In a piano, stories of one hundred or two hundred years may be hidden. This is what happens in the workshops where they fix these musical devices. In a winery there are rows of different brands and values that ordinary people cannot imagine. It is easy to calculate, however, for experts whose ancestors inherited the trade that they have perfected over time; without it being necessary to have struck a symphony, but rather to have educated ears to tune them and the wisdom to leave them with the accuracy of a Swiss watch.
In a showroom, for example, there may be a rosewood piano, as Mr. Carlos Garrido, heir to a workshop that was owned by his grandfather, who had a store on Avenida Balderas, between the streets of Ayuntamiento, exclaims. and Victoria. There is also Rodrigo Tinajera, a member of a fourth generation who does the same in the Roma neighborhood.
The two workshops restore pianos from all eras. Each piece is a jewel. And there are few houses in the country -around 45, calculates Tinajera-, starting with Mexico City, where the trade is scarce and, therefore, there is a lot of work, since they bring them devices from all over, coincides the Mr. Garrido, who claims to have the largest workshop of all in the national territory.
Let’s start with Rome.
The Tinajera family business is located in the Roma neighborhood, “with more than eighty years of tradition and experience in tuning and restoring pianos and pianolas; our workshop sells, repairs and restores pianos ”, says Tinajera, who is part of the fourth generation dedicated to this trade, inherited by José Antillon Rosner, of German origin, who shared his knowledge with Cosme Tinajera Sabas.
Don Cosme was the great-uncle of Rodrigo Tinajera Sr., who shares the business with his sons Rodrigo and Damián
“Look,” says Rodrigo, “what we do is revive the dead, because they are pianos that have gone through different times and different treatments and come here for lack of maintenance.”
The oldest piano that has passed through this workshop was one made by Muzio Clementi, one of the first manufacturers, in 1832, calculates the tuner.
“And how do they look?”
—Well, we try to preserve the state of the instrument, its originality, without modifying it; because they are practically museum pieces- he explains, and then sits down at the piano and begins his tuning task.
“What about the clientele?”
—It is very varied: from students, people on stage, or members of a jazz quartet, chamber music, opera; we are present in everything that has to do with art.
“How about work?”
—Well, thank God we have enough, because the union is very small, we are very few, and therefore the demand is too much. I believe that of those established we do not reach 50 in the whole country.
On the wall is a photograph with the title of Piano doctor. “Well, that’s how they put me because sometimes we resurrect them”, says and smiles who has about 30 pianos formed for restoration.
And as if it were a museum, on the wall there is a collection of tools, starting with the tuning fork, tweezers and tuning keys from two centuries ago, when bellows were used to shake the dust off pianos. But those tools were left behind.
“Currently there are vacuum cleaners, other types of devices that do that job,” he says and shows a quadrilateral piano from 1870. “It is the oldest we have right now in the workshop.”
And from the Roma neighborhood it will be necessary to move to Pianos Garrido, of the family that bears that surname, with an antiquity of one hundred years. It is in the Lindavista neighborhood. They inherited the tradition of grandfather Guadalupe, piano technician, reports Carlos Garrido, head of the current dynasty, while accompanying him on a tour of the large workshop where he works with his two sons, Carlos and Diego, and his brother Rafael, who sets minuscule pieces .
“This is a Steinway piano, the Rolls-Royce of pianos,” Garrido boasts and slides the palm of his right hand over the surface of the imposing apparatus, “it is the finest piano in the world, it belongs to a client in Chihuahua. in terrible conditions, we are restoring everything, all the stringing was sent from New York, as well as the pegs and the gilding of the plate. It’s a rosewood Steinway piano, dating back to my eighty-seventy-something.
“And how much is it valued?”
—A piano of these must be worth over two and a half million pesos. And there I have Mr. Anaya’s piano- he says and smiles.
And he is quick to show the piano of a man who, he says, brought it from Querétaro and said he was the uncle of a former presidential candidate, but has not returned to pick it up.
This workshop and showroom were inherited, as already mentioned, by the grandfather, who left it to Ignacio, Carlos’s father, back in the 1930s.
“How many generations.”
—Well, we are talking about my grandfather, his servant, my parents and my children; four generations.
“And what does the trade consist of?”
“I make a lot of the analogy of pianos with the car business,” says Carlos Garrido. I tell him that if we fixed cars, here we would fix the engines; and we have a workshop, the largest in Mexico, in the Martín neighborhood
Carrera, where we do the repair of furniture and varnish; there we dismantled the entire piano …
In this workshop, where they also have tools inherited from their father and grandfather, they disassemble the devices and change the damaged parts. The trade is similar to that of an antique dealer, due to the type of pieces they use.
Mr. Garrido explains:
—The wear on a piano is due to friction; Little pieces called centers are changed, which is where all the machinery turns. So that is basically the soul: felts, springs and centers. They are specialized tools, millimeter, to remove the centers.
“What is the oldest piano you’ve ever arranged?”
“I have arranged pianos from 1820 and 1830. They are very old pianos.
“What about some characters?”
—Well, this piano I have belongs to Mr. Gabriel Anaya; it is a quadrilateral piano. By the way, Mr. Anaya, when you like to come, your piano is ready! – he says, as if the owner were his neighbor, and smiles.
The Garrido family’s workshop is brought to repair pianos from other parts of the country, such as Monterrey, Querétaro, Mérida and Chihuahua, among other cities.
“And what kind of pianos do you have now?”
—Man, right now we also have a very important piece, a Steinway; Steinway is the finest piano in the world; Actually we have several machinery that are being repaired – he says and shows photographs and videos of various parts in workshops in the Martín Carrera neighborhood.
Piano tuning is done in two ways. “The same thing with the striking fingerboard – Garrido exemplifies -, as with the latest generation electronic devices; but always the ear is the boss ”.
“An educated ear.”
—Yes, of course, he educates himself over the years. And also the handling of the key to tune. In short, there are many years of experience.
“Do you play the piano?”
—No, note that no, curiously the profession of pianist is different; the pianist plays, but I know all the inside of the piano. I tell him that the pianist is like the car racer and we are the mechanics behind so that the car works well.
From the Roma neighborhood to Lindavista, two workshops with different stories and a single purpose: to revive pianos in a city where the profession is scarce, for which a good ear is required during the tuning of this musical instrument, from which various rhythms come out since time immemorial .