The singing tone of Shigeru Kawai grand pianos

Steve Law

The pianist Jorge Bolet quoted the conductor Josef Krips as saying ‘All music is singing and what is not singing is noise’. I love this quote because it is so relevant for playing a melody on the piano. To produce the sweetest and most singing tone, we lean into each note for sonority and avoid lifting the fingers above the keys – which produces percussive noise and a harder tone. It is, of course, the great illusion of a pianist to imitate singing and sustaining melodic lines on an instrument that is essentially percussive. But some pianos make this illusion easier than others! The singing tone of Shigeru grand pianos is one quality that really stands out.

Steve Law with his SK-5

I fell in love with my Shigeru SK5 playing Gershwin’s The Man I Love a few years ago at Richard Lawson’s piano showroom in Rickmansworth. There’s no question that its singing tone and powerful rich sound suit romantic music like Chopin or Rachmaninoff. But it also sounds amazing in Mozart, Beethoven and J.S. Bach. In jazz, chord voicings sound so classy. A huge range of dynamics is possible from the faintest soft note to the loudest, and the keyboard action is very responsive to dynamic shaping. The Shigeru is a special instrument and I feel really blessed to own one! 

Inspired by my new Shigeru grand piano, I recently wrote a very melodic and exciting new piano concerto which was recorded with the Scottish National Orchestra last summer. It has catchy tunes and rhythms, drawing inspiration from Gershwin, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff but also assimilating the influences of jazz, pop and minimalism. I believe that classical music can be both popular and deep, that it should be memorable, sincere, life affirming and of substance rather than effect or note spinning. By writing an accessible concerto that crosses the divide between classical and popular music I hope to have continued with the same ideals as Gershwin in some small way.

My idols growing up were Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Gershwin, three of the great romantic melody writers of the 20th Century. Being able to write a memorable melody is important to me and crucial to my compositions. It is not surprising that I was drawn to the singing tone of the Kawai Shigeru!  

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About the author

Steve Law

Steve Law is a British composer and arranger with a distinctive accessible style and gift for melody.

Musicweb International described his first CD of original piano music as ‘kaleidoscopically varied works… engagement with melody… impressionistic atmosphere… slowly burning passion’. 

Steve’s new Piano Concerto, recorded by pianist Joseph Havlat with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Watkin, will be released on 28th April 2023. His Violin Concerto was premiered in 2017 in Scotland by Mark Wilson with Paul Wood conducting. 3 Poems by Lorna Law were premiered in London 2018 by Ferrier Award winning baritone Gareth Brynmor John with the composer at the piano. 

Steve is also known as one of the most accurate transcribers of solo piano music from recordings. He is a published arranger of Dudley Moore’s album Songs Without Words (with Faber), Gershwin, Fats Waller and Russ Conway amongst others. He will be working on a volume for the Gershwin Critical Edition in 2023.

As a pianist he has a long association with ragtime, Billy Mayerl and Gershwin, as well as championing music by Dudley Moore.

For more about Steve, visit www.stevelawcomposer.com