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Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: JoelW] #2386869
02/16/15 05:41 AM
02/16/15 05:41 AM
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joe80 Offline
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Hi everyone,

This is a very nice thread, thanks to the OP.

I absolutely love Steinway pianos too. They have the most versatile tone - everything sounds good on a Steinway, which is not always the case with other makes. They also have a beautiful action with wonderful repetition and response. I know that much of this is the way the action is regulated, but it is testament to Steinway's commitment to their product that they have so many technicians who are able to perform to such a high level. That's not to say that others done, incidentally, but merely that Steinway technicians are amongst the best around.

I happen to think that at concert grand level, Steinway has some pretty serious competition, but I'm not sure if it has a match, an equal. The Yamaha CFX is a wonderful glorious warm piano with an action like butter and the response of fine silk, the Fazioli has this palette of colour from the most silent pianissimo possible, with an action that makes it possible to play with exceptional clarity at extremely low volume, and of course, it will go loud. The Bösendorfer has that beautiful classically balanced tone, like an aristocrat amongst the pianos, and the Blüthner has this wonderful melted-chocolate yet clear tone. I'm talking now, only about pianos that are in top regulation and 9' long.

What I haven't heard is many concerts with the other makes. I have performed a few concertos on non-Steinways - played some Mozart and Mendelssohn on a Blüthner, Tchaikovsky on a Bösendorfer, Beethoven on a Bechstein, myself, but I haven't gone to any concerts for instance, where a Fazioli has been used in a concerto.

I have heard Yamaha used a few times for concerto work, in Bartok and Rachmaninoff, and I used one for the Grieg a few years back. I could tell each time that it was a great piano, but I couldn't really hear it in the same way as a Steinway - it didn't have the projection that Steinways have. This is the thing about the Steinway D, it has the ability to project to the back of the hall and still sound beautiful. Sometimes with other pianos you get the feeling that you have to push.

Now, that's not necessarily the sound you need in a small recital, and I've heard model D Steinways in other situations where I've thought that something else, smaller, would fit better.

The other aspect of Steinway which is excellent, is that you can feel from the Model V to the Model D (Hamburg, I don't know the NYC pianos so much), that you're getting the same quality of parts and workmanship all the way through the line. Now, of course you're not getting that with Yamaha, but then they only claim to make five hand built models, and even they are in two tiers (the CF and the S series). But even with Shigeru Kawai, Blüthner to a lesser extent, and Bösendorfer, I get the feeling that the concert grand is in a category apart, above, and the smaller grands, from the 7' down to the upright even, are just not of the same breed. This could be perception, of course, but it is something I've noticed many times.

The only other make I have played to have the same quality from the smallest to the largest is Fazioli, and they cost the same as the Steinway anyway. I haven't played a new Bechstein grand in a very long time, so I can't really tell you what they are like. I did play a Bechstein concert grand over in Frankfurt 5 years ago, and I remember thinking it was not unlike a Steinway, strangely enough.

So I agree that for quality and consistency down the line, there isn't another piano like Steinway, and for concert work with orchestra, where you need beautiful sound that projects over a larger orchestra, Steinway is pretty much unbeaten.

For value for money in buying a workhorse instrument that you're going to pound to within an inch of its life over 20 years, I'm not sure I'd go for a Steinway, because these other makes - Yamaha and Kawai in particular, really do a great job in that market, and they produce beautiful sounding pianos that sell at a very reasonable price. So does Petrof, and Estonia for instance. We all know they're not as good as Steinway, but they're a great choice nonetheless.

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Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: Michael Sayers] #2386878
02/16/15 06:03 AM
02/16/15 06:03 AM
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Paris
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I tend to agree, with some nuances. When I play a Steinway decently prepared, I always think that nothing can beat it. But the reason why I feel this is not the one I suspected 10 years ago. At this time, I thought that it was the Steinway sound, which is actually gorgeous. There is a common factor in the sound of the brand, we can immediately identify it, even if every single D has its own strong individuality ...

