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1980's August Forster 190 #2778198
11/04/18 05:48 PM
11/04/18 05:48 PM
Joined: Apr 2016
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USA
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jarobi Online content OP
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I seldom see used August Forster pianos in my searches, but have recently run across several. They're all from the 1980's DDR era. Are these all generally sub par pianos? I believe they have DDR sourced Flemming actions; are these problematic? Are there any other things to watch for?

As always, I'd have any piano checked by a RPT and if they were close enough to try, I would have done so. I'm mainly curious at this point.

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Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778213
11/04/18 06:26 PM
11/04/18 06:26 PM
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Georgia, USA
terminaldegree Offline
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I've played and heard only one; I think it was a 215 size, at a 2-day festival adjudication gig in a big, resonant cathedral. My recollection was that it sounded pretty darned nice and the action felt pretty lousy.


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Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: terminaldegree] #2778387
11/05/18 11:46 AM
11/05/18 11:46 AM
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jarobi Online content OP
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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
I've played and heard only one; I think it was a 215 size, at a 2-day festival adjudication gig in a big, resonant cathedral. My recollection was that it sounded pretty darned nice and the action felt pretty lousy.


One person described that the point of letoff was not as crisp/distinct as a modern Renner action. I'm guessing this action also found it's way into Bluthner's of the same period?

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778391
11/05/18 11:56 AM
11/05/18 11:56 AM
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 750
Zichron Yaacov, Israel
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Steve Jackson Offline
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These are Petrof pianos.
Check to see if Detoa action or Renner.
If Detoa, probably needs work

Steve

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: Steve Jackson] #2778409
11/05/18 01:11 PM
11/05/18 01:11 PM
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jarobi Online content OP
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Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
These are Petrof pianos.
Check to see if Detoa action or Renner.
If Detoa, probably needs work

Steve

So you're saying that East German August Forster's were made by Petrof and that the Flemming actions were really made by Detoa? None of these pianos I have seen claimed to have Renner actions.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778440
11/05/18 02:53 PM
11/05/18 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by jarobi
Originally Posted by terminaldegree
I've played and heard only one; I think it was a 215 size, at a 2-day festival adjudication gig in a big, resonant cathedral. My recollection was that it sounded pretty darned nice and the action felt pretty lousy.


One person described that the point of letoff was not as crisp/distinct as a modern Renner action. I'm guessing this action also found it's way into Bluthner's of the same period?



I have a bluthner model one from this era(1975) and it has a flemming action. I think considering its age and in my pianos case, the amount of use it had, the action held up well after regulation. I would also say that the point of letoff is slightly less distinct than the renner action in the two pianos I have regular access to compare to, but it is pretty subtle. As I work more with the flemming action, I find it to be quite good... again this is after a lot of regulation.

I think with the forster pianos is the iron cast says it was made in lobau it was a true german forster. I've never seen a Czech one, but my understanding is that they do look different.


Here's a GDR Forster in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqkCXqDm0cM


interesting sound (though I do hear some extraneous mechanical sounds), I'm not sure that this particular piano reminds me of the sound of the 2000s era 190 I played quite a few years ago, but it does remind me a bit of my bluthner.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778464
11/05/18 03:51 PM
11/05/18 03:51 PM
Joined: Feb 2015
Posts: 178
Norway
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Skjalg Online content

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Here is an audio I took of an August Förster 190 this summer with my iPhone. The player is not me. Not a great recording, but you will get an idea of the sound:
https://soundcloud.com/skjalg-bj-rndal/august-forster-190

This is a new August Förster.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: sroreilly] #2778468
11/05/18 04:00 PM
11/05/18 04:00 PM
Joined: Apr 2016
Posts: 153
USA
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jarobi Online content OP
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Originally Posted by sroreilly
Originally Posted by jarobi
Originally Posted by terminaldegree
I've played and heard only one; I think it was a 215 size, at a 2-day festival adjudication gig in a big, resonant cathedral. My recollection was that it sounded pretty darned nice and the action felt pretty lousy.


One person described that the point of letoff was not as crisp/distinct as a modern Renner action. I'm guessing this action also found it's way into Bluthner's of the same period?



I have a bluthner model one from this era(1975) and it has a flemming action. I think considering its age and in my pianos case, the amount of use it had, the action held up well after regulation. I would also say that the point of letoff is slightly less distinct than the renner action in the two pianos I have regular access to compare to, but it is pretty subtle. As I work more with the flemming action, I find it to be quite good... again this is after a lot of regulation.

I think with the forster pianos is the iron cast says it was made in lobau it was a true german forster. I've never seen a Czech one, but my understanding is that they do look different.


