A change of key for 1988 alumnus’ piano shop

A local company is hosting a $750,000 Austrian piano.

The average cost of a home in Philadelphia is about $196,000, according to Trulia, a real-estate website. A one-of-a-kind Bösendorfer piano on display in the city is worth more than triple that price—and anyone who makes a reservation is welcome to play it.

“As long as you wash your hands and don’t put your lunch on [it], anyone can play it,” said Rich Galassini, the owner of Cunningham Piano Company at 5427 Germantown Ave.

The $750,000 Bösendorfer grand piano is what the Austrian manufacturer dubbed the Opus No. 50,000 to celebrate its 50,000th piano.

“Bösendorfer is only sending this piano to a few people and we are pleased to be one of them,” Galassini said.

Galassini, a 1988 music education and vocal performance alumnus, began working at Cunningham Piano Co. shortly after his graduation and has been there ever since—a total of 28 years.

Working there has “completely changed the way that I looked at the piano as an instrument,” Galassini said.

The maker of the piano, Bösendorfer, is an Austrian company established in 1828.  Bösendorfer, an elite brand in the industry, typically spends about 5 years handcrafting each piano—and they’re usually worth anywhere from $80,000 to $250,000.

Owner Rich Galassini (right), stands next to the Bösendorfer piano the shop is hosting. | PATRICK CLARK TTN

But the Opus No. 50,000 is inspired by the Musikverein in Austria, which has walls and an interior gilded in gold. The Musikverein is a massive theater that was the highest stage for composers to direct their orchestras, specifically in the Musikverein’s “Golden Hall.” Much of the Opus is painted in gold leaf and designed to have a facade that looks like the hall. The piano is also designed from various fine woods, including French walnut, pear and maple wood.

Several local musicians have played the instrument in concerts at venues like the Kimmel Center and the Barnes Foundation, and it’s next scheduled to appear Jan. 28-30 at the Kimmel Center in “A Farewell to Vienna.” The show will include performances from the Philadelphia Orchestra and Norwegian touring pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.

Valentin Radu, the musical director of Vox Ama Deus Chamber Orchestra and a music teacher at Devon Preparatory school, got the chance to play the Opus No. 50,000 at Cunningham Piano.

“It looks like it belongs in some palace in Europe and that either Mozart or Beethoven or Haydn play it,” Radu said.

Radu said he played bits of accompaniment from Mozart, Chopin and jazz music while playing the Opus No. 50,000. He also said he found the grand piano to be particularly resonant for a piano of its size.

“It’s a very complex instrument, and that’s a nice thing to say about an instrument,” Radu said. “That it’s good for any kind of music any type of music at any speed at very soft or very loud—or anywhere in between.”

Despite the hefty $750,000 price tag, Galassini said, a few Philadelphia-area families have already come into the store looking to buy it.

“Frankly, [Cunningham Piano is] already the North American warranty center for Bösendorfer, we already have people come and visit us from all over the world so we do enjoy a reputation,” Galassini said. “But this certainly doesn’t hurt it.”

The instrument will be at the store until the end of January.

“If there is a music student who wants to experience what Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Liszt and others have experienced, this is their one opportunity to do it,” Galassini said.

Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at gillian.mcgoldrick@temple.edu.

Video by Linh Than.

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