On first appearance, one could easily be charmed by the luxurious ebony veneer that smooths across the sheer grandeur of the Steinway & Sons Model D Grand Piano of 1949, or by the captivating allure of its ivory-white keys that dance beneath the nimblest of fingers. However, the true aficionados, the keen-eyed historians, recognize the wealth of history, craftsmanship, and extraordinary detail that lie beneath its elegant exterior.
An iconic instrument conceived in Steinway & Sons’s Astoria factory, Queens, New York, the Model D hails from the brilliant imaginations of the second-generation Steinway lineage, more specifically, from Charles Doret Steinway. Charles, noted for his pioneer innovations in piano design and manufacture, engineered this exquisite model following the company's illustrious principles established by his father, Henry E. Steinway, in 1853. Unlike its siblings, the Model D was exceptional, bearing the crown as the king of concert grands after an illustrious 143 years of Steinway craftsmanship.
Characteristic of any Steinway, the 1949 Model D encapsulates an astounding array of constructional precision, artistry, and unwavering attention to detail. At exactly 8' 11¾" (274 cm) in length and weighing approximately 990 pounds (about 448 kilograms), it is the epitome of grandeur, designed to deliver exceptional power and resonance, in harmony with its elaborate tonal richness. Housing 88 keys, the piano cleverly weaves the architectural design of its predecessors, adopting the patented tubular metallic action frame. This mechanism, first introduced on June 2, 1863, was the world's premier design to allow the production of larger instruments to withstand the strain of longer strings needed to produce deeper tones, ultimately, enhancing the elasticity of the sound expressed.
The finishing of the Model D grand piano is no less intricate than its internal composition. Each piece, handcrafted, stained, and polished by conscientious artisans, exemplifies the union of acoustic science and artistic craftsmanship. In addition, the three sustain pedals nestled neatly below the keys and the grand lyre that harbors them remain to be a prime example of the iconic patent action of Steinway pianos that catches every single nuance of an artist’s well-articulated performance.
Moreover, the principal highlight of this model is its soundboard. Crafted from the choicest high-quality spruce trees grown in the frosty climes of Alaska, renowned for their prophetic age and their tight, even grain inside, the soundboard expresses a fullness of sound, an enduring sustain and an impressive dynamic range. The uniquely tapered soundboard resonates with an unworldly reverberation, making every performance on this instrument inexplicably soul-touching, a phenomenon that Steinway enthusiasts affectionately call the 'Steinway Sound'.
From the illustrious hands that crafted it to the maestros who venerated it – including celebrated artists such as Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, and George Gershwin – the Model D Grand Piano has occupied a supreme position in the annals of piano history. Positioned on grand concert stages and esteemed music halls across the globe, the Steinway & Sons Model D from 1949 encapsulates not only the zenith of Steinway's heritage but remains a leading testament to the golden age of piano manufacturing. Its enduring legacy serves to remind us of the unassailable truth that the craft of making pianos is equally significant as the fine art of playing it.