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Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
#3052190 12/02/20 07:54 PM
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First post here. I've been conducting a search for a good deal on a used pre 1930 Steinway O or Mason and Hamlin AA and I stumbled across a beautiful 1913 Bechstein Model B at around the same price point that's had at least some refurbishment. The soundboard is being represented as fully intact without cracks. I hadn't been considering German brands but wonder if a Bechstein B could be a superior piano given the longer length (6 foot 7), and could even be in the same league as a Steinway A if they were in equally good condition? The second question I have is what folks think about buying a piano sight unseen if you have it evaluated by a technician in the area. Nationwide piano moving is very reasonably priced and you can have so many more choices by expanding your search area. The downside of course is you can't experience the subjective appeal prior to purchase

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052205 12/02/20 08:30 PM
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You have to find out what refurbishment was done and how well it was done. It could be anything from a little cleaning and replacing a few broken parts to work worth many thousands of dollars. Just because the soundboard has no cracks doesn't mean it's in good shape. The biggest problem is that even if you find a great tech to inspect it and he says it's in good condition it's very hard to know if you'll like the touch and tone without playing it yourself.

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
pianoloverus #3052212 12/02/20 08:59 PM
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I thought I could at least do a zoom video call and have the technician play while watching and listening via zoom. Certainly not the same as being there I know...

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052220 12/02/20 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Seacityguy
I thought I could at least do a zoom video call and have the technician play while watching and listening via zoom. Certainly not the same as being there I know...
Sounds like a very good idea. Some are more fussy about the touch than the tone but I'm more interested in the tone because I think one can adjust to the touch unless it's extremely heavy of extremely light. The tech could also do his inspection while on zoom and explain everything he sees/hears.

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052221 12/02/20 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Seacityguy
The second question I have is what folks think about buying a piano sight unseen if you have it evaluated by a technician in the area. Nationwide piano moving is very reasonably priced and you can have so many more choices by expanding your search area.

In the case of a largely original, over 100 year old piano, I absolutely, positively, would not buy sight-unseen...particularly if you're having it evaluated by a technician whose work you do not know personally.

There's a lot more to examine about a piano this old than what the soundboard looks like.


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Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052473 12/03/20 02:20 PM
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The soundboard cracks were not the problem with those early Bechsteins. It is the plate cracks that will get you.


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Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052479 12/03/20 02:57 PM
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Sally, do you know if welding plate cracks is a viable way to fix the plate?


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Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052481 12/03/20 03:09 PM
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I never take that chance. You only find out if it was successful after stringing the piano. I always put in new pin blocks and either replace or repair the board so it is pretty dicey to risk all that money and work to find out the weld did not hold.


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Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052709 12/04/20 01:42 AM
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In my music room I have one from 1929. It is my favourite of all my pianos.

Obviously bjust because mine is good doeasn't mean that another one is. I know there is another member on the forum who has one and he is pleased with his.

Some C Bechsteins of that vintage do have cracked plates If the plate on the one you are looking at hasn't cracked in 100 years I doubt if it is going to crack now!

When I bought mine I was in China. So I got a professional concert pianist to try a few pianos. When she had played the C Bechstein B she said that if I didn't buy it, she would.

A 2 metre piano is all you are ever going to need in a home.

If you do buy it, let me know and I will let you have details of the owners' club.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
S. Phillips #3052721 12/04/20 02:50 AM
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Thank you Sally, that's great information to have, glad I posted

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052723 12/04/20 03:00 AM
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Thanks Philip I will do that, but I'm a little concerned that if the plates were prone to cracking that the stress of a cross country move might be enough to crack it even if it's not cracked now.

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052799 12/04/20 10:31 AM
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A cross country move shouldn't do any harm. Plates that are prone to cracking tend do so for no apparent reason, and most will have cracked already.

The most common cracks can be fixed, but it's not usually necessary to do so given where they occur, as they (the most common ones) don't affect the tuning stability.

Pianos built after 1910 are less likely to have these cracks.

