In honor of the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence, Hungary presented the country with a unique Bogányi piano.
The piano was presented in a ceremony in Budapest, following talks between House Speaker László Kövér, and Maria Lohela, his Finnish counterpart. The instrument will be housed in Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy.
The sleek, futuristic Zengafons concert piano, developed under the inspiration of Kossuth Prize-winning pianist Gergely Bogányi (who spent part of his youth living in Finland, and who studied music at the Sibelius Academy), was first featured at a gala concert at the Academy of Music in January 2015. With a design that has led to descriptions ranging from a “Star Trek piano” to a “Batpiano”, the musician’s instrument immediately made waves with its sleek, futuristic design and its unique carbon composite soundboard.
Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament László Kövér (left), with Maria Lohela, Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, and Gergely Bogányi, pianist and piano designer, during a ceremony commemorating the gifting of a Bogányi piano to Finland in the Cupola Hall of the Hungarian Parliament Building (Photo: MTI – Tibor Illyés)
Initially, the Bogányi piano generated a significant amount of interest, both within Hungary and internationally as well. An article in UK newspaper The Guardian described the instrument as
the first big redesign of the piano in more a hundred years.
In addition, the piece praised the “unique tone” of Bogányi’s creation, quoting a famed British pianist who described it in glowing terms:
It feels like you are in a spaceship, like you are hovering above gravity. When you play a lot of notes, or you play a chord, the sensation is different. It’s super-clear.
The Hungarian instrument also found a positive reception in international and local news outlets worldwide, such as Slate, which called it a “radical redesign of the grand piano” that was extremely ambitious in scope.
Musical Success, Business Failure
Despite the initial warm reception, however, the Bogányi piano, with its 200,000-euro price-tag, has hardly been a successful venture. When it first debuted, one of the distinctive instruments was purchased by Budapest’s Aria Hotel. And while some press reports indicated that the company had sold two additional Bogányi pianos to an unnamed European buyer, financial statements obtained by left-wing Hungarian news site 444.hu indicate that, over the course of 2014 and 2015, Zengafons was paid for one piano, while in 2016
it recorded sales of 0 forint.
All of this was slightly offset by the fact that the Hungarian government placed a 760 million-forint (roughly 2 million euro) order for 10 Bogányi pianos, including the one just gifted to Finland. Even this, however, does not seem to have been enough to forestall the company’s financial troubles: earlier this year, the Hungarian National Bank (MNB) forced Zengafons to repay the 60 million-forint (190,000 euro) grant it had received from the bank due to unspecified breaches of contract. Whether new Bogányi pianos will continue to be produced is currently unknown.
Via MTI, Hungary Matters, the Guardian, index.hu, mno.hu, 444.hu, and Slate