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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Music > Manufacturing > Instruments > Piano > Note By Note – The Making Of Steinway L1037: Deluxe Edition (2007/Docurama DVD)

Note By Note – The Making Of Steinway L1037: Deluxe Edition (2007/Docurama DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Film: B



A long, straight and unusually clean, large piece of high quality, flat wood is carried by a group of men into a room.  Very slowly, they gently bend it into a metal shaper and have to secure it with many clamps and other items, including a metal frame.  The shape is the traditional shape of a large piano and so begins Ben Niles’ excellent documentary Note By Note – The Making Of Steinway L1037 (2007) about the very long road to building one big piano by hand from start to finish.


Unlike most pianos made today, Steinway & Sons has been making some of the best pianos ever built for over 150 years by hand.  Every step is meticulously handled and without any digital meters or technology whatsoever.  The result is the most desired and collectible piano made today in a world where electronic keyboards are numerous (most of which are poorly made) and include endless toy models for children.  It takes a year to make one Steinway, but they are making many at once and they all go through an assembly line of very talented, caring people (450 of them!) who love the art and craft of making the instrument, as well as music itself.


It is fascinating throughout and incredible the hard work to make something that no other company in the world seems to be able to duplicate.  This also results in each piano being totally unique, yet meant to give the same range of great musical sound and options to those who try to play it, from novices to geniuses.  When all is said and done, you see why people will still pay top dollar for just one and why the greatest musicians in the world will not settle for anything less.


We not only see the work on model L1037 throughout with all the construction and hard work it takes to shape and build one, but everyone involved in its building is interviewed in what amounts to a lesson in the history of the company, the instrument and music itself.  Among the musicians who show up, are involved and even play on camera include Harry Connick Jr., Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Hank Jones, Helene Grimaud, Marcus Roberts and Lang Lang.  If you love music, this is a must-have, must see affair and was previously only available exclusively through Steinway.  However, Docurama is giving it its wide release and that makes it one of the best Documentary on DVD releases of the year.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is shot on High Definition video (maybe 1080i) and it can look good, but also has its share of softness and motion blur.  There is hardly any stock footage to speak of, though we see stills of the past at times.  I liked the editing and the many rare new shots.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is barely better than the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix and both have a few moments of sound limits, but I wondered if a DTS track would have helped.  Extras include 80 minutes of deleted scenes that should have stayed in the film, more performances by the pianists and extended interviews, some segments of which could have also been in the film.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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