Piano Movements

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Nick Baker experiences some moving stories involving pianos, their owners, and the people who move them around. There's nothing more likely to crystallise feelings towards a piano than having to move it - up or downstairs - from one place to another.

Siobhan is faced with shifting an old family upright into a new first floor flat. Alison is overseeing the removal of a Steinway B from the home of her late employer, a famous orchestral conductor. Nick Baker follows their progress as pianos are lugged sweatily up stairs or craned out of windows, suspended temporarily 30ft above the street. Indeed Nick himself has had a difficult experience moving a piano. He still feels responsible for Lesley losing more than her dignity in an ill-fated piano moving exercise. She lost part of a finger as well.

Nick witnesses the back-breaking exploits of Marek, Bartek and Jacek as they negotiate a cramped Victorian conversion with a family upright in Catford, London. And there's Penny, organiser of the Two Moors classical music festival, who watched as a 9 foot Bösendorfer grand - twenty six grand, to be precise - fell off the back of a lorry and 13 feet into a Devon ditch.

So, forget Laurel and Hardy, chimps and Bernard Cribbins. Piano movement is a serious business. It can also be seriously expensive.

High end piano removals expert Julian Rout is on a mission to turn piano logistics into an art form. He's intent on harnessing the complementary strengths of humans and technology. Less muscle, more machines. But he's battling against the man and van trade.

It turns out, the piano movements that tug most at the heartstrings are not those of Beethoven or Bartok - but piano movements like these.


Producer: Tamsin Hughes
A Testbed production for BBC Radio 4.
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