Like Philip, I have one of these. It's a fantastic piano if you get a good one.

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3052802 12/04/20 10:39 AM
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PS Sally Phillips is a leading piano technician. My "research" is just from reading various Internet forums.

Last edited by johnstaf; 12/04/20 10:40 AM.
Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3053126 12/05/20 03:35 AM
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Of course John is the member to whom I referred. I didn't like to mention him by names.

He has played mine BTW.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
PhilipInChina #3053887 12/07/20 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
Of course John is the member to whom I referred. I didn't like to mention him by names.

He has played mine BTW.

And it's such a wonderful piano.

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3054292 12/08/20 03:25 AM
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Thanks Philip and John I'll let you know if I make the purchase

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3054344 12/08/20 08:46 AM
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A 1913 Bechstein B is a piano of a completely different type of build and tonal aesthetic to a Steinway from the same period. Even if the piano is fully restored, even if it has a new soundboard modelled on the old one, even if it has a new action, the actual sound of the piano is very different. The way the piano responds, original or rebuilt, is entirely different to a Steinway, the way the pedal responds is different. It's so different that I wouldn't even bother saying it's of equal, better, or lesser quality than a Steinway from the same or later period, it's just not comparable, it's like asking if tea is better than coffee, or apples are better than oranges.

I love all good pianos, regardless of type. If it's a good instrument in good condition I can find something in it to inspire me, and I've enjoyed quite a few of these old Bechstein pianos from ones that have had full-spec super duper rebuilds to ones that are in original condition and have carefully travelled down the century largely in-tact, they can have exceptional clarity of tone, they can have a beautifully rich but clear tone. They don't have much raw power when compared to a Steinway, they weren't built for that, but they do have a lot of colour. You don't need a lot of raw power unless you're using the piano to play as a solo instrument with an orchestra, or using it in a very large venue, so for me power is normally not an issue. Most pianos, even small uprights, are adequately loud for practicing and domestic playing.

The cracks in the plate - I know Piano Restorations in the UK have repaired many with cold stitch welding, as have other rebuilders over in Europe with pretty good results. These small cracks in the plate that can be repaired are usually not that much of a problem anyway, they're usually stable enough that it doesn't matter unless the piano is being re-strung. Any large cracks that are almost through the plate and causing an actual break would normally render the piano as un-restorable. I've heard of by now two or three rare cases where a plate has split all the way through at a crack, but actually one of them was a Steinway D and the other was a Blüthner Model 10, and in each case I don't know what had happened to cause the splits but it looked like some kind of impact.

As well as having a technician examine the piano, get an inventory of the work that has been done. Some of those old Bechsteins have what's called a tied action and they aren't the most durable for practicing on by now since the wood at that pivot point can go brittle and break. You'll want to make sure that has been dealt with.

Also, try to find recordings of Bechsteins from that era. It's no substitute for actually playing the piano you're going to buy, but it will help give you an idea of whether or not you like the sound.

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3054669 12/09/20 04:51 AM
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Jo, you didn't make it to one of my parties did you? That is a good opportunity to play a C Bechstein B.
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2974835/piano-party-2021-bulgaria.html#Post2974835


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3054753 12/09/20 10:31 AM
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I haven't been to your parties, but I've played lots of Bechstein Bs from the early 20th Century, ranging from the completely clapped out and virtually unplayable, to the extremely sensitive and beautiful. I think sensitive is a good word for a Bechstein of that era. They have a unique sensitivity about them. Apparently Sviatoslav Richter's favourite piano in London was a 1910s/20s Bechstein B that belongs to Fou T'song.

Re: Any thoughts on Bechstein B?
Seacityguy #3055413 12/11/20 03:21 AM
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Also my first post! A bit late because of the registration process, and totally useless as I don’t know enough about the alternatives you are considering, but I couldn’t resist adding my voice to the “old Bechstein Bs are gorgeous” chorus - my 1910 beauty was delivered 10 days ago and I am besotted. It’s fabulous to hear of other such lucky people.

I look forward to hearing what you have decided.

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