Building a legend

a documentary by Bram Crols
2007, single documentary, 52’, English – French – Dutch spoken


The sound of Steinway’s classical pianos are known worldwide. But what did the very first Steinway piano sounded like? The dreams of three men are connected with this lost sound of Steinway’s first legendary Grand Piano. Building a legend follows their path to the authentic sound of the Steinweg 1836 piano. 

The Steinweg 1836 Grand Piano, otherwise known as the Steinway n° 1, built by Heinrich Engelhardt Steinweg in Seesen, Germany, is the first creation from what will become the most important piano dynasty in the world, Steinway & Sons. 

The renowned Flemish pianoforte builder Chris Maene; the internationally acclaimed pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha and Heinrich Steinway, the 93-year old great grandson of the original builder, they all have their particular interest in hearing the original sound of this first Steinway Grand again. When Chris Maene decides to build a unique replica, their common dream might come true. 

Unique encounters, historical particularities, scientific investigation, craftsmanship, and of course music: it is all part of the quest for the lost sound of an exceptional instrument. Building a legend offers an insight into the musical world by showing the relationship between instrument builders and performers. Rather than providing an explanation, this documentary creates a sense of atmosphere while telling the personal story of passionate people. Therefore, it appeals not only to professionals and music lovers, but to a much wider audience.


Broadcast (without reruns)


written, directed & exec. production by: Bram Crols
produced and distribution by: Paradigma Televisieproducties

photography: Hans De Bauw
location sound: Willem Bosse
sound engineering: Raf Enckels
graphics: Volstock Telefunken

associated producers: Nemo Films, Associate Directors, mount
a co-production with: RTBF Unité de Programmes Documentaires, AVRO, YLE FST5
in collaboration with: ARTE Belgique
supported by: Flanders Audiovisual Fund, le centre du Cinéma et de l’ Audiovisuel de la Communauté française de Belgique and télédistributeurs Wallons
Produced with Tax Shelter Investment Scheme of the Belgian Federal government in association with Soudal n.v., Belreal n.v. and Ghelamco n.v.

sales: NPO sales,

On the director

Bram Crols (B), is trained as director/producer at the Brussels film school and the European Film College in Denmark. He has been working as director and producer in film, television and publicity. He scripted his first feature movie on a VAF-scholarship, the Flanders Audiovisual Fund.
Bram was introduced to the art of documentary making by working as junior producer on history and art documentaries. With the award winning documentary ‘Township Jive’ (2006) on the South African music scene, Bram plunged even more in the business of documentary making.
Bram is partner in Associated Directors since 2007.

On the production

Filmmaker Bram Crols does not interview his characters however uses only bits and pieces he documents through filming and archive research. Without the use of external commentary and with only music performed live during shooting, this doc brings images and sounds that stand out for themselves.

Building a legend stars top professionals from the music world: Chris Maene (photo below), Abdel Rahman El Bacha (photo top), Henry Z. Steinway, Malcolm Bilson, Claire Chevallier, … and music of Frédéric Chopin.

Building a legend was shot in Belgium – New York (US) – Seesen (G) – Lewes (UK) during the course of the rebuilding process which lasted for almost 2 years. Special thanks to the local US General Electric crew and to the Antwerp based offices of General Electric Non Destructive Testing who provided digital x-ray facilities on set at the Steinway factory in Queens NY. These high quality x-ray pictures made it possible for piano builder Chris Maene to have a look ‘inside’ the original piano. The x-ray pictures became a visual lead in the documentary.

Building a legend is a production of Paradigma Televisieproducties. Associate Directors is among others an associate producer to the production.


DVD with documentary (English – Dutch – French – German subtitles)