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Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
#3024513 09/13/20 01:43 AM
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Any experiences and thoughts of build quality for a Bluthner built around 1950.
The factory was bombed 1943 but then rebuilt 1945 (?).

I haven't yet seen the piano yet but I ask myself if materials and workmanship was at a decent level so close after WW2?

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3024554 09/13/20 04:55 AM
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Be nice to see the piano


If the piano is the King of instruments then I am its loyal servant.

Currently on Barratt Classic Piano Course book 1

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Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3024563 09/13/20 05:19 AM
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As Blüthner is located in Leipzig, they suffered the same manufacturing issues as other East German products, but perhaps to a lesser degree. They're certainly not Trabants, but the availability of good parts was patchy. If the piano was to be exported to the West, it's possible that higher quality parts were used, as Blüthner were allowed to order a limited number of parts from West German suppliers such as Renner for their export pianos. These were often the more expensive models going to prestigious institutions. There were still plenty of poor quality Blüthners sold in the West during this time.

There are some great Blüthners from this period, so you really need a knowledgeable technician to check the piano out.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3024628 09/13/20 10:19 AM
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They can be good pianos but remember 1950 is 70 years ago. The piano is old. The build quality itself will be fine, this isn't quite the peak of the Iron Curtain period and the pianos from the early part of their communist period tended to be better than the pianos from say, 1970 onwards.

The thing is that some of them have these Flemming actions and keyboards which were really pretty dire, and I would recommend that it was replaced with a new action - your technician would be able to guide you on that.

On a 70 year old communist-era Blüthner you really want to check the soundboard. Sometimes the cases were not quite as high quality as the older ones or the new ones, and if the piano was assembled with wood that hadn't cured properly (as happened more often than anyone would care to admit with communist era pianos from all makers), there could have been some movement in the case that would show up as quite severe cracking in the finish on the case, but also the soundboard could have moved or flattened out a bit, and so that would probably require replacement or some major repairs. Don't worry, by now any movement in the case will have stopped. Any such movement could have cracked the plate as well.

With a piano that age, you're at least looking to replace the pin block, restring it, and put some new action parts: hammers, shanks, rollers, damper felts.

I'm giving you the worst-case scenario laundry list here, and for all I know the piano might be fine.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3024664 09/13/20 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Chouca
The factory was bombed 1943 but then rebuilt 1945 (?).

I haven't yet seen the piano yet but I ask myself if materials and workmanship was at a decent level so close after WW2?

I bow to Joseph Fleetwood's knowledge about this particular piano, but my understanding was that Blüthner didn't really get to "normal" production until the the later 1940's, like 1948 or '49. This is based on conversations with older and wiser rebuilders that I have spoken with in the past.

If anyone can confirm or deny, I would be tickled.

My 2 cents,


Rich Galassini
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Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3024713 09/13/20 03:15 PM
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Hey Rich!

I don't know that they ever had normal production through the 50s and 60s even, there was so much controlled by the regime at that time, that the fact they produced pianos at all was a miracle.

Honestly if you want my two cents, if I was going for a Blüthner (well, which I have done actually) then I'd go for an instrument made between 1890 and 1940, and have it comprehensively rebuilt, or else I'd buy a new one from c.2000 onwards. There are some good pianos from the 1950-1990 phase, and after 1990 the quality improves dramatically, but honestly you have to be so careful about instruments from that middle period.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3024880 09/14/20 06:24 AM
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Thank you Gentlemen for sharing your deep knowledge!

I understand that a Flemming action might be a red light. I will see the piano later this week so I'll have a better feeling next week.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3024883 09/14/20 06:47 AM
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Hello Chouca, welcome to PW!

You did not say what Blüthner model is that you are going to try. I am a fan of the Blüthner golden tone and recently, I tried a very nicely rebuild 167cm model (10?) from mid 50's. It was nearly perfect, except for the bass was really lacking density and volume, even with brand new strings, hammers, etc. Almost as if I was playing two different pianos. The tenor and upper octaves were totally blasting, infatuating, whereas bass region had no real equivalence in dynamics to the rest of the piano. Very disappointing...

Anyway, especially if this is over 190cm could be a very fine instrument, if comprehensively rebuild, as Mr. Fleetwood well pointed out.

Good luck on your search.


Fluxo

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Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3025125 09/14/20 05:41 PM
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It's a model 10, 166 cm from 1950 I'm told. Will be interesting to see what it's like.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3025459 09/15/20 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Chouca
It's a model 10, 166 cm from 1950 I'm told. Will be interesting to see what it's like.

Honestly you'd be better go go for a Style IV-A which is the same length, but a bit older, look for one from the mid-1930s. A piano from the 50s will need just as much work done to it as a piano from the 30s, but in this case the 30s model will give a better result.

If you want a really good instrument start looking at the Style V or Style VI from c.1910-1930, they're the 5'6 models and are a fine mid-sized grand. You'll get a better balanced bass on that model, and it will be altogether more satisfying. They come with either the Blüthner Patent Action or a standard action so if you're worried about one you can get the other.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3025491 09/16/20 01:35 AM
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My Bluthner is from 1932. The build quality is superb.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
PhilipInChina #3025675 09/16/20 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
My Bluthner is from 1932. The build quality is superb.

