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Piano man always in tune

Updated: 2013-09-10 11:22
By Sun Ye ( China Daily)

Piano man always in tune

Stephan Mohler supervises the work of young technicians at the factory of Pearl River Piano Group. Zou Zhongpin / China Daily

Stephan Mohler has unusually large hands.

His right hand can stretch across one-and-a-half piano scales. If he's not careful, a single finger touches multiple keys.

The Swiss' left hand has been made larger by playing a particular chord thousands of times over 35 years, he says.

Piano man always in tune

He not only plays but also tunes and makes pianos - trades he learned under master piano maker Lothar Thomma, who encouraged Mohler to move to China.

The 58-year-old has spent three years in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou, where he's Pearl River Piano's technical director.

Mohler tunes and assembles top-class pianos, and trains others in these trades. He's the only non-Chinese on his team.

He loves music but he also has a passion for language. He starts every day listening to Cantonese radio broadcasts, even though he doesn't understand them.

"I love the rhythm," he says.

"It sets the day off with a spark."

Pearl River Piano Group produces more than 100,000 pianos a year. It's a sprawling maze of a factory Mohler navigates 10 hours every workday.

"Every day I work here, there is a surprise," he says.

He was especially impressed by 28-year-old Zhang Zhengwei, who stood out among his dozen students learning how to produce pianos.

"He made it nearly perfect his first try," Mohler says.

"That's a talent you don't see often."

He recalls first encountering Pearl River Piano Group at a Frankfurt music fair.

"I just had to find out who made the piano," he recalls.

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