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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2974969 05/04/20 06:26 PM
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Well people are of course different. Which is a good thing. Speaking for myself personally, I think a bell-like tone for the high treble is most attractive. But for me, a bell-like tone implies warmth. My Blüthner is quite bell-like; and indeed, in my 1804 Broadwood square, the notes towards the top of the keyboard sound just like beautiful warm little tinkly bells. But those Blüthners were not like that.

Clearly, there are bells and bells.

Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2974993 05/04/20 07:24 PM
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My theory is that the bell-like tone of a modern piano may be the design focus because it is probably superior for a soloist to cut through the accompaniment of an orchestra, so this is appropriate on a concert grand piano. Because these pianos become the standard against which all other pianos are measured, a parlor grand or upright with a vintage-style tone might be viewed as inferior when so compared, and not fetch a premium price. Also some will want practice sessions on a smaller piano to translate well to soloing with orchestra on a 9’ piano.

Ironically, digital pianos can by their nature bridge this gap, but the focus on what collection of pianos to sample and include is not always well thought out from the point of view of range of artistic expression.


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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
David-G #2975002 05/04/20 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by David-G
Well people are of course different. Which is a good thing. Speaking for myself personally, I think a bell-like tone for the high treble is most attractive. But for me, a bell-like tone implies warmth. My Blüthner is quite bell-like; and indeed, in my 1804 Broadwood square, the notes towards the top of the keyboard sound just like beautiful warm little tinkly bells. But those Blüthners were not like that.

Clearly, there are bells and bells.
This post and many others on this thread show the difficulty in discussing a piano's tone. One person thinks bell-like means clear, another thinks it means warm, and I think it means good sustain. "Bell-like" is one of the most over used and vague terms to describe tone. The worst offender IMO is "deep" bass. How could a bass note be anything other than deep?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 05/04/20 07:58 PM.
Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2975044 05/04/20 11:03 PM
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I think if one spends a great deal of time studying what may almost be referred to as period instruments they may come closer to compairing a pianos from 1910 (an arbitrary date) to present times.This may need listening, performing to and other research as much as possible.
Most are like myself who compare Japanese pianos to European pianos and American pianos , perhaps from just ones we know and have played.
The piano tone of all pianos I think have become influenced by the modern Steinways and Yamaha
pianos. I really cannot say I am qualified to speak about "bell like tone" but I do have my own ideas about that.I may have seen pianos owned by Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin but have never heard them being played !
I find David-G extremely interesting,I would love to have heard those pianos.There are quite few who
own vintage pianos who are members.Johnstaf, Phillip in China, Sam, Seeker, and others own vintage European and American pianos, it would be nice to here what they have to say.
I also found what Sweelinck and dogsperson said interesting.
No I do not agree "bell like tone" is not like some modern Yamaha or the very different Kawai tones available today ,but is a more pure, tone found in many European pianos of today. Some of the more mellow of these can be be experienced as "cold" by some.

But how can one be really knowledgeable enough to compare all the modern American and European pianos and say if thier was a Golden Age and when that was.You have to start with one
piano brand at a time.

Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
pianoloverus #2975047 05/04/20 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by David-G
Well people are of course different. Which is a good thing. Speaking for myself personally, I think a bell-like tone for the high treble is most attractive. But for me, a bell-like tone implies warmth. My Blüthner is quite bell-like; and indeed, in my 1804 Broadwood square, the notes towards the top of the keyboard sound just like beautiful warm little tinkly bells. But those Blüthners were not like that.

Clearly, there are bells and bells.
This post and many others on this thread show the difficulty in discussing a piano's tone. One person thinks bell-like means clear, another thinks it means warm, and I think it means good sustain. "Bell-like" is one of the most over used and vague terms to describe tone. The worst offender IMO is "deep" bass. How could a bass note be anything other than deep?
I have heard rebuilt Steinways which give a very dull or shallow bass. Recognizing a deep powerful
bass is something which is almost primeval. This is one of the things I wonder about in restored
vintage pianos.Do they still end up with that and how about still having a brilliant sounding upper
treble ?

Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2975050 05/04/20 11:55 PM
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By the way when I speak of Japanese pianos having a more standardized tone It does not mean I do not admire them because I certainly do.They just fall outside of this idealistic appreciation of pianos tone which has almost dissappeared.
They also represent the "modern"appreciation .They are the instruments that have been more easily available to many people.They are very well made and are high quality instruments.
Yamaha has been making instruments for over 100 years. I wonder if we dare to stoop down into the Golden Age of Yamaha and Kawai pianos.That may just knock us off our ivory towers.

