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Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
#2927919 12/29/19 02:23 PM
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This piano was fully restored 10 years ago (original soundboard retained, presumably repaired) and looks to be in amazing cosmetic and mechanical condition. Although it is basically advertised as a Centennial, from my research it is in fact not a Centennial but a fancy/rococo style 4 (1875 serial number) with 88 keys, three pedals, and slightly shorter 8'6" length. All Steinway Centennial I have seen were a few inches longer and have an updated plate with round vents, this one has the earlier plate design with scalloped diamond vents. And the price is much lower than typical for a fully restored grand scale Centennial art case piano. But otherwise the pianos seem quite similar. I'm aware there were other updates to the Centennial which this piano will probably not have, although from looking at various restored and unrestored Style 4 pianos from 1866-1875, Steinway made rolling changes over the years.

Any thoughts or caveats from Steinway experts here ? I realize this will not be the equivalent of a modern Steinway D, but is also a fraction the price and I absolutely love the old Victorian art cases. And the furniture on this one is exceptional - even nicer than the magnificent ca. 1890 Weber parlor grand I currently own (last pic), which I will probably relocate into another room since it is not worth selling.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2927929 12/29/19 03:05 PM
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So I have a few thoughts.

First of all, many well educated technicians would consider your piano a "Centennial". Your piano was made at a time when the concert grands built by Steinway were different almost from piano to piano. They were experimenting and making steps forward every six months, very much like big screen tv technology advanced a few years ago.

I said "making steps forward' but I have to tell you, the concert grand scales like yours (which were the first 88 note scaled pianos anywhere, I think) have an intimate charm to them for their size. The designers at that time were not so concerned about size of sound (concert halls were nowhere as large then). They were concerned with balance and tone. The solid timber rim, the flat plate, and the soundboard design all combine for a beautiful sound.

Anyway, it does not have the same value as a Centennial, but it offers a beautiful performance if it is in pristine condition.

I have to add that I have never seen a piano that was 150 years old that did not need a new soundboard. I will also add that the wippens, while they do not look original, are clearly older than 10 years old. You also have older (maybe original) back checks, keys, etc.

If I were to venture a guess I would also say that the pinblock remains unreplaced as well. I do not know this, of course, but the block design in this piano is much more integral to the structure than a modern pinblock and they are often left alone in a partial restoration like this one.

My 2 cents,


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2927953 12/29/19 04:36 PM
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It's a handsome piano (as is the Weber)!

Originally Posted by EricKovalsky
Any thoughts or caveats from Steinway experts here ?

I wouldn't call myself a Steinwayâ„¢ expert, but just be sure it won't need new decals. wink

On a serious note, given Rich's comments above, it may be worth pursuing.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2927962 12/29/19 05:08 PM
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The action, (and historical record), indicates that it originally had rocker capstans and a pinned pitmans between the keys and the whippens.

In all the ones of this vintage I have encountered, when you "modernize" the action by installing capstans under the whippens, you end up with an action that has extremely high leverage. This can make getting a responsive touch quite a challenge.

As Rich pointed out, the pinblocks are mortised into the case and are more difficult to replace than modern pianos. This era pinblocks also had the tuning pin field quite crowded which weakens the block.

Does this one have a duplex scale?


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2927964 12/29/19 05:12 PM
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I know about the piano in question, looking for an actual Centennial for a friend.

I also know the seller and that it's a model 3, so not a Centennial, but also knowing what a Steinway from that time with an original soundboard can sound like, I am confident that this is a steal, unless you are looking for a real Centennial for its resale value.

I own an 1887 Steinway B from Hamburg, albeit with both soundboard and bridges from New York, so I know the kind of sound this monster produces.

Yes, the price is low and that's something you should consider a gift as an investment to have it refurbished in such a way that 90% or more can be kept or be built into the piano with its original parts. Plus giving real experts in completely reworking a soundboard to its original condition some money and time to get it back to what it was in glory 150 years ago. I can vouch for the guys at Hampshire Pianos.

If you give buying this thing the thoughts you have told us here, we all would be happy to see that beauty to its best abilities come back to life in its original sound.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928028 12/29/19 07:31 PM
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Appreciate all the comments.

Perhaps the pin block is original, I was not aware it was so difficult to replace in these. If so it restored nicely at least from what I can see. And it does indeed have duplex scale - it was built in 1875, after the 1872 patent that is listed on the plate - it is visible in the photos.

[Linked Image]

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The decal over the keyboard is there but there is none on the plate.

I'm almost certain this is an Old Style 4 ~ 8'6". I believe the Model C / Old Style 3 pianos were all in the 7' range. Here is to a nearly identical instrument at Three Forks Ranch in Wyoming, restored by Chupps Piano, with a player mechanism installed as well, but originally built in 1866 so nine years older - it likely does not have the duplex scale, and is missing the third pedal as well.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928120 12/30/19 02:11 AM
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What an attractive machine.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
Ed McMorrow, RPT #2928205 12/30/19 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT

Does this one have a duplex scale?


It looks like it has agraffes all the way up.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
johnstaf #2928231 12/30/19 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT

Does this one have a duplex scale?


It looks like it has agraffes all the way up.


Definitely - there's no capo d'astro patent written on the plate ...

Paul.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928234 12/30/19 11:28 AM
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One can have a duplex scale with agraffes all the way to the top. The string rests behind the agraffes look to be set so as to have a front duplexing. However they appear to be damped with felt.

