Wednesday 20th February

The Piano Man

Tucked away on Ferry Road stands Hoekstra Pianos, with two showrooms of instruments all gleaming and on display, including an ornate and lovingly restored 1890 Feurich standing in a prominent corner of a showroom dedicated to grand pianos.

Piano tuner, technician and now importer and seller Wytze Hoekstra set up there after the earthquakes and the company has steadily expanded, with Steinway expert David Salmon joining the company in 2014. They now have a larger workshop across the road where there are currently five Steinways under repair.

Wytze has been on the Christchurch piano scene ever since he arrived in 1980 from the Netherlands, after having trained with Herman Wolleswinkel who was the chief piano technician for the Concertgebouw Orkest. “I was always taking things apart, including the family piano,” he said of his childhood. “I also played the piano from age six, so [going into piano tuning] was a natural thing to do.”

He moved to Christchurch in 1980 and has been here ever since, starting off as a tuner before opening a small shop in Mt Pleasant. After the earthquakes, he was on a bike ride when he passed this spot on Ferry Road.

“I’ve always wanted to have a large place like this to sell pianos, so it’s very exciting,” he said. The showrooms are still being decorated, and there are plans to invite people in to put on recitals once they are finished.

“I love everything about the job. I’m always talking to musicians about their passion for music. I love taking a piano that might be just okay and then doing work on it, finding its voice. One of my specialist skills is voicing a piano. It means working carefully with the hammers to bring out its tonal beauty. It’s not just about making them in tune. “

It was during his tuning rounds that he met his wife Janet, who now runs the business with him. “There were three ladies in this cul de sac,” he said, “and I would always do their three pianos on the same day. I would always leave Janet till last. She’d always offer me a glass of wine. And I married her.”

Recently Hoekstra Pianos started importing Feurich pianos from Vienna, Austria. “I had searched for many years to find a European piano that I really liked as an alternative to the very popular – and excellent – Yamaha pianos. The clarity and touch response of the Japanese pianos is unsurpassed, but some people look for that more German sound.” They are the only importer for Feurich pianos in New Zealand, as they need a specialist to set them up.

Wytze started working with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra about ten years ago, tuning a piano for a concert featuring Dame Kiri Te Kanawa before the earthquakes. “It’s very special at a concert when you get to hear the piano that you tuned, and you meet a lot of international pianists,” he said. He particularly enjoyed meeting the Silver-Garburg Piano Duo and helping them set up for their performance with the CSO.

Hoekstra Pianos supports the CSO’s Piano through the Player Partnership Programme.