The Company Store

Jonathan Bellman

Someone appended a link to one of my previous blogs. Apparently there is documentary film, Note by Note, coming out, and it seems to be a puff piece on Steinway & Sons. I’ve fallen in love with Steinways in my time, enough to propose marriage to a couple, true. There was a time when I would have given anything for a black T-Shirt with that ampersand, with or without Steinway & Sons below (Men’s Large, please). But—I can’t get over the feeling of Big Brother wagging a finger in my face. There are other fine piano companies, other fine workmen, and so forth. Further, not all Steinways deserve the implied sort of lump-in-the-throat concern and nostalgia; pianists all know that there have been years when they produced substandard product, for all the multi-kazillion dollar price tag, that still bore the [sound cue: distant trumpets] Steinway & Sons logo. Like all big companies, S & S is a mixed bag—in the early 1990s one of their people (a business guy, not a piano guy) openly lied to me on the phone about what was happening on a service matter. Call me old school, but I don’t shrug and go on after something like that; if you think a bald-faced lie to me either doesn’t or shouldn’t matter, then I’m clearly in the wrong neighborhood. Exit, stage right.
Needless to say, I’m not going to be in New York to see the premiere of this thing. Someone can keep us posted. I guess my problem with Steinway is like my problem with RCA Red Label and the NY Phil and the Met: when you’re the Company Store, not only are you no longer trying, you resent the implication that you even should, because you’ve been accustomed to a diet of paeans, prestige, and price-fixing.
Am I being unfair? I wonder.

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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3 Responses to The Company Store

  1. Mark says:

    Steinway or the highway?

  2. Eric says:

    Fender Rhodes

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