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'Note By Note: The Making of Steinway L1037'

| Friday, March 14, 2008

A documentary about the painstaking, yearlong process of constructing a Steinway piano doesn't sound terribly exciting.

But give this one a chance. "Note By Note" is full of surprising, if subtle, thrills.

The Steinway piano -- made in the same factory in Queens to virtually the same specifications for more than a hundred years -- is virtually without equal in its reputation for handcrafted detail, although Bosendorfer partisans may disagree. They're made in a factory, but with very little machine tooling. As many as 450 craftsmen work on each piano, which contains more than 12,000 parts.

Ben Niles' documentary takes us on the journey of one piano -- from the lumberyard in Sitka, Alaska, all the way to the stage at New York's Carnegie Hall. We meet all kinds of characters along the way, from the charmingly extroverted classical pianist Lang Lang, reminiscing about his introduction to the piano, through the music of "Tom & Jerry" cartoons, to a gruff woodworker in a Jack Lambert jersey, beaming with pride at the instrument he helped make but could never afford.

Each Steinway is a little different. Picking one out is more a job of matching compatible personalities than purchasing a product. Jazz musicans Harry Connick Jr., Bill Charlap, Hank Jones, Kenny Barron and Marcus Roberts, and classical players such as Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Helene Grimaud discuss and demonstrate their preferences -- and, of course, add lots of beautiful music.

• At Harris Theater, Downtown Additional Information:

'Note By Note: The Making of Steinway L1037'

Not rated, but G in nature Three stars

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