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The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124296
09/18/05 09:48 PM
09/18/05 09:48 PM
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Posts: 1,969
Alex Hernandez Offline OP
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Alex Hernandez  Offline OP
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Many people in the retail industry who represent wonderful pianos produced in former W. Germany find they must dig deep into an old bucket of mud titled "east German quality" in order to compete with those makers who currently have production in the former east Germany.

I think that Grotrian, Schimmel,Sauter,Seiler,Steinway and Steingraeber are wonderful pianos.

While these makers are exceptional, are they truly better then Blüthner/Förster/Bechstein?

I think that in the here and now the east/west argument is a meaningless one, I would be more then happy to change my opinion about of that if somebody could prove that the production techniques or overall quality of the west are inferior to the east.

Any takers?




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Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124297
09/18/05 11:33 PM
09/18/05 11:33 PM
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Posts: 45
wisconsin
hamstring Offline
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wisconsin
I don't know about Germany, but I KNOW east U.S.A pianos are WAY better than west U.S.A pianos. smile

Seriously, I didn't know it was an issue, and I didn't even know which pianos were from east and west. Does this issue only apply to pianos? Because certainly the former east germany did NOT have any reputation for high quality in general.

Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124298
09/18/05 11:33 PM
09/18/05 11:33 PM
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Utah
Eins Offline
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Alex,
If at all, it would be that the west's production is superior to the east, and it definitely was so in general, since WWII until some 15 years ago. When you operate in a communist society, you don't normally have the business power to invest, improve, stay on top, unless you have the government's support and get pampered.

If a former East German piano maker survived during the almost 50 years of communist rule, they certainly went through two generations. When the wall came down, the currently leading generation just didn't have the knowledge and experience to produce state of the art pianos, they had to regain that skill (and obviously have).

West Germans, more than anybody else, still feel being better, superior, more advanced vs. the former East Germans. A large part of the rest of the world doesn't even know the difference between the two former parts.


One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute.
-William Feather
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124299
09/19/05 12:22 AM
09/19/05 12:22 AM
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,969
Alex Hernandez Offline OP
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Alex Hernandez  Offline OP
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Quote
Originally posted by Eins:
Alex,
If at all, it would be that the west's production is superior to the east, and it definitely was so in general, since WWII until some 15 years ago. When you operate in a communist society, you don't normally have the business power to invest, improve, stay on top, unless you have the government's support and get pampered.
This smacks of negative sales spin Eins. When talking about pianos, more pianos produced doesn't mean better pianos produced. Be careful when applying an auto philosophy to what is in essence a 19th century industry.

Quote
Originally posted by Eins:
If a former East German piano maker survived during the almost 50 years of communist rule, they certainly went through two generations. When the wall came down, the currently leading generation just didn't have the knowledge and experience to produce state of the art pianos, they had to regain that skill (and obviously have).
Nonsense, The greatest Instruments ever produced were made before WWII. The families and workers, their methods and educational processes didn't vanish, they didn't disappear one night. The state of the art piano is agruably a Steinway 1910 Long A, or a 1922 Mason BB or 1905 Blüthner model 6. I have been in both west/east factories. The east factory workers have a very high level of pride in their work. Their families stayed in the town where their fathers were trained. Partly because they couldn't leave. The factories never had to compete in the free world with the Japanese revolution. they never had to increase production to compete with Yamaha. Do you think a 1970's Schimmel is as well made as a 1930's?


Quote
Originally posted by Eins:
West Germans, more than anybody else, still feel being better, superior, more advanced vs. the former East Germans. A large part of the rest of the world doesn't even know the difference between the two former parts.
The west German workers I have seen are no better and in most cases not as commited as their eastern countryman. When the government helps out with low interest loans, when the company keeps production low. When they resist the temptation of cheap offshore outsourcing then the overall quality level is higher.




Blüthner USA, LLC
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124300
09/19/05 12:31 AM
09/19/05 12:31 AM
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byebye Offline
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Is Bechstein in the former East Germany? I had no idea.

Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124301
09/19/05 02:34 AM
09/19/05 02:34 AM
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Stockholm, Sweden
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Nice to hear that you consider a 1905 Blüthner model 6 state of the art. I have a 1913 model 6 and it is simply wonderful. smile

The situation might very well be that some east germans work harder and are more conscientious than their western countrymen to make up for lost time and regain their pre ww2 reputation. Some west germans may lean back in their sofas instead.

Also remember that when the eastern block decided to prioritize something they often did it very well. Think of all the great musicians during that era. They needed high quality instruments like Blüthner and Förster. That was the reason why Blüthner was made a national treasure.

I used to have a Blüthner model 11 from 1951. People have commented, after hearing it, that they would take a Blüthner model 11 over a Steinway S any day.


“There are only two important things which I took with me on my way to America, It´s been my wife Natalja and my precious Blüthner.” – Sergei Rachmaninov

1913 Blüthner model 6
1929 Blüthner model 9.
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124302
09/19/05 02:41 AM
09/19/05 02:41 AM
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Utah
Eins Offline
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Alex, you seem to have misunderstood my entire last post. I have no reason to spin either way, I don't sell pianos, I don't sell East German goods.

I am German and lived in the west for 49 years, until 1997. I know what went on in East German "companies" during the communist rule. Unless they were a favored segment, they constantly had shortages of resources. They had no free market, no competition. Their production was sold, guaranteed!, no matter how good or bad the quality was, because there was not enough output for the demand. How do you think one single Trabant could have been sold in a free market?

In a situation like this, morale is down, incentives to output your best quality go away, skills get lost. Almost 50 years under such circumstances is a very long time to maintain spirit and skills. They get lost and have to be revived, rebuilt.

People in the East, during that time, were taken care of by their system (and not very well, at that). Generations grew up learning that it is not skill and performance that get you ahead, but politics and brown-nosing.

West Germans lived in a free market, with competition and incentives to excel. When the wall came down, East Germans had, for the first time, the opportunity to enjoy freedom, availability of practically anything they could long for, but, ouch, stuff cost money, and money can only be earned when you work for it, and hard. They were not used to that, and it all had an influence on their spirit and performance in production.

Quote
Nonsense, The greatest Instruments ever produced were made before WWII.
I don't understand your response. Where did I say something to the account of disagreeing that the greatest instruments ever were made before WWII?


Quote
I have been in both west/east factories. The east factory workers have a very high level of pride in their work.
When was that? I assume it was well after 1989, and limited to piano manufacturing.

Quote
Originally posted by Eins:
West Germans, more than anybody else, still feel being better, superior, more advanced vs. the former East Germans. A large part of the rest of the world doesn't even know the difference between the two former parts.

The west German workers I have seen are no better and in most cases not as commited as their eastern countryman. When the government helps out with low interest loans, when the company keeps production low. When they resist the temptation of cheap offshore outsourcing then the overall quality level is higher.
What I said was that West Germans feel (not are!), feel superior. They are spoiled, take wealth and freedom for granted.

I hope I'm not generalizing too much, but for the sake of this argument, East Germans fall into two groups: the committed ones who are willing to work hard and have pride in their work, and the ones still living with communist-era attitude, waiting for wealth to be given to them without much in return.

PS: What made me make my post was this question from you: "...if somebody could prove that the production techniques or overall quality of the west are inferior to the east."

My point was that the general opinion is that East is inferior to the West, not like you said.


One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute.
-William Feather
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124303
09/19/05 03:44 AM
09/19/05 03:44 AM
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,969
Alex Hernandez Offline OP
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Alex Hernandez  Offline OP
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Eins,

I have no problem with most of your rebuttals with regard to the overall east/west experience. All of my post and the statements contained within were in direct reference to the piano industry.

You said"

"If a former East German piano maker survived during the almost 50 years of communist rule, they certainly went through two generations. When the wall came down, the currently leading generation just didn't have the knowledge and experience to produce state of the art pianos, they had to regain that skill (and obviously have)."

