So I had my trip to Bayreuth and as mentioned earlier in the thread I'm going to post a write-up.
This was a trip-of-a-lifetime type affair, and I had been barely able to contain my excitement, despite being a jaded old 40-year-old (as of yesterday). I've worked hard to get to this point, but I know it's nonetheless a huge privilege, and I haven't lost sight of that; in fact it's made me appreciate it all the more.
I had chosen to buy a B192. If you are a serious customer buying a new piano, Steingraeber/the authorised dealer will basically fly you over there to choose one (normally there are around two "newborn" pianos of the size you are after to choose between) and put you up in a flat/apartment in Steingraeber Haus, a historic palace where the Steingraeber family live and where the local showroom is. The building is across the road from their factory. The room was only available for one night out of my 3, so I stayed in a nearby hotel for the other 2.
I was picked up from Nuremburg Airport (about an hour's drive from Bayreuth) by a young apprentice tech when I landed at about 6pm on the Monday. About an hour later we arrived and I was greeted by the company owner, Udo Steingraeber - a fascinating and delightful man who as you might expect lives and breathes pianos. He gave me a key to Steingraeber Haus, giving me access to the showroom and several selection rooms, with various pianos. Right outside the door to my studio flat there was a Steingraeber 272 - more on that in the photos. Mr Steingraeber had an imminent meeting, so after he found me a local restaurant I had dinner, then met him again later that evening to be shown round Steingraeber Haus, including the very piano in the very room that Liszt would give concerts on (I even got to play on it the following day) and then over the road to the factory to see the two pianos that were available. After a play with both, we went back over the road, as it was late and I had 2 full days to play the pianos and choose. I wanted to fit in some sightseeing, but in the end my terrible indecisiveness, coupled with the importance of the decision, meant I did not do this in the end.
The following day I was given a tour of the factory by Mr Steingraeber, who bombarded me with fascinating information about how they make their pianos, most of which I've forgotten, not being an engineer and being somewhat overwhelmed by how cool the whole thing was. Then I played pianos all day. One of the pianos was warmer, and louder; the other cooler and quieter but slightly clearer. I discussed the instruments with the master technician, Anton, who was hanging around, and we both preferred the warmer one, though I commented that it was a bit loud for the room.
Next day Mr Steingraeber took me for lunch, then I played pianos all day again. That morning, Anton had made the clear piano a bit warmer, and worked on the action also, making pianissimo as easy as it was on the other instrument. It really helped my indecisiveness and made the quieter one the clear choice, which I confirmed at the end of the day, leaving some final prep instructions for Anton, before being dropped at the airport next morning by the same young apprentice who'd collected me.
Overall they were a lovely bunch of people and, although by the end I was a bit sick of the six or so pieces I was using to evaluate the pianos, the experience was just incredible.
Front visitors entrance to Steingraeber Haus
The view from the door to my studio flat, and another view of the 272 concert grand. This piano was spectacular, probably the nicest I've played on, including several Steinway Model Ds. As such, I deliberately limited my time on it, so as to maximised my excitement for the smaller instrument I was buying.
Piano showroom in Steingraeber Haus
The piano on which Liszt gave performances, and me playing it!
Another Steingraeber which Liszt actually purchased, along with the bill of sale. Sadly he died before getting to play it.
Piano in embryo form
Attaching what I think is the pinblock support to the frame
Bass strings have a core, around which they wind copper. Treble strings, being thinner, do not have this process.
Seasoning soundboards in a very dry, warm room.
The actions are ordered to Steingraeber's specification from Renner. When they arrive they are taken apart and quality-tested, before being reassambled, attached and tested further.
The keyframe and keybed have narrow points of contact to reduce sound/vibration loss. Here those points of contact are being tested.
The two 192s on the left and middle are the ones I was choosing from. The other one was much less far along in construction, although I could have chosen it I supposed if I'd really wanted. The legs and proper lids were yet to be attached on any of them.
My new piano!
Udo Steingraeber playing my new instrument.
I received an email from Anton yesterday confirming he'd prepped the piano according to my final instructions and expressing his hope that I enjoy it. Visiting the factory, having time with Mr Steingraeber, and with a master tech like Anton to set up the piano according to my liking, was a spectacular experience and one I won't ever forget. Now the short but agonising wait until the 16th when I take delivery.