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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2928725 12/31/19 01:27 PM
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Well, to start with a picky little detail, the decal is wrong, 1880 or later -- the Hamburg shop didn't open until 1880. If anybody knows what the correct stencil would look like, let us know. My 1869 Steinway Concert Grand has an incorrect one, too.
After playing the two-pedal version of this instrument for a year, I can say the bass is astounding, the treble rings, but the mid-range is disappointing. It could be a bad rebuild. The touch doesn't seem much different from the other (mediocre) grands I've played. I've never had the action out, so I can't say anything about it.
Looks like they got a better rebuilt pinblock than I did. I had to buy a thinwall tuning hammer because Warren Groff, Sr., didn't drill the holes straight, back in 1981 when he rebuilt it. Mine doesn't hold tune, although the pins are still stiff to turn. It could be my tuning technique is poor.
The duplex scale puzzles me. My piano doesn't claim to have one. The red felt is right up to the agraffes, like in the bass of this piano, all the way to the top note. Is the duplex part behind the agraffes? Surely the felt would prevent that section of the string from sounding.
The pedal struts should be turned maple. This one has them replaced by dowels. I would think an instrument of this price would justify having repros made, and that originals should be available as parts. Even Chickering used similar struts until the 1910's.
For price comparison, Piano Pros in Cincinnati had a Chupp rebuild of this model for $80K. They said an interior decorator in Florida was going to buy it but changed his mind. I paid considerably less.

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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2928735 12/31/19 01:53 PM
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The lyre braces are correct Steinway round lyre braces, which are available from Steinway even to this day.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: edferris] #2928749 12/31/19 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by edferris

The duplex scale puzzles me. My piano doesn't claim to have one.


The duplex scale was invented in 1872.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: NobleHouse] #2928754 12/31/19 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by NobleHouse
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.
I only partly agree.

Unless a buyer is an advanced pianist and has played many other good pianos for comparison, the chances are greater that he's not a particularly good judge of a piano's tone and touch. For example, he might like the piano's tone but maybe he's comparing it to a not very good piano he presently owns. IOW I think personal preference is important but by itself can lead to a poor choice. Many people don't feel confident relying only on their own judgement about a piano, and I think their hesitation is often warranted.

If the buyer is an excellent pianist and has experienced many good pianos than I think he has a better chance of being a good judge of a piano's tone and touch.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2928764 12/31/19 03:06 PM
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Sorry, I didn't notice that the third picture, with the dowel lyre braces, is a different piano. However, I doubt that Steinway provides the correct turned struts for pre-1910 instruments. Since I'm not a Steinway dealer, I can't ask them.
The 1875 Steinway catalog explains the duplex scale as allowing harmonics to sound which have a node at the wrestplank agraffe. I still don't see why they wouldn't be silenced by the red felt.
When I was considering buying my 1869 Concert Grand, I asked the advice of a professor at a nearby University, who has an international reputation. He warned that a good instrument can only be made average by an average rebuilder and there are only a few good rebuilders and I would certainly not be able to afford their work. He seemed to think that the Steinway factory rebuilders don't qualify as good. That leaves us with the question of whether a mediocre pianist will be dissatisfied with a mediocre piano.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: Carey] #2928780 12/31/19 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Carey
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.

I agree too, and if the OP hasn't played it, I'd suggest he do so ASAP. The negative speculation of those who haven't played it should be discounted accordingly.

Estrin says it plays to a "high-level," that it was fully rebuilt (ten years), and recently regulated and new hammers that were picked based the original spec's (or words to that effect). I don't know Estrin, but he seems to be well-regarded. He's playing it quite a bit in the videos, but one can't tell from video how the action feels.

So... go play it. Nothing else really matters.



And still I dream she'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2928896 01/01/20 07:59 AM
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You don't have to play it to recognize the error in this half rebuilt action. It would play better if the original parts had been rebuilt and not the wrong parts installed. Appropriate hammers could have been found and as OE1FEU said this could be done for around $8000 ( probably more now) and it would have played on a much higher level.

In the video of this piano the person demonstrating is careful to play repertoire that does not use the upper range. The board is clapped out and needs replacing. That alone is going to be big bucks. It is severely overpriced as is because the rebuilder made some bad decisions that are priced into the job but now have to be discarded in order the correct the problems.

It is like buying a house that has been newly decorated in hideous wallpaper and paying top dollar for the home based on the buyer's belief that all that money he put into it makes it more valuable, when the buyer just wants the bones and plans to take that all to the dump.