Here's a GDR Forster in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqkCXqDm0cM


interesting sound (though I do hear some extraneous mechanical sounds), I'm not sure that this particular piano reminds me of the sound of the 2000s era 190 I played quite a few years ago, but it does remind me a bit of my bluthner.

The pics of one of the others I saw also had Lobau cast into the plate. What is the touch like on your Bluthner? I was looking in to a 1985 Model 6 and they're claiming a very light touch; I'm guessing it has the same action.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778475
11/05/18 04:24 PM
11/05/18 04:24 PM
Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 21
Maine
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Scott E Offline
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Originally Posted by jarobi
...I was looking in to a 1985 Model 6 and they're claiming a very light touch; I'm guessing it has the same action.


My 1986 Blüthner Model 4 has a Renner action, also with a light touch.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: sroreilly] #2778494
11/05/18 04:56 PM
11/05/18 04:56 PM
Joined: Feb 2015
Posts: 178
Norway
S
Skjalg Online content

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Norway
Quote

I think with the forster pianos is the iron cast says it was made in lobau it was a true german forster. I've never seen a Czech one, but my understanding is that they do look different.


This is an August Förster 215 from the 1980s:

[Linked Image]

This is an August Förster 190 from 2017 or there about:
[Linked Image]

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778502
11/05/18 05:19 PM
11/05/18 05:19 PM
Joined: Jun 2017
Posts: 124
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sroreilly Offline
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Originally Posted by jarobi
Originally Posted by sroreilly
Originally Posted by jarobi
Originally Posted by terminaldegree
I've played and heard only one; I think it was a 215 size, at a 2-day festival adjudication gig in a big, resonant cathedral. My recollection was that it sounded pretty darned nice and the action felt pretty lousy.


One person described that the point of letoff was not as crisp/distinct as a modern Renner action. I'm guessing this action also found it's way into Bluthner's of the same period?



I have a bluthner model one from this era(1975) and it has a flemming action. I think considering its age and in my pianos case, the amount of use it had, the action held up well after regulation. I would also say that the point of letoff is slightly less distinct than the renner action in the two pianos I have regular access to compare to, but it is pretty subtle. As I work more with the flemming action, I find it to be quite good... again this is after a lot of regulation.

I think with the forster pianos is the iron cast says it was made in lobau it was a true german forster. I've never seen a Czech one, but my understanding is that they do look different.


Here's a GDR Forster in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqkCXqDm0cM


interesting sound (though I do hear some extraneous mechanical sounds), I'm not sure that this particular piano reminds me of the sound of the 2000s era 190 I played quite a few years ago, but it does remind me a bit of my bluthner.

The pics of one of the others I saw also had Lobau cast into the plate. What is the touch like on your Bluthner? I was looking in to a 1985 Model 6 and they're claiming a very light touch; I'm guessing it has the same action.



The touch weight is lighter. A tech measure the middle C at 45 grams downweight. Obviously the touch of a piano is more complicated than that, but Bluthners tend to feel a bit light I find, and mine is no different. When I first got the piano, every keystick had 3 lead weight attached so obviously the previous owners thought the touch was too light... unless they were training for some kind of finger sport competition, I think they went overboard!

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778525
11/05/18 06:23 PM
11/05/18 06:23 PM
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 767
Santa Fe, NM
AaronSF Offline
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Santa Fe, NM
I'd be a little hesitant to purchase a Förster produced before 1990.

Germany was reunified in October of 1990. According to the Förster website, they were able to start accessing Renner action parts as early as 1987, but certainly they had full access to Renner after the company was re-privatized in 1990-91. I think I read that Förster did the best they could with the materials that were available to them in the DDR, but that the pianos produced after 1990 are superior because of access to "western" parts. I imagine much of the same is true for Blüthner.

Förster opened a factory in what is now the Czech Republic in 1886 in an effort to gain fuller access to the Austro-Hungarian Empire by avoiding AHE duties and taxes. The Czech factor was actually only a few kilometers from the Löbau factory. From 1945 to 2000 while the factory was nationalized by Czechoslovakia, they made August Förster branded pianos that were in no way identical to German Försters. I believe these pianos became what we know today as Petrof. The Czech factory did succeed in getting a copywright on the Förster name in Canada and, I believe, the Netherlands, where German Försters were/are sold under the name Berger.

Piano history is complicated!


