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In touch with greatness

A trio of special pianos is available for viewing and, by appointment, playing at a Clearwater music store.

By JULIANNE WU

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 28, 2000


CLEARWATER -- Imagine tickling ivories once played by legendary pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Van Cliburn.

Or seating yourself in front of a brilliant blue Rhapsody piano made to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Gershwin, composer of Rhapsody in Blue.

Some of Largo piano teacher Lynn Petrescue's students and family members did just that Tuesday at the Music Gallery on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.

The three pianos, part of the Steinway & Sons' Legendary Tour, will remain on display in the music store until July 13. Local piano teachers, students or other interested members of the public also can play the instruments by appointment.

"Wow! Very nice!" said Randy Petrescue, 20, as he began to play Edvard Grieg's Concerto in A Minor on a 9-foot-long concert grand piano that accompanied Russian-born Horowitz on many of his concert tours, including his famous trip back to his homeland in 1989. Next, Randy's brother, Burt Petrescue, 22, played Sergei Rachmaninoff's Moment Musicale Opus 16, No. 4.

"It's a little intimidating knowing you're playing on an instrument that Horowitz mastered," said Burt Petrescue, a self-employed computer programer. He also tried out the Cliburn and Rhapsody pianos.

Both men are sons of Mrs. Petrescue.

The impromptu music session wasn't limited to those who have been playing for many years.

"It's different to press down on the keys," said Natalie Fady, 12, who chose to play Misty and Sonatina Op. 36, No. 1 by Muzio Clementi on the Rhapsody instrument. "I really like the design of this piano."

Natalie, one of Mrs. Petrescue's students along with her brother, Wil, 9, also played Shenandoah on the Horowitz piano.

"I thought this was an incredible opportunity," said Sarah Fady, the budding pianists' mom, of Seminole. The Horowitz piano, now owned by Steinway & Sons, was built in the 1940s, said Charlie Hunt, a partner in the Music Gallery. Horowitz would have it hoisted in and out of his New York apartment by crane and crated up for concert appearances around the world.

The Cliburn piano is from the pianist's collection and is on loan for the tour.

Cliburn was only 23 when he skyrocketed to fame by winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow during the height of the Cold War in 1958.

The 7-foot-long Rhapsody piano is one of only 24 that will be built, at a street value of about $150,000 each, Hunt said. So far, seven have been sold.

The number 24 was set because it was in 1924 that Gershwin composed Rhapsody in Blue. The piano's unique music stand is a rendering of the New York skyline as it was in 1924.

If you're interested

Three notable pianos are on display at the Music Gallery through July 13. The public can play the pianos by appointment. For information, call Charlie Hunt at 530-3304.

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