The front duplexes on the first few versions were "tuned" to match the "harmonics". This made them very noisy. The rebuilder may have damped them to stop the noise.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928246 12/30/19 12:05 PM
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I would definitely have this piano checked out by a technician who is well versed in action geometry. These actions require a lot of work to get them to play well and I can see by the picture much of that work has not been done. The pin block will also need to be checked.

All that being said, if you like the way the piano plays and sounds then to only real issue would be the pin block and if it is still serviceable.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928425 12/30/19 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by EricKovalsky
I believe the Model C / Old Style 3 pianos were all in the 7' range.
I believe you are correct. There is a beautiful 7+ foot Steinway Model C on display at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix where I volunteer. It was built in 1886 and has 85 keys. Apparently it sat in someone's living room in Minneapolis/St Paul for over 100 years before being sent to the NY Steinway factory for "rebuilding." Have no idea what work was done, nor do I know how the instrument plays or sounds, since it is on display and can't be touched. But gosh, the darn thing looks brand new and is a work of art. Coincidentally, in the 1880s a new Steinway C could be bought for $1,340 and a D concert grand for a mere $1,600. grin


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
Carey #2928515 12/31/19 12:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by EricKovalsky
I believe the Model C / Old Style 3 pianos were all in the 7' range.
I believe you are correct. There is a beautiful 7+ foot Steinway Model C on display at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix where I volunteer. It was built in 1886 and has 85 keys. Apparently it sat in someone's living room in Minneapolis/St Paul for over 100 years before being sent to the NY Steinway factory for "rebuilding." Have no idea what work was done, nor do I know how the instrument plays or sounds, since it is on display and can't be touched. But gosh, the darn thing looks brand new and is a work of art. Coincidentally, in the 1880s a new Steinway C could be bought for $1,340 and a D concert grand for a mere $1,600. grin


I'm embarrassed to say I live in Scottsdale and have been to several concerts at the MIM (the auditorium has some of the best acoustics I've experienced) but have never explored the museum... that's now on my list of things to do this week!

Leaning towards purchasing this magnificent Steinway piano. Found out the dealer is actually relocating soon to my area and has a stellar reputation of supporting instruments sold, even used ones, which is an added plus.

My parents have agreed to house my Weber, so I won't have to endure selling it at wholesale. I'll have it moved then tuned/regulated and have a good furniture repair company fix up some of the minor veneer defects; the furniture is original from ~ 1890 and is still in largely excellent condition.

Last edited by EricKovalsky; 12/31/19 12:33 AM.
Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928548 12/31/19 03:20 AM
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Originally Posted by EricKovalsky
Leaning towards purchasing this magnificent Steinway piano. Found out the dealer is actually relocating soon to my area and has a stellar reputation of supporting instruments sold, even used ones, which is an added plus. .
I know the dealer and the specific piano you are considering. I too am excited about the upcoming relocation. And yes, you should definitely pay a visit to the MIM - which has the first Steinway ever built (in 1836 in Seesen, Germany) on display.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928630 12/31/19 10:16 AM
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That action is going to play like a truck until it is properly rebuilt. It won't be cheap. You are not going to be able to regulate around the problems. Price accordingly. You already have a piano from the same period that has built in problems. If you want to just look at it, fine but if you seriously want to play it, pass.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
S. Phillips #2928643 12/31/19 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by S. Phillips
That action is going to play like a truck until it is properly rebuilt. It won't be cheap. You are not going to be able to regulate around the problems. Price accordingly. You already have a piano from the same period that has built in problems. If you want to just look at it, fine but if you seriously want to play it, pass.


A Steinway action from 1874 can be carefully be rebuilt to match today's pianists requirements. From what I saw in the video, the hammers are definitely modern and thus too heavy. This can easily be changed by carefully making them slightly less wide. The back checks had a different design back then, so one needs to evaluate whether one keeps the original back checks and finds hammers with a tail that matches them. I presume that the wippens have already been replaced with modern ones. Polishing the rails, removing some lead from the keys etc. All this is standard stuff for a good technician and it's totally worth the effort for a piano of that class.

I have had all these things done to the action of my 1887 Steinway B (which was pretty much the same as the 1874 one in question) and the result is an action that plays like a dream, not like a truck. Altogether the whole repair including all new parts like capstans, wippens, back checks, hammers, shanks and rolls cost me about $8000 - and it was/is worth every penny. The rebuilding was done by a Steinway expert who restored and owns a Steinway Centennial and a model 3. He worked as concert technician at the Vienna Musikverein for 20 years, so there might have been less expensive technicians, but I specifically chose him for his extensive old Steinway experience. The work also included full regulation, voicing of the hammers (which took a whole day) and two concert tunings 6 months apart.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928664 12/31/19 11:32 AM
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When Sally gives her advice, you would do well to listen.

Also, anyone (with more experience than I) care to comment on the tone? I think I hear some issues regarding sustain (probably related to a 150 year-old board), but I am no expert.

Here is the link to the piano in question.

https://livingpianos.com/pianos/steinway-rosewood-art-case-concert-grand-31534/

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
EricKovalsky #2928684 12/31/19 12:17 PM
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If you like the way the piano sounds and the action feels, nobody else's opinion matters.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
BDB #2928688 12/31/19 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
If you like the way the piano sounds and the action feels, nobody else's opinion matters.



I must agree. If you like it and want it, then go for it.



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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway
BDB #2928693 12/31/19 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
If you like the way the piano sounds and the action feels, nobody else's opinion matters.
I agree. However, I'm guessing the OP hasn't actually played the piano in question.


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