Aside from the refinishing, this should be priced as a core piano that needs everything because that is what it will now take to make it playable.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2928915 01/01/20 09:31 AM
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You just got a free opinion from a widely respected top level piano expert. Listen to it.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929078 01/01/20 04:46 PM
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Sally thank you so much for the advice and opinion. That’s exactly why I started this thread. I hadn’t noticed that the pieces selected largely exclude the upper registers, and will request a recording that features them prominently to better assess - although I suspect you are spot on. When selling pianos online only makes sense to avoid showcasing its weaknesses! From the pieces played the bass sounds good, maybe the midrange less so.

I did find out the pinblock has been replaced in the past (possibly prior to the most recent restoration) with #3 pins installed. I do share your concerns about the soundboard and its crown. Regarding the action, my understanding is the previous owner encountered ‘issues’ after taking delivery - following the most recent restoration - and Livingpianos had their technicians rework it to at least make it acceptable; safe to say this was done to minimize parts and labor costs, rather than to completely rebuild it properly at significant expense. I trust your opinion that it will require expensive work in the future.

I am not a highly skilled pianist by any means - I play mostly Einaudi, some Rachmaninoff/Liszt/Chopin, and some popular covers. I’m a physician, as I believe the former owner was as well, and play for my enjoyment and stress relief. And I am accustomed to playing on that old Weber parlor grand (partially restored by Bill Davidow in the late 1990’s) so this 1875 Steinway may be just fine for me as is, if not a serious or professional pianist, and likely a nice upgrade. I am also confident the seller, who will become local in February, will do everything possible to make the best of what they have to work with in adjusting/regulating it to my preferences, understanding it won’t be perfect based on the work already done.

And, I readily admit considering this in large part because of the spectacular carved rosewood furniture (which appears to be superbly restored from the photos) along with it’s rarity and historical significance. My hone is very ‘old world’ and it is ideal from a decor perspective. Safe to say at the asking price I could acquire another piano that would likely be a better performer with far fewer headaches and costs going forward. But the way I see it, even if $15-20k work is required later for reworking the action, replacing the board, etc it still might be priced okay. It does not have a cracked harp/plate or anything like that making it non-serviceable. And I could always make a lower cash offer reflecting some of the anticipated costs to return it to its full glory.

Last, I don’t believe I could obtain a newly and properly restored Centennial (which you could say is my grail piano) for less than six figures, although not sure what the current market is like as there are few available worldwide; and that’s far more than I can justify spending on a piano.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929097 01/01/20 05:36 PM
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We don't all have the same tastes, preferences or expectations. Even "expensive" is relative, in the big picture. Ironically, one person above considers the price as is a "steal."

More than one well-respected industry pro offered advice w/o taking a negative one-size-fits-all perspective. Some spoke highly of this piano's potential.

I think these old pianos have a lot of character, love the exquisite woodworking, and love seeing what's essentially a piece of history survive.

FWIW, I'm glad the seller has found someone who likes the "hideous wallpaper." wink I don't know the seller, but I've never seen him online criticizing anyone else's wallpaper.




And still I dream she'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929110 01/01/20 06:05 PM
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About the pinblock...do you mean that in the past the pins(but not the pinblock) were replaced with larger pins or that there was a new pinblock installed some time ago? If it's the first one, then that means the pinblock was not in good shape. When a pinblock is completely replaced I've never heard the seller say what number pins were used, but I don't know if #3 pins are oversized pins.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being seduced by the furniture aspect of a piano. But you really need to find out from an independent and knowledgeable tech about the condition of the insides. It may be true that although there are pretty big problems it's still OK for your personal use, but I think you have underestimated by a factor of two how much a complete rebuild of the insides(action, pinblock, bridges, soundboard, etc.) would be. If it's really closer to a shell piano with a refinished case like Sally said, if you decide to rebuild it well the cost would be more than you wrote.

If you decide to have it inspected you have to be very careful with your choice of the tech. It can be very awkward for the tech to give a negative report as the dealer may lose a sale, and most of the piano people in the same area know each other. So you have to find someone you trust to give an honest evaluation.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929113 01/01/20 06:12 PM
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You really should be aware of the fact that this is not one of those 400+ Centennials manufactured by Steinway. It's one of those models that were clear predecessors to the modern D concert grand - and there were many fluctuations between all instruments as part of that line. I am writing this, because any idea of resale value in regard of this instrument should and will not be based on it being a Centennial, which it is not.

