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St. Olaf College Selects Bösendorfer Piano as Top Concert Instrument

Victoria Wasylak • News • October 11, 2019

The Bösendorfer 280VC Vienna Concert grand piano has been awarded pride of place in St. Olaf College’s Urness Recital Hall, following the College’s decision to become the first institute of higher learning in the United States to purchase this model for use on campus.

The grand piano by Bösendorfer, a subsidiary of Yamaha, will be a central, permanent feature of the Center’s musical instrument collection, serving as its “top concert instrument,” according to Christopher Atzinger, associate professor of music, piano. St. Olaf, a private liberal arts college south of Minneapolis, brought the piano into Urness in early September and will be inaugurating it formally at a special dedication concert event in February.

Professor Atzinger spearheaded a selection process lasting nearly a year, taking him and Dennis Johnson, lead piano technician at St. Olaf, to New York, Boston, and Los Angeles before flying to Bösendorfer’s showroom in Vienna, Austria last May. There they conducted further study of the Bösendorfer 280VC they’d seen in California, and finally settled on the instrument that ended their search.

“We were looking for an instrument that was better than just ‘excellent;’ we were looking for something that was truly special,” recalls Atzinger. “So the bar was set quite high, and that’s why the search took almost a year.”

In describing what made the Bösendorfer stand out, Atzinger remarks that “the bass register was incredibly rich but also the middle and upper registers had a resonance that we were not finding with other manufacturers, and the quality of the tone we both instantly felt was superior.”

While the Bösendorfer 280VC has only been at St. Olaf College for slightly over a month, it has already drawn praise from faculty and guest artists alike. The piano will primarily be used for recitals by guest artists, faculty members and degree candidates, although Atzinger says he is considering recording his next CD using the Bösendorfer. “I would be thrilled to use it for my next recording, absolutely; I can envision that project doing quite well with that piano.”

The piano has been heard in Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York and Strathmore Hall in Maryland, as well as Vienna’s Musikverein and Konzerthaus and the Verbier Festival in Switzerland.

The dedication concert at St. Olaf will take place in Urness Recital Hall on February 28, 2020 at 7 p.m. The entire piano faculty will be performing solo works, followed by Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G Minor performed by Atzinger himself with the St. Olaf strings faculty.


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