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Re: Are rebuilds of Blüthner fitted with a cylindrical soundboard? [Re: pianistical] #2517156
03/03/16 04:05 PM
03/03/16 04:05 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 497
Chesterfield. MA
C
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member
Craig Hair  Offline
Full Member
C

Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 497
Chesterfield. MA
We practice that third third form of restoration: conservation or more precisely "conservative restoration". We try to not only preserve the original makers design and intent, we try to preserve the piano itself. A museum will practice restorative conservation, the aim being to alter the instrument as little as need be to make it just functional enough to perform at a minimal level for purposes of dramatic presentation. Some museums will not even go that far. In conservative restoration the end goal is a an instrument that is fully as functional, mechanicly and acousticly, as when it was new. This is far more invasive than any simple consevation, but shares the goal of preserving as much of the material piano as possible. The two great hurdles to performance lay in the action and, most especially, the soundboard. I'll, skip the action,for now.

Flat old soundboards can have a sweet clear tone, if everyting is still secure. This, we feel, is a result of the aging of the wood, and the natural changes that come with such long seasoning. The wood in the old soundboard has become lighter and stiffer. It has become more responsive to high frequency impulses. Were the same piano somehow instantly fitted with an identicly flat board made of new wood, the tone would be duller and more hollow. This acoustic capacity in the old tone wood is what allows these old pianos to be musical despite the loss of crown and bearing.

When these old boards have the crown restored, they not only retain that clarity of tone, but gain the strength, sustain, and balance through the scale that comes from a mechanicly functional soundboard. The process: steam extraction, and dismantling and so forth is quite invasive, and seems quite drastic. But given that the board that came out is the board that goes back in, this process is actually very conservative, and amounts to an acoustic adjustment.

The oldest piano we have done this on just happens to be a Bluthner from the early 1870s. I think it is a little too early for the "cylinricaly crowned' question, though the board is very interesting with its distinctive rib scale. It does bear on the question of the difficulty in working on older bluthner soundboards, among others.

In this piano, the plate was covered by the inner rim; the case needed to be dismantled just to gain access to the board. After that, the soundboard was exposed on all edges except the spine, where it is inserted deeply into the case; actually working as a layer of the inner rim. If the spine had not already been falling apart, some surgical proceedure would have been required to get the soundboard out whole. And even if saving the soundboard is not the prime concern, something would have to be done to make clearance for the mounting of a new one. A piano with either or both of these features offers coniderable reason to be content with the board as it is.

Had the Bluthner been in better shape, we may have deferred; but as it was a basket case, there was no residual usefulness left to risk. We were free to see how well a piano of this age, and this design responds to the process.

It may be impossible to restore a piano to a faithful as new condition, philosophicly. We, however, have found that, when every effort is made to conserve both the components and design of the original piano, the result is a piano of individual, balanced, and ,we hope, largely original character. The Chickering seems to sound like a Chickering should. And the Bluthner sounds like what I imagine a Bluthner of this era should. Both are beautiful, and neither sounds anything like the other. If we had redesigned them both according to any preconcieved ideal, it may well be that they would have come out sounding a bit more like one another. I doubt that either would have been improved, and I suspect that both would have lost something essential. We think that the original designs incorporated an original balance. Perhaps a new balance can be worked out within the strictures of a piano's case, but we have had the most worthwhile results from persuing the original.













Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
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Re: Are rebuilds of Blüthner fitted with a cylindrical soundboard? [Re: Karl Watson] #2517180
03/03/16 05:12 PM
03/03/16 05:12 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,250
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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Rich Galassini  Offline
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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,250
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted by Karl Watson
Rich:
This is a marvelous topic for us to debate and your examples, poor as they are, do illustrate your point excellently.
In your last you wrote that "Bosendorfer, IMHO, has done a better job of preserving the tone that made them a special voice 100 years ago." I agree, although I believe that Bosendorfer is guilty of doing some of the same, resulting in louder and more generalized, less distinctive tone. They've done LESS of it.


Well said, Karl!

Yes, Bosendorfer also bear some guilt in this area, but less of it, I think.

Originally Posted by Karl Watson

Most pianists feel that, especially with concert grands, the size of our modern halls coupled with the heroic output of the modern orchestra, makes this necessary.


Agreed.

Can I add that your professional background as a performing musician gives you a unique perspective in this regard, Karl? Thank you for your contributions to PW. You improve almost every thread you dive into.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
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Re: Are rebuilds of Blüthner fitted with a cylindrical soundboard? [Re: pianistical] #2517203
03/03/16 07:10 PM
03/03/16 07:10 PM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 2,966
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joe80 Online content
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joe80  Online Content
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Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 2,966
Hi Rich, that's a very interesting video. In the video I find the Bösendorfer far more beautiful than the Blüthner and here's why (and totally agreeing with your observation that Bösendorfer has preserved their tonal profile over the years)...