Last year, I found a SK on stage and at this moment, I just wanted to go back home. But when I tried it, I found it incredibly colourful, more complex than a good Steinway in the medium. Amazing tone. You can hear it on my souncloud page, the Chopin Barcarolle and Liszt Rhapsodie Espagnole are a public recording on this piano (maybe the mp3 killed the sound complexity…). I think all others are done on Steinways.
Now I think that the superiority of Steinway is not due to its sound, but to the exceptional accuracy and easiness of the keyboard response. In my opinion, this manufacturer understands the needs of a pianist much better than any other. This is why I love Steinway. What I expect from an instrument above anything else, is a piano which is “on my side”, making my life easier, which produces the sound that I have in my head. I don’t want having to fight against the piano to control it. So I believe that the number one quality of Steinways is their extreme docility and flexibility, regardless of the technical context of the piece.
I feel something quite similar with Beschtein (regarding the awesome response to touch variations) but am more satisfied with the Steinway tone. I played a lot of Yamahas with good and bad surprises (I agree on the comment about their sound - and I suspect that bad surprises are more about preparation than the piano itself), have limited experience with Bosen and tried a single Fazioli very shortly once in my life … therefore I cannot be certain the monopole of Steinway is an obvious outcome in the industry. But I am sure that finding a Steinway on stage is the guarantee that nothing bad can happen due to the piano, and that I can play everything on it.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: Okay] #2386881
02/16/15 06:35 AM
02/16/15 06:35 AM
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Stockholm, Sweden
Michael Sayers Offline
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I am a true believer in the genius of Herr Steinweg as well. The conversion took place with a 1940 D that had something of the "Horowitz" sound in the bass, and a liquid, lyrical treble of almost organ-like sustain - much better than the treble of CD #503 as heard on Horowitz's recordings. The action had a very deep feel and response, much moreso I suspect than one will find with any contemporary D.

To maintain clarity about pianos it helps to refer to a Hamburg concert grand as a D-274. I thought one of the posts was about a N.Y. D until it was mentioned that the piano was a Hamburg.

A D-274 sounds very different than a D, at least to my ears wink.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: JoelW] #2386884
02/16/15 06:47 AM
02/16/15 06:47 AM
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joe80 Offline
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You're right, the American and the German Steinways do sound very different. Both are very beautiful pianos.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: joe80] #2386890
02/16/15 07:12 AM
02/16/15 07:12 AM
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Stockholm, Sweden
Michael Sayers Offline
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Originally Posted by joe80
You're right, the American and the German Steinways do sound very different. Both are very beautiful pianos.

And the ones made in the past sounded better than the ones made in the present, at least in my opinion. I haven't played a Steinway made after the 1980s, just some with more recent hammers - and the hammer formulas do change - so this is speculation, but there are a lot of recordings out there which may give some idea. I don't think you'll find any Steinway D in a concert hall that sounds like these two from 1968 - just listen to the bass in the first one starting at about 1:35 and to the piano-pianissimo Chopin afterwards. Maybe it is a bit too bright sounding, so for contrast there is the piano in second link which is darker and more austere, and sounds a lot like the Cliburn D that tours around.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny3zTQbyrrE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6ZVtZVNwtk

Of course there is this Cliburn D, not the same as the one that tours, with its very languorous sound - I am sure that it has plenty of power too, when needed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLkzEEcfdq4

I think Van owned maybe 20 different Ds in total over the years.

Pianos since then just seem to sound more homogenous and less "open", or else shrill, brittle and glassy especially in fortissimo playing . . . part of it (in my belief) has to do with how the fortissimo is being produced, which gets back to the "Gould's tone" thread . . . the Hamburgs don't have so much of their special golden hued timbre . . . et c.

I am sure that some technicians try for what is more traditionally wanted, so the issue must reside with the pianos. As with Polyphonist's N.Y. B - no offence intended, Polyphonist! - one can hear in the sound and response that it is a relatively contemporary instrument, even though the technician does an exceptional job of getting it to a standard that works well with Polyphonist's golden age style of play.

I would say that 1968 is about my cut off point with Steinway D pianos. Beggars can't be choosers, so it really is just in fantasy that I would turn down an opportunity on account of the year a piano was made!




Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: joe80] #2386896
02/16/15 07:42 AM
02/16/15 07:42 AM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 2,352
Stockholm, Sweden
Michael Sayers Offline
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Hi Joe,

Here is a 1940 N.Y. B with the "Horowitz" sound - if you listen closely, you will hear that it is there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S-Kv5dlvZY

I don't think one can get from here to there with a Steinway grand made too much later. If it is possible, I would like to know about it.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: Michael Sayers] #2386916
02/16/15 09:03 AM
02/16/15 09:03 AM
Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 4,423
Rockford, IL
Cinnamonbear Offline
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Rockford, IL
Michael--the "Summertime" sound is gorgeous on that re-built Steinway!

