taylor's hands at the CaraMoór Festival, followed by his performances at Ravinia, the Gilmore Festival and the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana.
Many individuals have played a part in the restoration of the Steinway double-manual piano and in providing the means for it to be heard on tour.
John Wiley, chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
John Schaffer, director, School of Music, UW-Madison
Baoli Liu and Mark Ultsch, piano technicians, School of Music
Christopher Taylor, associate professor of piano, School of Music
Chris Arena, Bonnie Barrett, Ljubomir Begonja, Ed Carrasco, Peter Goodrich and Michael Megaloudis, Steinway & Sons
Kenneth Wentworth, Jonathan Wentworth Associates, Ltd.
New York Times
"...he has emerged as the leading American pianist of his generation."
"Taylor made the Steinway work, finding a curiously successful balance between the distinct articulation required for the terraced baroque textures and propelling momentum of the Allegros with the absolute legato of a Chopin cantilena in the Adagio."
"Christopher Taylor, the superb soloist, brought a deep focus and ease to the outer movements' ebb and flow and a fierce dexterity to the middle section, "Edgy," a bustling workout that recalled music by Prokofiev and Raymond Scott." [Sebastian Currier Concerto]
New York Times
"the best performance I have ever heard of [Schumann's] Piano Concerto ... absolutely propulsive in its energy. Taylor stepped on the gas and delivered a sharp, driven performance that proved irresistible... showed how beneath the arch-Romantic surface, Schumann had a thorough command of Classical-era techniques."
Well Tempered Ear
"Mr. Taylor is more typically heard in heavier repertory, from Liszt to Messiaen and Pierre Boulez, and this concerto seemed easy work for him. In the fast outer movements, especially, the solo line was clean, bright and crisply articulated, and it danced off the page." [Haydn Piano Concerto in D (Hob. XVIII:11)]
New York Times
"...after two hours at the keyboard, Taylor had become a wild man in the thrall of a great vision, seemingly possessed of superhuman powers. Clearly forces beyond the normal were at play."
Los Angeles Times
"Christopher Taylor, a versatile, ready-for-anything soloist, delivered a brilliant, intense performance"
"...strengths in this performance included crisp coordination of piano and strings, keyed to Taylor's unfailingly alert rhythmic sense and bold sonority." [Brahms Piano Quintet with the Ying Quartet]
"But that Christopher Taylor... also played Messiaen's approximately 130-minute work flawlessly and entirely from memory was astounding. It is doubtful that many of us who heard Taylor's transcendent traversal of Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus for Cal Performances can imagine another pianist making an equal impact in such challenging music.... the performance was extraordinary. Taylor, who graduated summa cum laude from Harvard with a mathematics degree in 1992 - two years after he received first prize in the William Kapell International Piano Competition - is a genius. I doubt few present will forget how he lifted us to a realm beyond time and space."
San Francisco Classical Voice 1/27/08
"To tackle a handful of György Ligeti's explosive and intricate piano etudes shows a degree of bravery and dedication. To play all 28 of them, as Christopher Taylor did in a magnificent recital in Berkeley's Hertz Hall on Sunday afternoon, is a Herculean undertaking... [Taylor] seemed almost to shrug off the difficulties involved. It isn't that he made the performance seem effortless - no one could do that, nor would it be a good idea if they could - but that he incorporated the very idea of difficulty into the essence of the performance."
San Francisco Chronicle
"But most of the études are vehemently intense and ferociously difficult...Mr. Taylor played them all with incisive rhythm, lucid textures and, where the music allowed, alluring colors. Still, the sheer effort involved in playing these works was something to behold."
New York Times
"Taylor's playing - emotionally volatile yet scrupulously weighted and voiced - worked hand-in-glove with McDuffie's."
"...the blazing performance of Messiaen's ''Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jesus'' by Christopher Taylor in the Gardner Museum is likely to stand as a point of reference for many seasons to come."
"Throughout Mr. Taylor played with unflagging energy and an impressive ability to articulate and even swing those complex rhythms. There was a mesmerizing self-possession in these performances, as if a vigorous dialogue between pianist and composer were taking place entirely inside Mr. Taylor's head and simply finding expression in his fingers. The nature of the discussion was anyone's guess, but it was a pleasure to listen in."
The New York Times
"...and his performance of three of William Bolcom's splendid "Twelve New Etudes" [was] delivered with a daring spontaneity that masked some phenomenal technique"
"...his performance was a highlight of the season and already represents an astonishing achievement."
The New York Times
"...Taylor really nailed it, certainly deserving the multiple bows he gave and standing ovation he got when it was over. He drew a plump, cushy sound from the big Steinway." (with The St. Louis Symphony)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"The young pianist Christopher Taylor is so talented it's almost frightening...Taylor revealed limpid, legato lines of plaintive beauty. His ear was alert to the fantasy and drama in this work."
The Boston Globe
"Taylor returned to the stage...and once again displayed a remarkable combination of brain, heart and fingers. In past appearances here, he has demonstrated his ability to bound from Bach to Messiaen, from Rachmaninoff to Boulez - and do it all persuasively. Taylor can do it all."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"A stunning new recording of William Bolcom's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Twelve New Etudes" (1977-86) features Christopher Taylor... [The etudes] require a pianist of equally nimble intelligence and imagination - not to mention physical endurance - and Taylor is more than up to the challenge." (CD review)
The New Yorker
New York Times Video
Met Museum feature on WQXR
Met Museum piece: Wall Street Journal
Christopher Taylor CDs - JonathanDigital.com