Earlier this year, Harrods finally closed the lid on its sales department after 118 years. Writing in 'The Times', Jack Malvern reported that the number of people in Britain buying pianos dropped from 30,000 a year in the 1980s to about 5,000 last year, as customers turn to electronic keyboards.
" ... Over the decades, Harrods has been associated with musicians such as Alberto Semprini, Myleene Klass, Katherine Jenkins, and Cliff Richard, with Mohamed Al Fayed, the former owner of the store. In an attempt to clear its stock, a Bechstein piano on sale recently for £94,000 has been reduced to £66,000."
Recently, I was in Wales, and I met up with a first cousin once removed, whom I had not seen for ages. She said to me, "Look you, KJ, she's got it all, hasn't she, c bach?"
I replied that I thought that my first cousin once removed was more than a match for KJ. KJ may still have it all, and I do not know the extent to which any drop in sales is replicated globally, but I suspect that in our brave new digital world, a computer keyboard generally trumps tickling the old ivories, so to speak! As for the price, well, I guess that it all depends what the brand is worth, Neil. Could we stretch it to half a billion US dollars?
I strongly doubt whether we will see electronic pianos replacing grands on concert-hall stages in our lifetime, kleines
But for home use, electronic instruments have much to recommend them. They never need tuning, and thus are always in tip-top condition. Most of them now have very authentic-feeling weighted actions (ie you can play loudly or softly on them, as you would on a 'conventional' instrument). The better brands (Yahama, Casio, Roland) have excellent "sampled" sounds which reproduce the quality and timbre of a "real" instrument. And of course, the cost is infinitely less.
Ironically we have four instruments at home. We have a large German grand, from the 1910s, in the living room. In the spare room we have a quite decent soviet-made upright, "Ukraina" - not intrinsically a nice instrument, but we've kept it maintained.
However, both of the above 'real' pianos are so badly out-of-tune in Moscow's current heatwave that they are almost unplayable - and they were only tuned six months ago. (And yes, we keep jars of water filled under both of them, to regulate the humidity factor).
So we are currently using my portable Yamaha electric piano, and our son's Roland synth instead