Having a major pianist like Lang Lang, Katie Mahan or Robert Glasper come round to do a private performance could be a bit of a budget-stretcher. But so long as you’re good for £127,000 to £467,500 for a new Steinway Grand incorporating the company’s latest tech feature, Spirio R, you can have any of dozens of big names – including pianists no longer with us such as Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubinstein – play for you every evening.
Spirio R is a self-play piano system, the type that offers the slightly spooky vision of the keys playing themselves. Many of the thousands of recordings available from Steinway are accompanied by streamed video of the performance. So with a Spirio R piano and a big TV, the illusion of a virtuoso playing live for you is not far off complete.
Sceptics may say that you could just play a music DVD of a performer, but no matter how good your sound bar or hifi is, a Steinway grand is always going to sound vastly better.
It’s not just a question of the keys plonking down in a particular order. When an artist like Lang Lang records a piece for Spirio R, it picks up the subtleties of every key press – the system can detect 1,024 “velocity steps”. So the auto-Lang Lang that plays in your home is to all intents and purposes him.
When it comes to performers who departed decades too early to record specifically for Spirio R, Steinway analyses existing audio recordings so as to reproduce as closely as possible the original key strokes, and then, for the video, match up original film recordings.
Steinway has been making self-play instruments for six years now for the high proportion of buyers who can’t actually play piano. But the new Spirio R system is more sophisticated than the 2015 version. For instance, rather wonderfully for those who do play, you can record your own work and edit it to perfection on the dedicated iPad that comes with a Spirio R piano. You can even post your polished masterpiece on social media.
Steinway Spirio R from £127,000, steinway.co.uk