That is what I responded to.

I also think the modern Model 2 is better then any similar piano ever made in the west ( my own experience of course).




Blüthner USA, LLC
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124304
09/19/05 05:10 AM
09/19/05 05:10 AM
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 262
Leipzig, Germany
J
Jens Schlosser Offline
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Leipzig, Germany
I think that gernerally speaking the training and knowledge of the workers in the Blüthner and Förster factories was pretty good during the East German times. There are many of these pianos around and when I look at them they generally are not bad instruments, but lack some refinement and one can see that sometimes the work was not done with the necessary care. Undoubtedly a worker in any east german company would have been less motivated due to worse working conditions and lower wages, of course very generally speaking. Also the piano companies certainly did not have acess to the best materials available, such as Renner actions (I'm only refering to the pianos which stayed in this country, I don't know if the pianos which went into export did get some better materials like for instance Renner actions).

I think it is also important to point out that the Förster family as well as the Blüthner family always managed their factories, although they both were expropriated and lost some influence during the east german time.

MarkS, during the East German time Bechstein was produced in the western part of Berlin (you probably know that this city was divided) and is considered a West German piano. I think some verticals may have been produced somewhere in West Germany. In the 1990ies the Bechstein company bought a defunct piano company in Saxony, East Germany, and started production there. Some refinement is still done in their Berlin workshop and showrooms. I think it is just considered a German piano.

Personally I think the idea of "Made in West Germany" vs. "Made in East Germany" is pretty much meaningless today and should not be used as an argument for or against a piano.

Jens

Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124305
09/19/05 07:43 AM
09/19/05 07:43 AM
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Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124306
09/19/05 08:28 AM
09/19/05 08:28 AM
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It is sometimes said that the quality of the pianos made by Bluethner under the GDR was very good. They were not generally made for the home market, but as a prestige product for export - ending up in homes and conservatories all over the world. To that extent, the craftsmanship had to be very high indeed and the pianos did not generally suffer from the problems associated with many GDR products.

Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124307
09/19/05 08:51 AM
09/19/05 08:51 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,253
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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First, there is no reason to use the East\West argument these days as a general rule with any piano.

Second, this rule does not apply to just Germany. There are several very fine instruments being made in former Eastern Bloc cities that have made great strides and receive regular praise here on PW (and in real life smile ).

One thing to add - when someone is "educating" a customer and spends alot of time saying bad things about a competitor, it could be that they simply don't have enough good things to say about themselves. Keep that in mind, Alex.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for great content every week:
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Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124308
09/19/05 10:18 AM
09/19/05 10:18 AM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,010
NM, GE & Wash. DC
JPM Offline
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I had the opportunity to visit a number of German piano factories and play lots of pianos during the four years I lived there (2001 - 2004).

When comparing the top-tier piano manufacturers, I found the physical location of the piano factory in Germany had little bearing on the quality of the instruments being produced. Although some West German piano manufacturers might nostalgically like to believe otherwise, the quality argument (if it ever existed) disappeared in the 15 years since reunification. The build-quality of Bechstein and Bluethner pianos is as good, if not better, than most top-tier manufacturers in west.

Although east German piano makers still face economic challenges, they have a lot going for themselves too. If I were a piano technician looking to work in a factory, I might well opt to work in Saxony instead of the west. If you look at the Bechstein factory in Seifhennersdorf or the Bluethner factory in near Leipzig, they are modern, well-lighted, worker-friendly facilities. Both are more modern and better places to work than, say, the Steinway factory in Hamburg. While wages in the east may not as high as in the west, neither is the cost of living.

It is ironic that some West Germans still think they produce the best of everything. They forget their history. Saxony boasts a long tradition of quality craftsmanship and great music making. This region is the cradle of German classical music and the literature that inspired it. It is home to Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Wagner, Goethe. Name another region in Germany that produced this depth of creative artistic genius. Certainly, the port town of Hamburg did not. It's merchant class failed to recognize its only musical genius, Brahms, and lost him permanently to Vienna. (It is just as well it did. Classical music benefited from Hamburg's ignorance in that it forced Brahms to focus on composing rather than conducting.)