The Blüthner, as fine sounding as it is, seems a little out of balance. The brightness that they've built into the piano - either through voicing or through actual build (I'm not sure what) starts to come across as a shrill voice, and the pianist doesn't quite seem as comfortable with the instrument. This is a complaint that has been fired at Blüthner for quite a while now - their pianos are coming out of the factory sounding incredibly harsh, which is not Blüthner's golden tone at all. I know that Christian Blüthner thinks that pianos should have a bright tone, and I also know that with many hours of preparation that the new Blüthners can sound far more beautiful than they do when they come out of the factory, but I feel that they're really missing something these days. Not every piano needs to fill a 3500 seater hall, (as you've said), and I think that the piano world needs fine sounding grands with an intimate voice as much as it needs concert beasts. ESPECIALLY in practice rooms and teaching studios.

I must say though that virtually every new Bösendorfer I have played in the past 10 years has been a beautiful piano, with Blüthners being quite hit or miss. When they hit, they really hit and get it right. When they miss it's awful. I don't know if it's preparation, inherent build, soundboard, or what. I suspect it's that they want to move away from the idea that they are quiet drawing room instruments (actually they were never 'quiet', even the pre-1930 pianos can pack a punch if needed), and move into the concert hall, but they've done it in a way that turns their back on too much of what made them beautiful in the first place.

Just my two cents. I still respect the brand a lot, I still think they produce some of the most beautiful pianos, but I think they need to come back on track with the sound otherwise they could end up in financial trouble if they lose the respect of musicians.

Re: Are rebuilds of Blüthner fitted with a cylindrical soundboard? [Re: Rich Galassini] #2517223
03/03/16 08:34 PM
03/03/16 08:34 PM
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,986
London
D
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member
David-G  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,986
London
Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
This is turning into a GREAT thread! (again).

It is indeed a great thread - and of very direct interest to me. Thank you all for your contributions, and Joe especially for resurrecting the thread.

Rich, your two videos are really most interesting. And would be more so, if I knew which was the Blüthner and which the Bosendorfer! I may have missed where this was stated - but could you clarify?

Re: Are rebuilds of Blüthner fitted with a cylindrical soundboard? [Re: joe80] #2517227
03/03/16 09:03 PM
03/03/16 09:03 PM
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,986
London
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David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member
David-G  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,986
London
Originally Posted by joe80
The Blüthner, as fine sounding as it is, seems a little out of balance. The brightness that they've built into the piano - either through voicing or through actual build (I'm not sure what) starts to come across as a shrill voice, and the pianist doesn't quite seem as comfortable with the instrument. This is a complaint that has been fired at Blüthner for quite a while now - their pianos are coming out of the factory sounding incredibly harsh, which is not Blüthner's golden tone at all. I know that Christian Blüthner thinks that pianos should have a bright tone, and I also know that with many hours of preparation that the new Blüthners can sound far more beautiful than they do when they come out of the factory, but I feel that they're really missing something these days. Not every piano needs to fill a 3500 seater hall, (as you've said), and I think that the piano world needs fine sounding grands with an intimate voice as much as it needs concert beasts. ESPECIALLY in practice rooms and teaching studios.

A few years ago I spent some time in the Blüthner showroom in London. My impression was that the tone of the modern Blüthners is indeed rather different from my piano of the early 1880s, and from the classic “mellow” Blüthner sound of the early 20th century. It is hard to describe these things, but my feeling was that the modern instruments had something of a hard icy brittle edge to the tone.

There was, however, a Model 1 concert grand in the showroom, and this was very different. No icy brittleness at all - the tone was warm and sparkly, and having (I thought) something of a kinship to the sound of my piano. This was a special and very lovely instrument. It was the preferred Blüthner of Artur Pizarro, who played it on a number of recordings. The piano had been specially voiced for him, over a period of years, by Bruno Torrens, Blüthner’s chief concert technician; and I was told that it had taken continued voicing over this long period to arrive at its current perfection. The difference between this piano and the others in the showroom was astonishing. I was amazed that this difference could be achieved by voicing.

These observations seem entirely consistent with Joe's comments.

A year or two later the time had come for Pizarro to have a new instrument, and I was told that the new Model 1 would be provided with two actions, one of which would be voiced to Pizarro’s taste and only used by him, while the other would not be voiced in this manner and would be used for other concerts.


Re: Are rebuilds of Blüthner fitted with a cylindrical soundboard? [Re: pianistical] #2517306
03/04/16 06:01 AM
03/04/16 06:01 AM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 2,966
J
joe80 Online content
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joe80  Online Content
2000 Post Club Member
J

Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 2,966
David this is true about the model one. It is still a Blüthner. There was a model 1 with two actions but unfortunately the showroom stored the second action incorrectly and the key bed warped.... not under the current management it has to be said.


Re: Are rebuilds of Blüthner fitted with a cylindrical soundboard? [Re: David-G] #2517317
03/04/16 06:53 AM
03/04/16 06:53 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,250
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
Platinum Subscriber
Rich Galassini  Offline
Platinum Subscriber

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,250
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted by David-G

Rich, your two videos are really most interesting. And would be more so, if I knew which was the Blüthner and which the Bosendorfer! I may have missed where this was stated - but could you clarify?


So sorry David. Bosendorfer is on the left. Bluthner is on the right.


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
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