Of the total of 10 concert wings of the Steinway & Sons type in Lofoten, two are owned by the festival itself. The festival also owns two smaller grand pianos that are primarily used for rehearsals and smaller concerts. Another five upright pianos are also owned by the festival and used by the artists where they live during the festival. Three of these are located in Lofoten Concert Hallduring the year. One can be found at Salteriet in Henningsvær, and the last is in the parish hall in Henningsvær Church.
In addition, the Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival has ownership of – or contributed to – several grand pianos around Lofoten.
Thon Hotel Lofoten: Wendl & Lung grand piano
When the Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival was established in 2004, Knut Kirkesæther’s own grand piano – a Blüthner from 1896 – was the only instrument available for concert rehearsals. It was a rarely good instrument, but with the first year’s success, there was quickly a desire to expand with at least one rehearsal grand piano.
The festival’s piano technician, German Joachim Römer, made an offer from a young company in Austria – Wendl & Lung – for a smaller grand piano at a purchase price. The company still makes grand pianos and pianos at low prices through a collaboration in China. The company saw it as good marketing to have an instrument available to pianists of international format in Lofoten. For just under 100,000,- the brand new grand piano arrived in time for the concert rehearsals during the festival in 2005, which was then based in Nusfjord.
Later, the Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival moved from Nusfjord to Henningsvær, and the grand piano was placed in the restaurant at Thon Hotel Lofoten, in Svolvær. Outside the festival – that is, 50 weeks a year – it also takes place today. It is in the daily use of various pianists that offer the restaurant’s guests “live” music for breakfast and other meals.
The grand piano is surprisingly good, and as Leif Ove Andsnes said in 2018 when he sat down to practice the grand piano: “there are no bad pianos, only bad piano technicians”. He then referred to the festival’s piano technician Thomas Hübsch who had prepared the instrument for the festival.
Thon Hotel Lofoten and Lofoten Concert Hall: Petrof grand piano
In the auditorium at the old Svolvær Primary and Secondary School there was a large grand piano of the Petrof type. The Czech brand can be found in several places in Norway, even today. The reason is that Petrof was much cheaper before the fall of the wall compared to instruments produced in the west. This grand piano was once given as a gift from Einar Grann-Meyer when the school was new. After that, the school’s auditorium was Svolvær’s main hall until Lofoten Concert Hall opened in 2009.
With a new concert hall in the city, the need for the auditorium as a concert venue was gone. The grand piano was also characterized by old age and lack of maintenance. When the school building was to be demolished in 2011, it was therefore not desirable to bring the instrument into the new school building. With good knowledge of the grand piano, Knut Kirkesæther contacted hotel director Erik Taraldsen at Thon Hotel Lofoten. He is willing to give 50,000,- to enable the instrument to offer “live” music to its visitors.
After strings, rivets and hammers were replaced, the grand piano looked almost like new. It stood for many years in the hotel’s restaurant, before it was later moved into the concert hall as a extra piano due to lack of space. The Petrof has been used there with great success on several occasions during the Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival, most recently in 2018.
There are several who have commented on the size of the Petrof. It’s not so strange since it, with its 2.84 cm is 10 cm longer than the largest model from Steinway & Sons. The instrument also has two tones more in the bass than usual.
Private ownership: Bechstein grand piano
Former chairman of the board of Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival – Richard Sandnes – in 2010 became acquainted with an older grand piano by the brand Bechstein, in an estate in Oslo. The instrument was from approx. year 1920, but still in good condition. Bechstein is one of the big brands, and aroused interest in the board. With a price tag of only 40,000,- the grand piano was bought and sent to Lofoten. At this time it was already a grand piano in Nusfjord (Wendl & Lung), where the festival was then held. The instrument was therefore placed in the foyer of Lofoten Concert Hall in Svolvær.
The grand piano was in every way a beautiful instrument, but a fragile old treasure. It gradually became clear that the instrument did not benefit from the transports during the festivals. The festival’s piano technician – Thomas Hübsch – came on the scene and wanted to buy the instrument to sell it in Berlin. The grand piano was packed ready to be sent to Berlin, but here the German bureaucracy stopped. The German regulations regarding the import of ivory, made the sale a bureaucratic D-moment (the most difficult tricks in turn). The Bechstein grand piano was left in the concert hall – wrapped – for months.
Thomas finally realized that the import was impossible, and wanted to put it up for sale in Lofoten. There were first two stakeholders in Henningsvær. Line and Pål – the owners of Lysstøperiet- were then renovating Fiskarheimen, and envisioned a grand piano there. Unfortunately, this did not happen. New owners at Galleri Lofotens Husin Henningsvær were also interested, without a sale. Finally, the chairman of the board of the Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival – Brynjar Tollefsen – came on the field. Not long after, the more than 100-year-old instrument was in place in his Nordlandshus from about the same time. There it slides elegantly into the interior.
Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival has had success with breakfast concerts during the festivals in the summer. In the autumn of 2018, it was decided to try to hold more breakfast and lunch concerts throughout the year.
The wish was to have a breakfast concert in Vågan Municipality and a lunch concert in Vestvågøy Municipality. At Meieriet Art Center there is both a grand piano and a café – perfect for this type of concert. In Vågan it was not quite as easy. The old cultural building Arbeidern in Kabelvåg came up as a good candidate. The place has both a kitchen and a café – but no grand piano. After a few short conversations, Knut Kirkesæther came up with a good alternative – a Blüthner standing in a private home in Trondheim for only 20,000,-.
The grand piano – which is 1.80 cm long – came into place in Arbeidern in December 2017. The instrument was built around 1920 and is well used and somewhat teared. But it has a nice sound, soul and personality. It is excellent for breakfast concerts throughout the year, as well as several local events at Arbeidern on the square in Kabelvåg.