By Ricky O’Bannon
robannon@bsomusic.org

With everything from St. Patrick’s Day to Pi Day in March, you can be forgiven for having missed the month’s newest holiday.

March 29, what will most often [or typically] be the 88th day of the year, marked the first Piano Day. The holiday is the invention of German musician and composer Nils Frahm.

Frahm is known for combining classical piano with electronic music and was looking for a way to launch a new album. The result was to create a new holiday.

“Piano Day will happen on the 88th day of the year, which most of the time is the 29th of March,” Frahm writes on the holiday’s website. “Piano Day is intended to be the most joyful of all holidays.”

While the inaugural celebration focuses on a new release from Frahm, Piano Day 2015 looks to build momentum and raise funds for an intriguing prototype by German piano builder David Klavins. Klavins suggests that while the 19th century saw numerous advances in piano design that resulted in the concert grand we know today, piano designs remained largely stagnant over the past 120 years — even though available materials have changed.

In rethinking the traditional concert grand, Klavins opted to build up and not out. The result is the Klavins 350, a two-story piano that has a soundboard that is twice the length of a traditional grand piano. The hope for the instrument that stakes a claim in the German Guinness Book of World Records as the largest piano is that its size and string length allows for dynamics and timbres outside a traditional concert piano’s range.“There is no reason to name today's concert grand pianos the Non Plus Ultra of piano-making, in particular, taking in account the new and fantastic possibilities that are offered by the development on the field of material physics,” Klavins says on his website.

The downside is that the piano is far from portable and logistically is an installation instrument like an organ. But Klavins wants to go bigger still. In 2013, he began working on the Klavins 450i, which would have a double soundboard, a height of nearly 15 feet and strings almost 13 feet in length — all of which brings us back to Piano Day. 

Frahm is a regular collaborator with Klavins, and while the digital version of his album, solo, was released free as part of Piano Day 2015, revenue from the physical album sales will go to help build the Klavins 450i. The hope is that the instrument will debut as part of Piano Day 2017 at a festival in Berlin.

Coincidentally, just a few days after the first Piano Day, famed piano-makers Steinway announced its own piano innovation — a self-playing piano that can digitally store nuanced performances and recreate them later.

Whether you marked the inaugural Piano Day this year or whether you hope to see the Klavins 450i debut in 2017, just remember that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra endorses making every day your own personal Piano Day.