A Creative Collaboration
Austrian born Ignaz Bösendorfer (1794 – 1859) apprenticed under the premier piano-maker Joseph Brodmann (1771 – 1848). Under Brodmann’s tutelage, Bösendorfer advanced his way to shop foreman. When Brodmann retired around 1828, he sold his workshop to Bösendorfer who then established the Bösendorfer Piano Company. Legend has it that Franz Liszt, with his passion at the piano, tended to destroy his instruments and often had to have extra pianos on standby to successfully finish a concert. At the suggestion of some friends, Liszt played a Bösendorfer piano, which stood up to the abuses of the infamous Hungarian composer and virtuosi—thus, making a name for Bösendorfer.
Jon Kuhn (b. 1949) born in Chicago, Illinois, “…is regarded as one of the leading American studio glass artists in the world.” 3 He earned his BFA in 1972 from Washburn University and a MFA in 1978 from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is credited as one of the pioneers of the modern technique of cold-worked glass (rather than using molten or blown glass), trapping shards of small colored glass within his larger glass sculptures.
Kuhn's works are in The Met in New York, The Vatican Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and among many other private and public collections.
Making A One Of A Kind
Based on the Bösendorfer Model 225, the limited-edition black 7’4” grand piano took over a year to create (unveiled in 2009) and required approximately 100,000 hand-cut, lead crystal jewels. Kuhn has said it was "a highlight of his career," and he learned a great deal "working with Bösendorfer and such an exceptional piano." There were a few constraints placed on him to maintain the integrity of the piano’s sound, especially when it came to limiting the depth of the inlays and subsequently the size of the glass used on the fallboard. "If I was to do it again,” he said, "I might reduce the size of the larger jewels in other areas of the instrument and use the smaller, core material I made to inlay the fallboard."
When Bösendorfer shipped the piano from Vienna to Atlanta, GA, to Raleigh, NC, the instrument arrived in perfect tune, and was a marvel to behold. For a time, the grand remained with Kuhn in his studio showroom where professional artists performed concerts to packed audiences. The last estimate, even after the recession, claimed the piano’s worth to be over $800,000.
Kuhn is the only artist Bösendorfer has given the honor of co-branding. 6