The shimmering skyline of New York City inspired a local father and daughter to embark on a yearlong artistic journey.
Nearly 3,000 man hours, 164,000 cubic zirconia stones and one Steinway and Sons piano later, restoration master Gene Korolev and Katharine Banyasz created something they hope the likes of Elton John would use to perform.
Nicknamed the Million Dollar Piano—though its price tag is likely to be lower yet still in the six figure range—nearly every inch of the instrument is engrained with cubic zirconia stones to resemble 1920s art deco patterns and New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Station.
On the underside of the piano’s lid, the skyline sits underneath a massive moon to create a dreamy feel. Even each black piano key was given 80 stones.
“I wanted it to be stunning for people, I didn’t want them to take a look and go ‘oh, that’s a piano, next,’ I wanted people to turn around and take note of it,” said Banyasz, a graphic artist who designed the project. “You’re not known until you do something out of the box.”
Her father, owner of North Hollywood-based Piano Solutions XXI, spent the next eight months bringing the design to life. Some parts of the project were so complex that Korolev said had to build his own custom tools.
He employed a few skilled secrets to not only keep the zirconias shining under a protective layer, but also let it blend well on top of another layer of drawings.
“The stones speak for themselves,” Korolev said.
And during the whole process he says he gained a deeper understanding of the old saying, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
“I have to admit, after dealing with thousands of stones I realized why women love diamonds, I never tired of them,” Korolev said.
Korolev, 59, became a piano restoration apprentice more than 40 years ago in his native Russia and has since stuck with the craft. He left St. Petersburg for Los Angeles in the early 1990s following the end of the Cold War.
He’s worked with cubic zirconias in the past having transformed another Steinway piano into a tribute to fashion designer Coco Chanel. That piano was eventually sold and its profit was used to Korolev’s newest project.
While he wouldn’t mind parting with his latest work if the right buyer came along, Korolev says this was all about showing what he can do, how far he has come.
“We want to show it like it's art, an achievement,” he said. “If the market wants to appraise it, let it appraise it.”Piano Solutions XXI is located at 7256 Hinds Ave. in North Hollywood.
Check out the accompanying video to see Gene perform his rendition of "Lullaby of Birdland" by George Shearing.