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Note By Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 

A documentary valentine to a hand-crafted concert piano

It takes one year to make a Steinway 9-foot grand piano, a remarkably slow journey in this age of rapid mass production. Ben Niles's quietly rapturous documentary (a must-see for piano-lovers) follows one such instrument -- No. L1037 -- from Alaskan timber to its months-long, hand-crafted construction at Steinway's Queens facility and, finally, its place among the world's elite concert pianos. Note's singular focus at times makes the film feel like an infomercial for Steinway -- though, in fairness, few viewers are likely to be lured into purchasing a $100,000 concert piano. A number of professional musicians weigh in on what makes a Steinway piano so grand, but it's the myriad craftsmen in Queens who provide the most compelling testimony. A decidedly blue-collar lot, they ply their anachronistic trade -- hands, ears and centuries-old implements prevail as tools -- in the creation of the most high-brow of products. Yet they seem to draw most of their obvious pride less from the finished product than from their own handicraft and the maintenance of tradition. In today's madcap world, that's a reward as precious as any exquisite piano. Starts Fri., March 14. Harris (AH) capsule review]

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