August Förster 215
Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: AaronSF] #2778583
11/05/18 09:23 PM
11/05/18 09:23 PM
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Posts: 124
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sroreilly Offline
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Originally Posted by AaronSF
I think I read that Förster did the best they could with the materials that were available to them in the DDR, but that the pianos produced after 1990 are superior because of access to "western" parts. I imagine much of the same is true for Blüthner.



I wish this wasn't so vague. It's really difficult to find any information regarding the specific materials used in the GDR instruments, and outside of the Flemming actions, I can't find anything. Nothing on the hammers, strings, woods, really anything. Most of what I read was about inconsistencies from instrument to instrument: some pianos have different shaped ebonies... stuff like that. I can't find any of these inconsistencies when comparing my piano to a Bosendorfer for instance. I would really be interested to hear where the other parts for these instruments was sourced, but I guess that secrecy is part of the whole "other side of the wall" thing.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778589
11/05/18 10:38 PM
11/05/18 10:38 PM
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Posts: 448
Dublin
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In the DDR, Blüthner had access to West German parts, but they were only allowed to order a fairly limited amount, so they were usually reserved for special pianos e.g. concert grands and pianos for export. I think Blüthner got special treatment because of their international reputation.

Last edited by johnstaf; 11/05/18 10:39 PM.
Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778605
11/06/18 12:40 AM
11/06/18 12:40 AM
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 767
Santa Fe, NM
AaronSF Offline
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Then there's this thread from 2011...

East German Förster Discussion


August Förster 215
Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778620
11/06/18 02:35 AM
11/06/18 02:35 AM
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Zichron Yaacov, Israel
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Steve Jackson Offline
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Originally Posted by jarobi
Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
These are Petrof pianos.
Check to see if Detoa action or Renner.
If Detoa, probably needs work

Steve

So you're saying that East German August Forster's were made by Petrof and that the Flemming actions were really made by Detoa? None of these pianos I have seen claimed to have Renner actions.


Can't say anything about Flemming action, but a Petrof piano from that era usually has a wonky action, regardless of the name.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778688
11/06/18 09:08 AM
11/06/18 09:08 AM
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Basically with all the east german pianos, including Blüthner and August Förster, I'd say proceed with caution. They can be very good with work, but usually those which haven't undergone restoration of some kind are pretty awful.

A lot of them have narrow sharps, which can only be remedied by installing a new keyboard. Some of them have case issues which causes shift in the soundboard, which may (or may not....) require a new soundboard to be installed. At the age of them all now most of them will need a new tuning block and re-strung, and most would benefit from new action parts. Consider that the youngest DDR piano is turning 30 years old next year.....

If the price is low enough, you're not subjecting it to too much punishment, and it plays well enough as it is then it might be OK. For comparison, I wouldn't pay more than about £5000 for a DDR Blüthner model 6 in original condition. I would expect at that price I'd need to spend about £5000 on it, possibly £10,000.

The designs were good enough, so when rebuilt they do sound and feel beautiful, but it's not so usual to buy pianos from this period with a view to rebuilding them.

All of the above said, if you get a good one, they're quite good and can be serviced with a good regulation and voicing, especially if it has been looked after properly. Still, don't pay too much for it.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778710
11/06/18 11:09 AM
11/06/18 11:09 AM
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Berkshires, MA
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I love my AF 190. It's a DDR from the late 80's. Fabulous bass, and light action. I got it for $10k, and have spent about $2k over the past years on regulation work. My tech is a Steinway snob, but loves the way this is put together.


_________________________________
August Forster 190
Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2778765
11/06/18 02:04 PM
11/06/18 02:04 PM
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Then you got lucky, like I said there are nice examples from these factories.

A lot of the problems arose because they were limited with the choice of materials, and they had to work to schedule, so X-number of pianos had to be completed within a short space of time regardless of whether they were up to standard.

What they did have in their favour was highly skilled workforce and great designs to execute. The iron plates were as good as any at any point in their histories, and things like the tuning block were usually pretty solid.

In Scotland we have loads of DDR uprights from that VEB factory. We don't have so many Blüthners but we've got Zimmerman, Förster, Niendorf, Hupfeld, and a few others which are all basically the same piano. They were compact uprights and despite their really quite rubbish actions, they had good tone and projection particularly in the bass. Those that didn't endure harsh playing have lasted OK. I'm sure there was a Wilh. Steinmann from that period as well made in the VEB factory.

Re: 1980's August Forster 190 [Re: jarobi] #2779905
11/10/18 05:59 PM
11/10/18 05:59 PM
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I'd just point out that in my copy of Larry Fines' Piano Book, he rates Forster 3rd among the highest quality pianos, behind Bosendorfer and Bluthner.


_________________________________
August Forster 190

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