Last edited by Lady Bird; 05/04/20 11:58 PM. Reason: Doubled my post
Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2975070 05/05/20 02:44 AM
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The years 1910 or 1911 for US pianos may seem arbitrary but they are not. I suspect that the financial panic of 1907 and its aftermath led to a reduction in the manufacture and sale of pianos in the US. During that period, piano manufacturers in the US may have turned their attention to making improvements in the design and construction of their pianos to try to be as competitive as possible during the expected financial recovery.

I have owned four vintage US pianos— Chickering grands from the early 1920’s and early 1870’s, a Schultz upright from 1914, and my current Brinkerhoff upright from 1912, which is my favorite of the four. Not many original Brinkerhoff pianos were made, but I even prefer it I have also played (significant time, not audition in a store) many vintage US pianos. Some were just of average quality and not worth spending a lot of time discussing. But the good ones tend to have a different style of tone than modern pianos. The term bell-like tone is not my term, but how I hear proponents of modern pianos describe the modern tone that they prefer.

Vintage European pianos are uncommon in the US, at least where I have lived, so I’ve not played many. I think some modern European pianos have tonal qualities more like some vintage American pianos. That was true of some current model Grotrian pianos I auditioned. If I replace my current piano with a modern upright at some point, my current short list of pianos of interest are Grotrian and Sauter uprights, Mason & Hamlin Model 50, and Kawai K-800.


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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
David-G #2975103 05/05/20 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by Sweelinck
... but there is a vintage tone that is different from the modern tone. It is subjective which one prefers. I find the vintage tone more even and sonorous, but many pianists prefer the bell-like tone of a modern piano. ...

For me, this is the point. The difference between pianos of the "Golden Era" and modern instruments is not so much in terms of quality, but of tone.

This was clearly demonstrated to me a few years ago when I made a number of visits to the Blüthner showroom in London. I played a number of the instruments including the 7' 8" Model 2. They were beautiful pianos, but when I compared the tone to my own pre-Golden-Age Blüthner, the tone - particularly the treble tone - seemed brittle, glacial, cold. Whereas my own piano has a sparkly warmth to the treble.

In the showroom there were a number of "Golden Age" instruments which had had a full restoration. There is no doubt that on the whole I preferred these. I remember in particular a reception in the showroom after an evening recital. Mark Viner played No. 90763, a 6'2" Aliquot piano from about 1914. The tone was simply glorious. If I did not have a Blüthner already I would have coveted that piano much more than the modern ones.

At that time, in the showroom, there was a very special Model 1, which was used by Artur Pizarro for recitals and recordings. He clearly had similar feelings about the tone. Blüthner's chief concert technician Bruno Torrens had worked for years on this piano to develop a more "Golden Age" tone for Pizarro, and he had succeeded admirably. I was privileged to be able to play it; this piano was sheer delight.

The question I wonder is - do people really enjoy this brittle glacial tone? Why is it thought it thought to be attractive?
I think that vintage tone is just that- the result of good wood being allowed to mature under the proper conditions. You rebuild around that and you have a fine sounding instrument with excellent resonance. I think it is less about the design during the golden age and more of what happens when you age wood to full maturity. This is often why older instruments at least sound better and essence I believe of what the Yamaha SX series is trying to capture.

Last edited by Jethro; 05/05/20 06:40 AM.

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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
Lady Bird #2975106 05/05/20 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
I have heard rebuilt Steinways which give a very dull or shallow bass. Recognizing a deep powerful
bass is something which is almost primeval.
You are using your personal definition of "deep". To me, deep just means low sounding in pitch and hence all bass notes on any piano are deep. This again just shows how difficult it is to describe a piano's tone.

Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
Jethro #2975124 05/05/20 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Jethro
Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by Sweelinck
... but there is a vintage tone that is different from the modern tone. It is subjective which one prefers. I find the vintage tone more even and sonorous, but many pianists prefer the bell-like tone of a modern piano. ...

For me, this is the point. The difference between pianos of the "Golden Era" and modern instruments is not so much in terms of quality, but of tone.

This was clearly demonstrated to me a few years ago when I made a number of visits to the Blüthner showroom in London. I played a number of the instruments including the 7' 8" Model 2. They were beautiful pianos, but when I compared the tone to my own pre-Golden-Age Blüthner, the tone - particularly the treble tone - seemed brittle, glacial, cold. Whereas my own piano has a sparkly warmth to the treble.

In the showroom there were a number of "Golden Age" instruments which had had a full restoration. There is no doubt that on the whole I preferred these. I remember in particular a reception in the showroom after an evening recital. Mark Viner played No. 90763, a 6'2" Aliquot piano from about 1914. The tone was simply glorious. If I did not have a Blüthner already I would have coveted that piano much more than the modern ones.

At that time, in the showroom, there was a very special Model 1, which was used by Artur Pizarro for recitals and recordings. He clearly had similar feelings about the tone. Blüthner's chief concert technician Bruno Torrens had worked for years on this piano to develop a more "Golden Age" tone for Pizarro, and he had succeeded admirably. I was privileged to be able to play it; this piano was sheer delight.