I can see that massive work has been done on the soundboard with many, really wide, shims that don't really match up in terms of colors. However, this isn't a show stopper. I am concerned about the state of the hammers, especially in the middle treble section. In the Chopin you can clearly hear that the sound is weak, uneven and totally not like a concert grand. However, different from Sally, I would attribute this to the hammers, their origin and state of voicing.

I believe that's the crucial point that you can only find out and decide about when you get a real concert technician to that piano and have him voice the mid-treble hammers. He will either get them right and produce a wonderful sound or he will tell you that the acoustic assembly is in such a shape that you won't be able to get a truly beautiful sound out of the piano without having a complete do-over of soundboard and bridges, in which case I'd have to agree with Sally that this is a core piano and overpriced when use as a real piano is its primary purpose.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929133 01/01/20 07:49 PM
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#3's are oversized pins. The original pins in this piano were smaller than current #2's. The pins are so close together in pin field that with 3's they will be very close.


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Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929144 01/01/20 08:31 PM
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I think the 'hideous wallpaper' referred to the pricing, rather than the design. Sally's point was that the piano price was reflective of previous restoration work but, with the exception of the furniture, this may not be properly done or may be in need of being re-done at significant expense and time to perform on a high level, and therefore prior work should not be reflected in the price.

Again the fancy Style IV case is significant to me, as I'm buying this as a piece of art as well as an instrument. Even if Brazilian Rosewood were still available, can't even imagine how much a case like that would cost to replicate today. I have some much smaller scale carved mahogany furniture, from Asia of course, and it is still quite expensive. And I have not really found any unplayable 'core pianos' like this, although suspect they might still be priced in the $10-20k range.

I'm trying to arrange an independent inspection/appraisal since I'm not able to make it out there in person in the near future.

Last edited by EricKovalsky; 01/01/20 08:31 PM.
Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: OE1FEU] #2929150 01/01/20 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
You really should be aware of the fact that this is not one of those 400+ Centennials manufactured by Steinway. It's one of those models that were clear predecessors to the modern D concert grand - and there were many fluctuations between all instruments as part of that line. I am writing this, because any idea of resale value in regard of this instrument should and will not be based on it being a Centennial, which it is not.


Yes that's why I referred to it as a pre-Centennial. But there were rolling changes to these over the years before the Centennial release, and serial number suggests this was built shortly before the Centennials were released. It does have 88 keys and three pedals, along with the double duplex. Plate is different than Centennial (rhomboid versus round vents, some other differences) and there is no capo d'Astro bar. Furniture is similar, although Centennial was 3" longer and has somewhat simplified carvings on the front sides.

There are few fancy case Centennial out there, and pretty sure any properly restored ones will be in the six figure range.



Last edited by EricKovalsky; 01/01/20 08:46 PM.
Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929200 01/01/20 11:36 PM
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There aren't enough of these changing hands for there to be concrete values. It's going to be worth whatever it's worth to you. To that end, it'd be prudent and wise to have it looked over by a good 3rd party technician, and ideally someone who's well versed in the sort of idiosyncrasies an older specimen like this might present, to give a good idea what the up- and downsides are. But definitely someone hands-on. Of course, that's stating the obvious.

Pre-Centennial has a nice ring to it. thumb



And still I dream she'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: Carey] #2929223 01/02/20 02:45 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 can get you an 1884 Steinway pre-C in pristine condition that has the original board, bridges, pin block, pins and strings (except for the lower 6 bass strings), all of it being in mint condition with very little work done on the action by a true expert. This piano currently resides in the Brahms museum in Austria, but the owners want to change it for a Bösendorfer of the same size to make it more compatible to a second 225 Bösendorfer they already have for concerts. While it's in a museum, it's not a museum piece, but a piano that is ready to be played.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929545 01/02/20 07:40 PM
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So today I played another restored 1875 Steinway that is local, a Style 2 so smaller and also less expensive. It did not play well at all in my opinion - action was heavy which is fine, but very inconsistent and had issues with repeated notes too. My ~ 1890 Weber restored 25 years ago is far easier to play, I suppose because it has a more modern action.

Also played a 15 year old Bosendorfer in the 7' range which had a wonderful action and amazing sound... I've always loved the rich sound of their pianos.

Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929578 01/02/20 09:13 PM
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Bösie ist König!



And still I dream she'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
Re: Considering 1875 (pre-Centennial) Steinway [Re: EricKovalsky] #2929589 01/02/20 10:55 PM
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I can't claim any great amount of experience, but I did choose my 1869 Steinway over a Boesendorfer. Despite the name, the Bosie was much less savage than the Steinway, which suits my style of playing. But then, I used to do house framing carpentry without a pneumatic hammer.

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