Some myths are slow to die in the music world, and "the west is best" is certainly one of them. It is much like a certain piano manufacturer's myth that it makes the best pianos. Hogwash! One needs only to look, play and listen to know that is not the case.

JP


"Piano music should only be written for the Bechstein."
-- Claude Debussy
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124309
09/19/05 11:13 AM
09/19/05 11:13 AM
Joined: Mar 2005
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Utah
Eins Offline
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Alex,
That being said by a retailer who sells both West (Steingräber) and East German (Förser) pianos, it qualifies as an unbiased statement.

It looks like I have generalized too much in regard with the two high end Former-East-German piano makers.

JPM,
Unless I confuse you with somebody who has the same avatar, I think I found not much to agree with you in the past. However, your last post is well rounded and I think very well reflects the situation there.

Where did you live and what brought you there?


One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute.
-William Feather
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124310
09/19/05 02:46 PM
09/19/05 02:46 PM
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,969
Alex Hernandez Offline OP
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Alex Hernandez  Offline OP
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Quote
Originally posted by Rich Galassini:
First, there is no reason to use the East\West argument these days as a general rule with any piano.

Second, this rule does not apply to just Germany. There are several very fine instruments being made in former Eastern Bloc cities that have made great strides and receive regular praise here on PW (and in real life smile ).

One thing to add - when someone is "educating" a customer and spends alot of time saying bad things about a competitor, it could be that they simply don't have enough good things to say about themselves. Keep that in mind, Alex.
Rich,

I agree.

JPM,

Excellent post!

Eins,

Thanks for your participation in this thread. I think this myth has been put to bed.

Andy,

I was rferring to established makers with a pre WWII history.

Stuart & Sons is a post WWII company. I have heard great things about this piano, I hope to play one someday.




Blüthner USA, LLC
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124311
09/19/05 03:51 PM
09/19/05 03:51 PM
Joined: Sep 2005
Posts: 26
England
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To make it simple, many east german piano
manufacturers used inferior parts, as much as
they tried within the VEB combinat to produce
acceptable products (i.e Flemming action etc.)
As soon as this veil was thrown away, proper
pianos could start to be produced, as much
of the old knowledge still is very prominent
i.e Bluthner, who uses a very traditional way
of manufacturing, to be within the top four!

Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124312
09/19/05 05:19 PM
09/19/05 05:19 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,253
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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Eins,

Until this thread I had no idea you were not born and bred in California.

"Ich habe nicht gewust, dass Sie in Deutschland gelebt haben. Waren Sie geboren dort? Wann sind sie zu den Vereinigten Staten gekommen?"

So......how bad is my German? wink


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for great content every week:
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Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124313
09/19/05 05:41 PM
09/19/05 05:41 PM
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Posts: 748
Utah
Eins Offline
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Utah
Rich,
Your German is fabelhaft! You probably speak it even better than you write, and writing is the harder part.

I was born there, down by the Bodensee (lake Constance) but lived in Frankfurt most of my life. I relocated in 1997.

How did you acquire such a good command of the German language?


One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute.
-William Feather
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124314
09/19/05 05:50 PM
09/19/05 05:50 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,253
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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Eins,

You are very gracious. I know I made a few mistakes.

I actually was on the phone with my mother by coincidence (only spoke German until she was 6) while I wrote - so I had some help. smile

Since I had time to think out the written stuff, it is much better than my speaking, but someday I hope to remedy that.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for great content every week:
https://www.youtube.com/user/CunninghamPiano
Re: The truth about East German -vs- West German piano quality #124315
09/19/05 06:20 PM
09/19/05 06:20 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 748
Utah
Eins Offline
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Utah
You had me very convinced Rich.

Now I know why you're such a decent fellow: there's at least 50% German in you wink


One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute.
-William Feather
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