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Located in Vienna, Austria, the Bösendorfer Piano Company was founded in 1828 by Ignaz Bösendorfer. Model 290 was built following a suggestion by the composer, Ferruccio Busoni. Pianos usually have 88 keys, however, this piano has 97 keys, eight full octaves. Some composers wrote for this expanded range including Bartók, Busoni, Dohnányi, Mussorgsky, Ravel, Sessions, Vaughan Williams, Wagner and Debussy.

The Bösendorfer Piano, Model 290, is known as the ‘Imperial’ because of its great size and commanding sound. This piano was built at the end of 1968 and sold to John Robert Hill, M.D. in Houston, Texas. Dr. Hill was tried for the murder of his socialite wife, Joan Robinson Hill, daughter of Houston oilman, Ash Robinson. The lawyer for the defense was famed attorney, Richard ‘Racehorse’ Haynes. A mistrial was declared and Hill was never convicted, however, he was murdered, in what many believe was a revenge killing. The book, “Blood and Money,” by author, Tommy Thompson was based on this story and was made into a movie of the same title. Another movie, “Murder in Texas,” was based on this story.

This Bösendorfer piano was heard at the fifth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1977, played by Stephen DeGroote who won the grand prize, playing this piano. When this piano was put up for sale following the 1977 competition, Bob and Marietta Watson, St. Stephen parishioners, looked at it when they were looking for a Bösendorfer for their home however they eventually chose another model.

In January of 1992, this piano was purchased by Milam Leavens, M.D., then chief of neurosurgery at Houston’s M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. In the fall of 2008, this piano was purchased by St. Stephen parishioners, Tom Leavens and Adelaide Bratten Leavens, from Tom’s siblings and father, Milam, and was graciously given to St. Stephen “in memory of all parents and in thanksgiving for the Ministry of Music at St. Stephen Presbyterian Church.”

Thanks to generous donors, the Bösendorfer at St. Stephen was completely restored by Collora Piano in Dallas in 2017. This project included all new strings, new pin block, replacement of key action, exterior restoration, and a climate control system.