At the Peabody Institute sale, the pianos are grand but so are their price tags

March 24, 1997|By Will Englund | Will Englund,SUN STAFF

Bargain hunters were at the Peabody Institute yesterday looking at some practically irresistible deals -- where else could you buy a Viennese-made Boesendorfer for just $58,000?

It was the music school's annual piano sale, and, yes, the Boesendorfer was there, more for its good looks than for the idea that anyone would actually buy it. But the sale was, nevertheless, a pretty gleaming accumulation of grands -- some of them even halfway affordable.

Every year, the Kawai piano company lends practice pianos to music schools across the country, and the next year it sells them off at more or less a wholesale price.

A vertical piano (a descendant of the old-fashioned parlor upright) was more than $700 off, at $3,300. A recital grand that retails for $17,000 was on sale yesterday for just $10,000.

No 'cheap instrument'

Who could resist such savings?

"OK," conceded Jay McMurray, regional sales manager for Kawai, "if people are looking for a cheap instrument, they're not going to find one here."

Interjected a customer, Sherry Freund, staff accompanist at Wichita State University in Kansas, "You get what you pay for in a piano."

Freund hadn't come all the way to Baltimore simply to buy a piano -- her daughter Marni is a harp student at Peabody, and the two are playing here together tomorrow -- but she made sure to look around at the four dozen pianos on sale, just in case.

After all, a few rarities from outside the school were thrown into the sale just to spice things up.

'Just heaven'

One was a Steinway Model B, an old 7-footer that's about half a century old. It was exactly the type she's been seeking. She sat down at the keyboard and struck the E above middle C.

"Hear how that sound just, just -- whew! That's an old Steinway characteristic," she said. "Almost every one I've played has been just heaven."

How badly does she want one? Freund is looking for one in bad shape, which her brother can restore for her, because she can't afford anything else. Someone called her recently from Tennessee, and offered one for $16,800, which seemed like too much, considering that it was in pieces. (That's a little too far gone.)

Then someone else offered her one from Michigan for just $10,000, which would have been great except that the truck carrying it to Kansas crashed on the way and the piano was wrecked.

She played a few chords and looked dreamy. The piano in front of her was in heartbreakingly glorious condition already.

"Don't even tell me how much this one costs," she said, walking away. "I don't want to know."

For the record, the one-day sale price was $30,000.

Maybe next year.

Pub Date: 3/24/97

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