‘I Love a Piano’ sang Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, courtesy of Irving Berlin, in Easter Parade. So do most people, none more so than Wayne Stuart, who designed, invented and made Stuart and Sons grand pianos with their innovative fourth pedal, additional 14 keys and unique sound. From the mid-1990s to 2013, dozens of these remarkable instruments were produced in Newcastle and placed in both official and private locations here and abroad. Production in Newcastle has ceased; Wayne Stuart now operate out of Tumut. But the sound lives on in a number of recordings, many of them by pianist Gerard Willems.
Willems loves a piano more than most and has been an ardent supporter of the Stuart pianos. Between 1997 and 2013, in a massive Beethoven project, he recorded all 36 piano sonatas, the five piano concertos and the Diabelli Variations, all on Stuart pianos. This was a huge commitment by Willems to Beethoven and the innovative determination of Stuart under the producing guidance of Brendan Ward, released by ABC Classics in a boxed set of 14CDs. Ward also wrote a book, The Beethoven Obsession, detailing this extraordinary achievement.
Now there’s more; ABC Classics is releasing another Willems/Stuart product: the solo piano music of Edvard Grieg in a two CD set Morning Mood including such favourites as Holberg Suite, Peer Gynt and Wedding Day at Troldhaugen. Irving Berlin would understand.
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