The question I wonder is - do people really enjoy this brittle glacial tone? Why is it thought it thought to be attractive?
I think that vintage tone is just that- the result of good wood being allowed to mature under the proper conditions. You rebuild around that and you have a fine sounding instrument with excellent resonance. I think it is less about the design during the golden age and more of what happens when you age wood to full maturity. This is often why older instruments at least sound better and essence I believe of what the Yamaha SX series is trying to capture.

I haven’t been able to try a Yamaha SX series piano yet, so excuse my ignorance. I’ve read about the special processing that Yamaha uses on the rim of the SX series to “age” the wood to give it that special sound of a golden age piano. How exactly does that differ from what Bösendorfer does to the rim of their pianos that has the feeling that the rim responds to the pianist’s playing?


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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
j&j #2975130 05/05/20 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by j&j
Originally Posted by Jethro
Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by Sweelinck
... but there is a vintage tone that is different from the modern tone. It is subjective which one prefers. I find the vintage tone more even and sonorous, but many pianists prefer the bell-like tone of a modern piano. ...

For me, this is the point. The difference between pianos of the "Golden Era" and modern instruments is not so much in terms of quality, but of tone.

This was clearly demonstrated to me a few years ago when I made a number of visits to the Blüthner showroom in London. I played a number of the instruments including the 7' 8" Model 2. They were beautiful pianos, but when I compared the tone to my own pre-Golden-Age Blüthner, the tone - particularly the treble tone - seemed brittle, glacial, cold. Whereas my own piano has a sparkly warmth to the treble.

In the showroom there were a number of "Golden Age" instruments which had had a full restoration. There is no doubt that on the whole I preferred these. I remember in particular a reception in the showroom after an evening recital. Mark Viner played No. 90763, a 6'2" Aliquot piano from about 1914. The tone was simply glorious. If I did not have a Blüthner already I would have coveted that piano much more than the modern ones.

At that time, in the showroom, there was a very special Model 1, which was used by Artur Pizarro for recitals and recordings. He clearly had similar feelings about the tone. Blüthner's chief concert technician Bruno Torrens had worked for years on this piano to develop a more "Golden Age" tone for Pizarro, and he had succeeded admirably. I was privileged to be able to play it; this piano was sheer delight.

The question I wonder is - do people really enjoy this brittle glacial tone? Why is it thought it thought to be attractive?
I think that vintage tone is just that- the result of good wood being allowed to mature under the proper conditions. You rebuild around that and you have a fine sounding instrument with excellent resonance. I think it is less about the design during the golden age and more of what happens when you age wood to full maturity. This is often why older instruments at least sound better and essence I believe of what the Yamaha SX series is trying to capture.

I haven’t been able to try a Yamaha SX series piano yet, so excuse my ignorance. I’ve read about the special processing that Yamaha uses on the rim of the SX series to “age” the wood to give it that special sound of a golden age piano. How exactly does that differ from what Bösendorfer does to the rim of their pianos that has the feeling that the rim responds to the pianist’s playing?
Good question. I don't know.


Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2975199 05/05/20 10:51 AM
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Well consider the fact that most people couldn't even afford a piano until sub $500 graded hammer standard or equivalent became available!

The golden day is today as everyone can get a full size weighted keyboard for cheap to learn on.

Last edited by Bhav; 05/05/20 10:52 AM.

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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
pianoloverus #2975223 05/05/20 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
I have heard rebuilt Steinways which give a very dull or shallow bass. Recognizing a deep powerful
bass is something which is almost primeval.
You are using your personal definition of "deep". To me, deep just means low sounding in pitch and hence all bass notes on any piano are deep. This again just shows how difficult it is to describe a piano's tone.
I remember as a young child ,always going with my family an to an ancient church and experienced
the thunderous roar of the organ ,the pedal notes that seemed to make walls quiver.
Perhaps what I mean is a "richly deep bass."
I have played two modern day concert Steinway grands and the bass there was terrific. I also think a
"deep rich bass" is certainly a well tuned bass !
The older rebuilt Steinways, were lacking in a rich bass, and some areas were more like dull attack
in the bass.I guess that may have been the rebuilders fault. These came no where near to the Steinway pianos I played and practiced on at university. These were excellent instruments that
were taken care of.
So yes "deep bass" is a rich bass that is "well tuned" ,full of power, resonance ,and sustain.

Last edited by Lady Bird; 05/05/20 11:55 AM. Reason: Spelling
Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
Sweelinck #2975331 05/05/20 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
My theory is that the bell-like tone of a modern piano may be the design focus because it is probably superior for a soloist to cut through the accompaniment of an orchestra, so this is appropriate on a concert grand piano. Because these pianos become the standard against which all other pianos are measured, a parlor grand or upright with a vintage-style tone might be viewed as inferior when so compared, and not fetch a premium price. Also some will want practice sessions on a smaller piano to translate well to soloing with orchestra on a 9’ piano.