Here is the sound of a vintage Haddorff 5' 8" grand, built sometime in the early 20th century by Swedish immigrant cabinet makers turned piano builders in Rockford, IL.

https://app.box.com/s/p8j0wxtu2grxmbkj1fs0

Some people have said that the finest Haddorffs could rival the Steinway. Of course, every "lesser" piano company would want that said about their pianos, I suppose. I believe the Haddorff piano makers would not have considered themselves "lesser," however, and it shows.

--Andy

Last edited by Cinnamonbear; 02/16/15 09:10 AM.

I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.
Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: JoelW] #2386918
02/16/15 09:08 AM
02/16/15 09:08 AM
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joe80 Offline
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Andy, the Haddorff piano sounds excellent! Something I've never heard of before!

The 1940 B sounds glorious. I think PianoCraft are absolute masters in restoration, I always listen to their videos with great joy at the tone.

I'm not convinced with Living Pianos Ds to be honest, but that's OK, it's all taste, right?

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: Cinnamonbear] #2386953
02/16/15 10:55 AM
02/16/15 10:55 AM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 2,352
Stockholm, Sweden
Michael Sayers Offline
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Michael Sayers  Offline
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Hi Andy,

The Haddorff sounds very nice. And I assume this is you playing it? Are you sure the makers didn't bring any piano building skills with them from Sweden? At one time there was a thriving piano industry here.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: joe80] #2386954
02/16/15 10:56 AM
02/16/15 10:56 AM
Joined: Feb 2013
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Stockholm, Sweden
Michael Sayers Offline
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Stockholm, Sweden
Hi Joe,

I agree about the two 1968 Ds. There would be issues, pluses and minuses . . . though I think that on the balance one could coax them into working wink.

Maybe the only way the 1940 B could be improved were if it could be lengthened into a D!

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: JoelW] #2386975
02/16/15 12:02 PM
02/16/15 12:02 PM
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New York
I'm impressed. This is a very positive thread about Steinway. I've certainly let it be known that I prefer the Steinway sound. I have a Hamburg D but I've played some NY D's that I like just as well. They do sound somewhat different. The NY D has a nastier sound, but in a good way. It makes sense since its from New York. I find that Bosendorfers are very expressive, I just don't like the sound as much although I think the Imperial was perfect for the late great Oscar Petersen. Those long lines didn't get muddy. I suppose Bach would be good on a Bosie too or a Fazioli. I don't think there's a piano out there that has as lush a sound as a model D, really great for music with big chords like Rachmaninoff or allot of Joe Sample's compositions.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: JoelW] #2387007
02/16/15 01:02 PM
02/16/15 01:02 PM
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joe80 Offline
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It's funny you know, because a technician's view of a piano and a pianist's view of a piano are two radically different things at times.

A technician could take apart a Yamaha S4, and a Steinway Hamburg A, the Yamaha being about half the price of the Steinway now, and could find that in many ways they are so similar as to be virtually the same. Ok there are differences in the way the action is set up etc, but I think you get my drift. Or you could take a Bösendorfer 185 as well, or a Blüthner 6, whatever, and the technician may even say that the Bösendorfer is more perfect (more perfect - silly phrase, I know) than the Steinway. A few of us on this forum feel that Fazioli is the pinnacle of what is possible with the piano, and some others feel that it's Shigeru Kawai.

However, these things might be true when you take the piano apart - it's got this, this, this, this and this, for instance, but there is a certain magic in the Steinway, and I think that very few people know exactly how that magic comes about, except for Steinway. Think about some of the great rebuilding shops in America - Cunningham for instance we know has ex-Steinway techs in the rebuilding workshop.

It just goes to show that specification and materials are one very important part of piano manufacture - but experience must be added to that, and of course ongoing maintenance by someone who understands the piano.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: JoelW] #2387016
02/16/15 01:09 PM
02/16/15 01:09 PM
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Victoria, BC
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There are two factors that come into play here that, as far as I can see, have not yet been touched upon in this thread.

As far as the "Steinway sound" is concerned, we are highly conditioned, through recordings, to the Steinway sound. A few years ago I did a survey of the couple of hundreds of piano CDs I have to find out which pianos were used. In too many cases, the piano brand was not even identified, but among those where it was, Steinway was the most frequently used piano by a large margin, and that is the sound we have been accustomed to hearing over the years of listening to piano recordings.

Many of us here have played on a fairly large number of Steinways because of the overwhelming number of them available and, as can be expected, among them are several that sway us towards being highly favourable of the brand.

