David Klavins (born July 5, 1954 in Bonn) is a German-Latvian piano maker. With his "Modell 370" (1987) he introduced the world's largest piano. In 2012, a digital version of the Modell 370 was published as a software instrument under the name "The Giant".
In 1945, David Klavins's parents, Paulis and Zeltite, arrived as refugees from Latvia in Germany. David is the third of eight children. His mother played the piano and his father was a violinist. After finishing middle school in 1971, David Klavins started an apprenticeship as a piano maker at the Wilhelm Schimmel Pianofortefabrik in Braunschweig. In 1976, he started his own business, the "Klavierhaus Klavins" in Bonn. He mainly restored and sold used home and grand pianos. In 1980, he became a master craftsman, which, in Germany, meant that he could officially train apprentices.
While restoring and studying the architecture of grand pianos, Klavins became a critic of the traditional way to construct these instruments. He stated that the materials used in common piano making are outdated and don't reflect the current status of materials science. With this in mind, Klavins designed a piano with a size, shape and interior construction based on modern knowledge of acoustics – rather than the historical construction guidelines used in traditional piano making. In November 1987, he presented the "Klavins Klavier Modell 370" to the public in the German city of Bonn. It had its name from its height: 370 centimetres. In contrast to horizontally built grand pianos, the Modell 370 is laid out vertically. It weighs two tons and stretches over two floors. The piano player sits on the bench in the top floor, while the main part of the strings and the resonance body continue below his feet. Due to this construction, the sounding board, responsible for the acoustic breadth of the instrument, is of double size of an ordinary concert grand piano. This leads to a rich sound and a larger spectrum of overtones. The lowest bass string is 3.03 meters long – about three times longer than in a standard piano. As of 2012, the Modell 370 is the largest piano worldwide.
The instrument was first played to the public by the classical pianist Cyprien Katsaris. Today it is stored in the Pfleghofsaal of the Institute Of Music Science, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen. Klavins never intended to produce the instrument in series. Many pianists asked Klavins for a (horizontally built) grand piano with his construction technique. This led to the "Modell 408", which was scheduled to enter production in the summer of 2014. In May 2012, the Berlin music software developer Native Instruments introduced the Modell 370 as a software instrument, sampled by Uli Baronowsky, under the name "The Giant".
On June 7, 2014, working closely with Nils Frahm, the Una Corda piano was released. The construction was inspired by building a portable upright piano similar to Model 370, which features an open design with no cabinet, and 64 individually stringed keys, altogether weighing at 100 kg. This further led to a live showcase on June 10, 2014 with Nils Frahm in Michelberger Hotel, Berlin. On December 12, 2015, Uli Baronowsky and Galaxy Instruments collaborated with Native Instruments releasing a fully realized virtual instrument that closely captures the original Una Corda.
In order to publish music played on the Modell 370, David Klavins, in 1988, founded his own record label, "Klavins Music", which was later bought by "Elite Music" in Taiwan and BMG-Asia. Among the concert pianist performing on that label were Michael Ponti, Thomas Duis, Joachim Arnold, Gülsin Onay, Michael Denhoff, Simon Nabatov and Wadik Polyonow.
Years of travel
In 1988 David Klavins moved to Latvia, the birth country of his parents, and worked in politics. In July 2006 he traveled to Orange County, California, where he entered into a partnership with Liana Marie Sive, to pursue his piano research. In August 2006 Sive and Klavins moved their research operations to Woodbridge, Connecticut. In October 2007 Sive and Klavins formally organized their research activities as PianoTectonics, Inc. Mr. Klavins was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the company, and for the next three years he engaged in intensive research that led to the development, among other things, of the technology for the Una Corda and M450 pianos. In 2011 he moved to Balingen, Germany and since late 2016 has resided in Vác, Hungary.
- The Organ, Musical Opinion, 1990, p. 199-202
- Edwin M. Good: Giraffes, Black Dragons, and Other Pianos: A Technological History from Cristofori to the Modern Concert Grand. Stanford University Press 2002, p. 306. ISBN 978-0804733168
- James Parakilas: Piano Roles: A New History of the Piano. Yale University Press, 2002, p. 57. ISBN 978-0300093063