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Pianomania - Movie Review - 2011

Making Great Music: Steinway At Play


Pianomania - Movie Review - 2011

Pianomania - Poster Art

First Run Features
For Stephan Knüpfer, the sound of a well-tuned piano isn't defined only by sharps and flats. Knüpfer listens for tone, for warmth and richness of sound. And, he's not satisfied with the sounds produced by a piano until the instrument is tuned to perfection. Neither are his clients, among whom are the world's greatest concert pianists.

As chief tuner for Steinway Pianos, Stephan Knüpfer is responsible for preparing the world's finest grand pianos for use in major concerts and recitals in the best and most famous auditoriums across the United States and around the world. Pianomania follows the master tuner as he collaborates with master pianists, including the revered Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Lang Lang, Till Fellner, Alfred Brendel, Julius Drake, Hyung Ki-Joo, Marita Prohmann and Rudolf Buchbinder.

Tune In To The Man Who Makes Music Happen

Pianomania makes it very clear that without Knüpfer's ears and hands in the studio or concert hall, the music wouldn't happen. Top pianists rely on his touch, his sensibility, his expertise to make their sound as perfect as possible. And, he is determined -- often to the point of sleep deprivation -- to not fail them.

Knüpfer's job is often quite challenging. Musicians can be temperamental, and so, it seems, can the pianos.

Every piano produced by Steinway has not only an identifying number, it has a personality as unique as that of each musician who touches its keys. Knüpfer can be called upon to match musicians to instruments, often altering his suggestions to suit different musical suites or fit the acoustics of varying auditoriums. He also makes sure than pianos are properly handled, protecting them as though they were his children. His skill, sensitivity and stamina are extraordinary.

Filmmakers Robert Cibis and Lilian Franck are unfailingly respectful of Knüpfer and the musicians who've given them complete access to document their work process, which is often quite joyful, but sometimes fraught with tension. The documentary provides an amazing glimpse into the rarefied realm of elite musicians, giving audiences a fly-on-the wall perspective to which not even devoted patrons of classical music are often privileged. It's tremendously enriching, and should be seen by all who love classical music. It will enhance your appreciation. It may even change how your perceptions and how you listen to music.

The filmmakers also do a very good job of presenting the Steinway story. Replete with archival stills and footage, they trace the history of the company from its beginnings to modern times. It's fascinating to see how technological advances have -- and have not -- changed the way in which the company's high quality pianos are manufactured.

The cinematography throughout is elegant and perceptive. And, as you can imagine, the soundtrack is absolutely magnificent!

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Film Details:

  • Title: Pianomania
  • Directors: Robert Cibis and Lilian Franck
  • Theatrical Premiere: November 4, 2011
  • Running Time: 93 mins.
  • Location: Steinway studios and factory in New York City, and various concert halls.
  • Language: English and German, with English subtitles
  • Production Country: Austria
  • Production Companies: Oval Filmemacher, Wildart Film
  • Distribution Company: First Run Features
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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