Yet I wonder how many who claim that other brands are inferior to Steinway have had as much experience on other brands as they have had with Steinway. I say that because there are a number of Steinways that I have played which are, to me, the ultimate "dream" piano. There have also been a fair number of Steinways that I have found dull, unresponsive and almost characterless in tone. Whether that was inherent in the instrument or because of the lack of proper prep and maintenance I don't know.

The same might well be said of other brands. Having played on only two Bösendorfer, I wouldn't consider myself a judge of that brand, much as I found the differences between the two considerable and not necessarily favourable to the brand as a whole. I had a long experience with a vintage Mason & Hamlin which I greatly admired, but have played only one other which was disappointing after my initial experience with the brand. Again, I wouldn't judge Mason & Hamlin on that limited experience.

I would just caution those who claim that Steinway is "the best" to base that observation on a fair - even if not equal - sampling of all the other pianos that they throw into the mix.

There is no doubt, too, that many brands have their distinctive character, quite a different sound from that of the Steinway brand, and I think that some people say that Steinway is the best simply because they like that sound better than that of other brands. In that case it's not a question of better or best but simply one of preference.

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: LJC] #2387034
02/16/15 02:00 PM
02/16/15 02:00 PM
Joined: Jun 2008
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Seattle area, WA
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Originally Posted by LJC
... The NY D has a nastier sound, but in a good way. It makes sense since its from New York.
Excuse me? Talk about nasty....

As a born and raised New Yorker, I find your statement indicative of either ignorance or a very unpleasant sense of humor. Up until your post, this has been a very cordial thread. Let's keep it that way.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: JoelW] #2387042
02/16/15 02:15 PM
02/16/15 02:15 PM
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Posts: 22,280
Victoria, BC
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Interesting! While, according to an on-line dictionary, "nasty" has no positive connotation, I didn't take it as a negative in this context. To me it simply meant more forward, more robust, more assertive, none of which implies anything negative about New Yorkers.

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: JoelW] #2387045
02/16/15 02:18 PM
02/16/15 02:18 PM
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I tend to think the classic American Steinway recorded sound is the aural equivalent of the unique ability of the old Kodachrome color slide film to flatter the subject. Many of the famous National Geographic nature shots on Kodachrome were said to look like nature wearing cosmetics. Similarly, the Steinway sound seems to record well and flatter the player's ability. I do think Baldwin in its glory days had that quality, as well.

To my ears, the otherwise glorious Hamburg sound is, for the lowest bass notes, rather "rubbery."


WhoDwaldi
Howard (by Kawai) 550-C 5'-10"
Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: BruceD] #2387060
02/16/15 02:44 PM
02/16/15 02:44 PM
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New York City
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Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Interesting! While, according to an on-line dictionary, "nasty" has no positive connotation, I didn't take it as a negative in this context. To me it simply meant more forward, more robust, more assertive, none of which implies anything negative about New Yorkers.

There are plenty of negative things to be said about New Yorkers, but we won't get into that. wink


Regards,

Polyphonist
Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: LJC] #2387073
02/16/15 03:15 PM
02/16/15 03:15 PM
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Stockholm, Sweden
Michael Sayers Offline
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Originally Posted by LJC
I'm impressed. This is a very positive thread about Steinway . . .

Miracles really do occur wink.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: Polyphonist] #2387074
02/16/15 03:17 PM
02/16/15 03:17 PM
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Stockholm, Sweden
Michael Sayers Offline
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Originally Posted by Polyphonist
Originally Posted by BruceD
Interesting! While, according to an on-line dictionary, "nasty" has no positive connotation, I didn't take it as a negative in this context. To me it simply meant more forward, more robust, more assertive, none of which implies anything negative about New Yorkers.

There are plenty of negative things to be said about New Yorkers, but we won't get into that. wink

I have visited Riverside, New Jersey, and was tremendously impressed by the friendliness I encountered. I doubt there could be much decline five or ten miles distant in N.Y.C.

Re: Steinway on the mind [Re: Michael Sayers] #2387082
02/16/15 03:35 PM
02/16/15 03:35 PM
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 9,328
New York City
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Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted by Michael Sayers
I have visited Riverside, New Jersey, and was tremendously impressed by friendliness I encountered. I doubt there could be much decline five or ten miles distant in N.Y.C.

Perhaps we should continue this conversation in PMs. grin


Regards,

Polyphonist
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