They were making some really special pianos at that time it's true!

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
PhilipInChina #3026502 09/18/20 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
My Bluthner is from 1932. The build quality is superb.

And it's a concert grand in my favorite Bluthner aesthetic of all time.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3026987 09/20/20 12:09 AM
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DiarmuidD, how do you come to know all that? The rosewood with the gold band is unusual.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3027399 09/21/20 08:20 AM
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Lady Bluthner was in OK condition, heavily out of tune in the one and a half top octaves ,hadn´t been tuned for about one and a half year.

No cracks in the soundboard, bridges etc, strings a bit corroded.

Tried to understand what action type it was but no labels in sight.

The famous Aliquot was muted...


If I´m lucky here are some photos ;o)



Bluthner 1950

#2

The Action

The (muted) Aliquot

/Martin

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3027405 09/21/20 08:38 AM
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If one section of the piano is significantly more out of tune than the rest, that’s a red flag.


Pianist, teacher, apprentice technician, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3027428 09/21/20 10:00 AM
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Ok going on the pictures:

That's a good model, it's still following the 1930s design there and is absolutely a good candidate for restoration. I don't know what the asking price of this piano is, and I don't know where you are located. In the Americas, Blüthners sell for a little bit more than they do in Europe because of their comparative scarceness. If this piano was to come up for sale in the UK, it would probably fetch up to £3000, and within the trade these pianos regularly sell for £1500 - £2500. At that price there's room to do work on the piano. Personally if I was spending £3000 on it, I'd have to really want it, and I'd have to really see the potential in it for either turning a profit (a game I'm not in) or using as my own instrument. Sometimes people ask exorbitant prices for these instruments, like £5000 and up when the piano actually requires a rebuild. Blüthners are highly regarded, they are in terms of build quality equal to Steinway although they have a different sound, but they do not fetch as much on the second hand market, so you have to consider what the piano is worth to you.

If you are a casual player rather than a professional or serious amateur who wants to practice for hours a day, the piano may just need a good regulation, hammers shaped, pins hammered into the pin block, and on you go. You might find, however, that it needs that kind of work every few months if there's more wrong so read on. Terminaldegree is right - when one section of the piano is very out of tune it can be a red flag - the fault could be in the piano or the tuner, and since we don't know that yet and we're talking about parting with money, I always err on the side of caution and blame the piano until I know otherwise.

I can't tell who made the action. It's likely that it's a Schwander, which is an English action. It was of the same quality as Renner at that time, but remember it's OLD. These old actions can actually be restored very well as long as the parts haven't gone brittle, or they can be replaced.

The action brackets look like they may have been replaced - maybe you should check that out. If they have been replaced, it's a GOOD sign because some of them at that time were weak and tended to split.

Regarding the strings being corroded, that's normal. The piano is 70 years old.

Regarding the top being much more out of tune than the rest of the piano, a couple of possibilities:

i. The piano just needs a good hard tuning, several times, to bring it to pitch and settle.

ii. The strings are old and just don't have a precise tuning in them anymore

iii. The pin block is not holding very well anymore.

With a piano like this you have a few options. Firstly I'd make sure that if you love the piano, you have money to get the work done, and that you're willing to shop around for a technician capable of doing the work and waiting for the piano to return. As far as restoring the piano is concerned it really depends what result you're wanting. If you're wanting a perfect Blüthner, then nothing less than a factory restoration will do, and that's a five figure sum. The work will be outstanding, of course, and the piano will be beautiful, but you have many more options in that price range.

There are other options with older instruments:

If the pin block is in generally good condition but the pins are loose, it's possible to use larger sized pins in the original pin block. It's cheaper than replacing the pin block. This is generally adequate if the piano is for a hobbyist rather than a professional. Blüthner pin blocks are legendary in the trade in the UK, in that they rarely split and are very good at holding tuning over a long period of time.

You can have the pin block replaced, this is more expensive, but it's not an uncommon repair. There are those who say if you replace the pin block, while you're in there you might as well go ahead and replace the soundboard, but that's not always necessary, and smaller grands are less prone to soundboard failure than large ones, but your technician can guide you.

Regarding the action, if the original parts are in good enough condition for you (i.e. you're not a professional and the piano won't be subjected to five hours per day of heavy use), you can go ahead and have it regulated, and have minor repairs done, have the hammers shaped and matched to the strings, and enjoy.

If you're looking for something more professional, you can talk to your technician about having the original parts replaced, or having the original parts restored. Sometimes one option is not cheaper than the other.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3027430 09/21/20 10:11 AM
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The aliquot strings are not muted, just their backscale. That is how they were made. The action was probably by Fleming.


Semipro Tech
Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
PhilipInChina #3027492 09/21/20 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
DiarmuidD, how do you come to know all that? The rosewood with the gold band is unusual.

Ah, I don't claim to know that much to be honest. I was certainly referring to the rosewood and the lovely slatted music desk.

Re: Bluthner Grand from the early fifties?
Chouca #3027497 09/21/20 12:33 PM
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Thanks a lot for your input and amazing knowledge!!! I´m no pro so it would be my piano at home for the daily playing and exercising...

The hammers have to be reworked recently as there were hardly any grooves in them.

So, if I sum it up the (known) red flag here is the upper portion being out of tune, the question is why.

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