Ironically, digital pianos can by their nature bridge this gap, but the focus on what collection of pianos to sample and include is not always well thought out from the point of view of range of artistic expression.
Hmm, that's very insightful. Now that I have come to think about it, I certainly do want a modern piano to have a treble that projects through. Maybe "golden era" pianos were (either consciously or subconsciously) designed for more intimate settings. But how would practicing on a smaller piano translate better to when playing on a 9' piano? Would you want to practice on a similar instrument as what you perform on?

Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
pianoloverus #2975350 05/05/20 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
I have heard rebuilt Steinways which give a very dull or shallow bass. Recognizing a deep powerful
bass is something which is almost primeval.
You are using your personal definition of "deep". To me, deep just means low sounding in pitch and hence all bass notes on any piano are deep. This again just shows how difficult it is to describe a piano's tone.

It is true that there are not precisely defined words to describe aesthetic differences in tone and subjective differences in interest in them. This adds a layer of ambiguity to the discussion, but also relegates linguistic precision to the role of obfuscating that there are real differences in styles of tone across eras and brands of pianos.

I think there may well be more variance in quality of pianos bearing the Steinway label than any other brand.


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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2975365 05/05/20 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by iObsessed
Hmm, that's very insightful. Now that I have come to think about it, I certainly do want a modern piano to have a treble that projects through. Maybe "golden era" pianos were (either consciously or subconsciously) designed for more intimate settings.
Why do you want a piano with a treble that projects through (an orchestra)?If this is for your home I don't see why that would be a concern unless you plan on having an orchestra in your living room.

Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
pianoloverus #2975423 05/05/20 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Why do you want a piano with a treble that projects through (an orchestra)?If this is for your home I don't see why that would be a concern unless you plan on having an orchestra in your living room.
Maybe I should have said that I want a piano with a treble that sounds strong to me, the pianist. I've played on a lot of pianos (mostly Steinways) where I felt like I had to work extra hard to hear the treble.

Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2975445 05/05/20 07:43 PM
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I played a Yamaha s7x at NAMM and it was beautiful, not in the same league as C.Bechstein, Blüthner or their own Bösendorfer but a very fine and refined piano indeed. Did it sound like a new 1920s piano or rebuild? No. Was it better or worse? Well aesthetics are difficult to quantify in some ways. David-G loves his blüthner which I believe is largely original, and for his tastes and the room it’s in, it is probably perfect. David listens to a lot of pianos and piano music so I’ve no doubt he was looking for a certain tone and found it. I’d love to play his piano for myself, I’m certain it would handle even the liszt sonata beautifully. I think were we to put that piano in a music school though, it would be a rapid decline simply because of its age.

I love older pianos, they can have a really special and beautiful tone that has a lot to do with the aesthetic of the time they were built. Generally though in terms of mechanical reliability, consistency, longevity, and build quality the new pianos are better. Christian Blüthner told me at NAMM that in the 1970s and 1980s they’d see pianos coming in for repair that were built in the 1930s and 40s and due to the materials used and also the way people hear their homes they were advising customers to replace the soundboards. He went on to say that with the pianos built since the 1960s they’re not seeing that nearly as much. Now that isn’t to open a debate up about soundboard replacement etc etc, but it is saying that the manufacturing processes and materials used on modern instruments means they’re lasting longer.

Does that mean that new pianos are aesthetically better? Well, when I sit down at a piano and it does exactly what I want to do on it, nine times out of ten
It’s a new piano. That’s my experience and yes you can get a magical 1890s piano that helps you reach previously unknown artistic heights but tin my experience that’s the one time out of ten

Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
Joseph Fleetwood #2975459 05/05/20 08:38 PM
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Nice summary! I think a big part of the beauty of a newer fine acoustic grand is it’s potential. With maintenance and some TLC from a trained piano technician the piano will almost “bloom”. The piano will achieve its peak. With a golden age piano, what and how much must be done so that piano will sound as good as it did during its peak? Can it be restored to be better than when it was first built?

Last edited by j&j; 05/05/20 08:39 PM.

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Re: Pianos today vs those from "the golden era"
iObsessed #2975774 05/06/20 01:41 PM
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The 1930’s and 1940’s were a time of depression and then war. During WW2 piano manufacturers were building military supplies in their factories. This would not be the era of best vintage pianos.

Soundboard longevity depends heavily on climate.

How will a new Yamaha or Kawai upright sound in 100+ years? Time will tell. But if I were betting and would live that long, I’d bet that a Mason & Hamlin with tension resonator will outlast a Yamaha or Kawai or many others.


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