"Wait a minute!"
So let me get this straight? Thanks to Yamaha (and Zenph), we can get Tatum or (most recently) Rachmaninoff back in the room, and now -- thanks again to Yamaha -- we can play a perfect recreation of (seemingly) any piano?
On one hand, this seems like the perfect sort of things for music programs at cash-strapped institutions. I remember when my alma mater, Wabash, got a donation from an alumnus to restore its Bösendorfer. It was a big deal. This product seems like it could spare colleges and secondary schools the expense of buying, tuning, and maintaining acoustic pianos. With the wide number of possibilities inherent in what amounts to sound files and other information, piano manufacturers could license their "sounds" and "feels" to Yamaha, and, though I don't know much about the technical aspects of the AvantGrand, adding the piano to the AvantGrand's repertoire could be as easy as plugging in an ethernet or USB cable. Music students could play any piano they want and know that it's always going to be in tune.
On the other hand, I'd have to hear it before I got too hyped up about it. Acoustic instruments, unsurprisingly, have a sound to them that neither good recordings nor good imitations can reproduce accurately. I'm positive part of that is merely the experience of being immersed totally in sound waves (which is why good speakers trump good headphones for the visceral experience of music, even though you can buy great headphones at a fraction of the cost of a great hi-fi setup). There's also natural decay and all that. I wonder how well Yamaha's engineers have managed to simulate decay and sustain. It sounds like they relied on recordings within acoustic pianos to derive their sound, but I am uncertain that it would be as easy as that. I want to think that the vibrations of the piano as a whole, moving air at a given frequency, would have an effect on the sound -- even if it can't be heard.
On the whole, though, I think this is a neat product. I am considerably more sanguine about this than I am about Zenph reperformances (even though the Rachmaninoff disc is nice, though not SACD -- apparently Sony doesn't believe in its idea any more, even though it sure will sell you a player for a super-niche product). Unlike something that seems to raise the recording to an end in and of itself, this product has some potential (albeit conditioned on its verisimilitude) to provide a real, tangible benefit to students of music and musicians who need to practice, but cannot afford an acoustic piano and its upkeep.
As much as I enjoy putting my Cicero mask on and reciting the part of In Catilinam that everyone knows, I really can't complain too hard when something comes along that might make the teaching of serious music more widespread and financially viable. Based on my reading, I think the AvantGrand may well do that.