Clarity of Form Designer Peter Maly on J.S. Bach, purism, and the parallels between design and music.
Are you a musical person?
As a child I played the piano and later the guitar. As I got older, I began to focus on visual expression. But classical music is important to me. Bach in particular!
You’ve been quoted as saying that Bach’s music has been a source of inspiration for you as a designer. In what way?
In Bach’s music I see extraordinary perfection, which I also try to achieve in my own work. I enormously admire Bach: his perfect, mathematical compositions are so precise yet have such an emotional impact. In design, the laws of geometry such as the golden ratio and the concept of balanced proportions have an emotional impact, just as in music.
How do you orient yourself when designing a piano?
Since I started designing pianos and grand pianos for Sauter in 1996, my goal has been to streamline the basic form of a piano and make it uncluttered. In design, I always look for originality of form – purism oriented to lasting value. Elementary geometric shapes are always my starting point.
«What I try to do is reduce a piano to its essential, archetypal form.»
You designed the RHAPSODY 2019 piano specially for Sauter’s jubilee year. What makes it different?
I wanted it to be more refined, more elegant, and softer. It’s not a precise cuboid, it’s not classically cubic: its vertical edges are rounded and so are all the edges of the keyboard and the upper and lower cover boards. The pattern of the veneer runs horizontally: on the three visible surfaces it extends around the piano. There are just two visible vertical joins, which help tie the keyboard in visually. I wanted to emphasise elegance by using contrasting materials of very high quality. The choice of name, RHAPSODY 2019, invokes RHAPSODY IN BLUE, in which Gershwin brought together classical music and jazz to produce a truly compelling piece. The RHAPSODY 2019 brings together 200 years of piano-making and modern design to create a very new form.
«Like a piece of music, design relies on harmony, rhythm and contrast. Both music and design have an emotional impact.»
Which is your own personal favourite Sauter piano?
The AMBIENTE grand is the one that really stands out, in my opinion. I replaced the classic double sweep of the body with a clear parabolic curve, which is particularly eye-catching when you open the lid. The shape is flowing, unembellished and elegant. The AMBIENTE remains a high point in my 23-year collaboration with Sauter!