Back in February when my 55th birthday was coming closer my generous husband Per asked me if I had some special wish, a new car perhaps? Or a nice party? I told him I had been thinking about a piano for our new house Alegria…
In my childhood the piano was the most valuable item in our house in Rakvere. My parents were fond of music; my mother had an exceptionally beautiful voice (she dreamed of becoming an opera singer) while my father often sat at the piano playing his favorite melodies or accompanying my mother. Lot of them where energetic pieces as marches inspired of the communist era but also soulful melodies about our small country with its picturesque landscape. I was always fascinated when the cover was taken away to tune the piano – the inside looked exciting with all soft hammers that hit the strings.
Also at my school in Rakvere, located in a beautiful white building of thirties, the grand piano was standing at the place of honor in the beautiful sunny auditorium. The piano was always carefully covered, I remember my fascination the times the piano was uncovered and the big lid was open. Music had an important place at my school, we had several choirs led by our enthusiastic music teachers. Arvo Pärt, a world famous composer of today, was a pupil at my school and has started his musical life growing up in my hometown Rakvere.
Also Per’s childhood home has a piano and the clear sounds of it can be heard in the whole big house when his sister is playing. Also he, as well as me, took piano lessons as young and we both regret that we did not put more effort in it. Therefore we were delighted when Clara and Elsa started to take piano lessons, and even more now when Elsa has taken her piano playing to a higher level, training every week with a brilliant Russian piano teacher.
I cannot tell exactly when the piano seed was sown in my head. I was reading about the craft of piano making in Estonia and accidentally checked the Estonia Piano Factory homepage. Estonia has a long tradition of skillful piano makers who also worked for famous factories in Russia and specially in St Petersburg, the town of culture. Many of them opened their own manufacturing and, when Estonia became independent 1917, started up their own production in the home county. However during the soviet era all the factories were closed down, except for Estonia Piano Factory that became a very prestigious factory exporting to many countries. The Estonia Piano Factory was purchased by the employees when Estonia regained its independence in 1991. A lot of effort was put to redesign the instruments collaborating with leading piano experts in Europe to create grand pianos of the highest level. I learned also that the factory now was owned and managed by Laul family including Mr. Venno Laul, the famous choir leader and important person in the music life of Estonia.
I really liked the idea of having something extraordinary from my little motherland! Something that daily reminds me about my background, something to be proud over. So I dropped a question through the homepage regarding retailers of Estonia piano in Spain.
I got a surprisingly nice answer from Mr Venno Laul himself with an invitation to visit the factory and get a private demonstration of the mini grand piano that would be our choice for the house in Spain. I was excited – it felt like an adventure…
On March 27th at 13:56 I parked my car at the backyard of the piano factory, following the detailed instructions from Mr Laul, turned left to Kungla street and walked until I found the entrance. I pushed a button saying ”director” and soon a friendly voice gave me further instructions where to find the office. Finally Venno Laul, an elderly tall and stylish man, welcomed me and introduced his son, pianist Indrek Laul, who guided me through this exciting building with its many production premises.
A new world opened up for me… It was thrilling to see how much knowledge, technology and fine craftsmanship is needed to produce one grand piano, regardless if it is modeled for a living room or a concert hall. The Estonia piano holds many different quality parts; for example the Renner action, manufactured in Stuttgart, means that the instrument is on the same level as a Steinway, the most known piano in the world.
One of the most important final stages is the tuning. Only a small amount of people qualify for this work, that needs absolute pitch hearing. A piano can be set to more soft or more brilliant tones and Estonia piano is known for its warm romantic sound.
In the demo room Indrek Laul demonstrated the piano of model 168, the smallest one in the production of Estonia piano factory that would suit our living room. I was overwhelmed when he started to play The Dying Swan of Saint Saëns – one of the ballet solos Elsa has done on the stage…
I felt me treated like a queen during my visit and the whole atmosphere in the factory made me impressed so when the tour and demo was over the decision was not hard to make: we would have a white Estonia mini grand piano for Alegria, our Spanish home. Luckily I had an OK from Per with me…
Our nice and friendly email contact with Mr Venno who was a real gentleman lasted through the whole production process. I was always welcome to the factory when I visited Tallinn, to follow the progress. In May I visited the factory together with my brother in law Valdo to get instructions for the installation and in June, a short time before the piano was going on its long journey through Europe I visited the factory once more together with Elsa and her friend Louisa from California.
We came by ferry from Sweden through Finland and hurried to the factory. Mr Venno met us in the silent factory – it was the day before Midsummer eve, a state holiday, that meant half working day. There were only the director and one craftsman left who wanted to work instead of going to party. Mr Venno seemed to have no hurry – he showed us our white piano with great enthusiasm and told about all the parts inside. We were enchanted and amused. This visit was an amazing experience that stays in our hearts!
Only some days after our visit the white piano, being tuned, left Estonia with DSV transport through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Polen, Germany, France to the final destination in Spain. At the day the piano arrived to Alicante there was a confusion as we expected to get a home delivery but we sorted it out with a helpful DSV representative with beautifully sounding name, Mari-Liis Lilleleht. Finally our workleader managed to organize an express transportation from DSV terminal in Alicante to our house in Albir.
The early morning of July 10th felt like the Christmas eve; we were waiting for the piano that should arrive just after 8 am with a crane truck normally used to take up the building materials to our yard, situated on the mountain slope. It was a great relief to finally spot the big truck coming uphill – we were unsure whether we had any insurance for this part of transport.
We were well prepared – Valdo and our building team with their muscles tense and me with my camera and iphone ready to capture every step of this important happening. The heavy crane lifted the box to the terrace as easily as it would be a soil bag.
After a short struggle with mounting of legs the 250 kg piano could be rolled to its final destination, the living room at villa Alegria.
After having written most of this text I get a phone call from my sister in Estonia. It was announced that Venno Laul passed away on October 14th, one month after his 80th anniversary.
I feel sadness; this very special man was still so vital, so passionate about his job, so kind and so polite and attentive. On the other hand I am happy that I had possibility to learn to know him – our interesting conversations will always be in my memory. I hope some of the soft sounds from the white piano in villa Alegria will touch him high above us…
“Dear Mrs Linda,
What a pleasure to know that the piano is on its place now, in one piece! All the steps you have planned lead to the day when you will be able to enjoy the sounds of your piano. Right now only seeing the photo gives a great feeling, the piano is really angel-like with its elegance and suits so well in your new house.
I wish you many beautiful musical moments!
Warm congratulations to You, Venno Laul”