letter home iii

hi everyone,

I'm writing this from the kitchen counter of my new apartment in Budapest.  my windows are open to the summer winds that have replaced the thunderstorms of May.  Budapest's long promised summer heat is finally arrived.

my belongings are still scattered throughout the apartment, but I am slowly gathering them into some semblance of order.  I'm still exploring this neighborhood, but it already is beginning to feel like home.  just North-East of my apartment, stretching away from the city center along the radial fan that is Pest's map, lies Hero's Square, flanked on either side by Budapest's largest museums.  the square acts as a gate to Budapest's largest park, which contains Vajdahunyad Castle and the Széchenyi thermal baths.  just South-West, plunging inwards to Pest's dense and cramped city center, lies Nyugati station, a nearly 150-year old train station that seems to be in a constant state of collapse and repair.  each day I walk there to catch a train that carries me to Vác, where the Danube arcs West towards Bratislava and Vienna.

since my return from Latvia, we've fallen back into the rhythym of building pianos, catching up on weeks of work that were swallowed by building the concert hall piano.  the manner in which pianos were built before I arrived was often a bit haphazard and prone to long delays, so I am attempting to bring slightly more order to the process while also learning all I can about the craft.  I feel my brain rewiring itself, letting go of the parts of my that managed emails and expectations within large organizations and focusing on the wonderfully tangible work of creating these instruments.

I was asked some basic practical questions about Klavins Pianos after my last letter, so I figured I'd provide some more details.  we currently make three pianos at the workshop.

the first is the Una Corda, a small piano that has only one string per note (most traditional pianos have either two or three strings per note to produce more volume).  the reduced tension that having only one steel string per note allows for us to build a smaller steel frame and to redesign the soundboard (the resonating body of the instrument) to craft a very unique sound.  the piano is quite small and barely weighs more than I do.  it was designed as a 64 key instrument, but we do occasionally build it with the full 88 key range when asked.  tt costs €16K and only twenty exist in the world so far, but we have the orders to make another eight, which is what we'll be doing for most of the summer.

the second piano is the Concert Una Corda.  it is built on the same concept as the Una Corda, but is significantly bigger to improve the sound capability of the bass notes. So far only a prototype of this piano exists, but we're talking with a few people about building more examples.

the third piano is the Vertical Concert Grand, just like the one we built and installed in Latvia. Only three of these exist in the world, dating back to the initial prototype David Klavins built in 1987 (a year before I was born). The basic version of this piano costs €450K.

we're also planning to design a fourth piano this year, going even smaller than the Una Corda. My goal is to have a working prototype before Winter comes, but I'll leave that for a future letter.

There's some good examples of what these pianos sound like:

CNN did a small piece on us while we were building the latest big piano that has small audio examples from all three

This is a video of Nils Frahm playing the original Una Corda in a courtyard in Berlin
You can hear the Concert Una Corda in this video from the artist Lavalu

Hania Rami playing the M450 piano (this piano now lives in Nils Frahm's studio in Berlin)

in non-piano related news, Manon just (yesterday) moved into her new apartment in Torino, Italy. Both of us are getting settled into our homes while realizing that our homes feel a bit empty without having the other person there.  she'll come visiting to Budapest in a couple weeks and we're planning out more visits between Hungary and Italy this summer.  it's our goal to be living together most of the time once Winter rolls around, but we're still figuring out the details of how to make that happen.
I miss all of you. I am often stricken with homesickness and I think of home and family and friends all the time.