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Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
#3052745 12/04/20 06:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Vikendios
So here is my controversial point : Steinways rule for two reasons : they are pimped-out to shine on brightness, volume and glamour; and they make up for the deficiencies of the huge concert halls built in the early twentieth century.

Indeed, this is controversial. Let's debate.


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Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052751 12/04/20 07:20 AM
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Well-executed strategy to dominate that market, including the ability to deliver. Perhaps unfortunate, perhaps not, but that is how it is.

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052762 12/04/20 07:47 AM
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+1

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052767 12/04/20 08:08 AM
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I'd say none of the above to the reasons for Steinway's predominance in the concert hall mentioned in the OP.

Steinways concert grands are not brighter or more glamorous(looking) than other makes. The concert hall is the 19th century were not deficient. In their early history Steinways may have been able to project better over an orchestra or fill a large concert hall vs. other pianos but that is a non issue today. Until WW2 Steinway was not as much of an overwhelming presence in concert halls as it is today. Some of the big European factories like Bechstein were destroyed in WW2 and by the time they rebuilt Steinway had seized a much larger share of the concert market. Steinway is also one of the few makers to have concert grands available for pianists to choose from in many locations around the world and a major concert artist program.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 12/04/20 08:09 AM.
Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052771 12/04/20 08:37 AM
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I'm a Steinway fan and think they actually sound better.


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Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052819 12/04/20 11:29 AM
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I think the Steinway monopoly in concert halls is because of many things. Firstly they do make good pianos, so I'm not bashing the quality.

Before WW2 there were many different makes used on concert stages, and there were many different types of pianos being used. For example even in the 1920s there were straight-strung under-damped concert grands being made in the UK and France, which we tend to forget about because we tend to think that the over-strung scale that came in during the 1860s/70s superseded the straight strung scale but there was debate about it for 50 years.

Anyway that aside, there were also excellent over-strung pianos made in England with notable examples from Chappell and Challen finding their way on to concert stages. Excellent within the aesthetic of the time, of course. These pianos don't have the tone that we expect from a concert grand today.

The economic depression and bombings of WW2 destroyed a lot of factories and closed a lot of makers down, or changed their focus from concert grands to domestic instruments. When the Iron Curtain fell, Blüthner and a lot of other excellent makers found themselves behind it, and so their instruments weren't really readily available in the West except for some examples and the quality dipped.

C. Bechstein found WW2 hugely problematic for several reasons and it took them quite a long time to rebuild their reputation and build instruments that were taken seriously. Bösendorfer didn't make enough instruments to be really competitive outside of certain cities - there was always a presence in London, and of course Vienna always has Bösendorfer instruments on stage. Yamaha and Kawai hadn't yet entered the arena with concert grands by WW2 and their reputation as concert grand makers wasn't really built until the 1970s.

Steinway had two factories, which helped them enormously, and they ploughed a lot of money into rebuilding Hamburg, and of course the American marketing campaign was genius. Steinway managed to get pianos into every major hall, and convince almost every major artist that their pianos were the best. By the time the 1960s recording boom happened, almost every piano heard on record in the classical recording industry was a Steinway, and that conditions the public, and artists, and agents, to think that a piano should sound like a Steinway, and those that don't sound like a Steinway are somehow less.

With making all of these concert grands, Steinway obviously learned a thing or two about how to make a convincing instrument that would work well in a large venue, and so for a time they really did make some of the most effective concert grands available when other makers were perhaps more suited to more intimate venues - but mainly I think that is a function of expectation and goes back to what I said about the public expecting a Steinway. Even today, it's difficult to convince pianists that other pianos are good pianos even if they're not a Steinway, although in the last 15 years there really has been a shift towards an openness to other makers' instruments.

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Joseph Fleetwood #3052821 12/04/20 11:35 AM
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IMO, this is a very accurate and truthful explanation. +1


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Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052853 12/04/20 02:05 PM
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This is an interesting discussion. Joseph, I like your full but concise discussion!

Concert Pianist Stephen Hough has a good blog essay about the rise of Steinway as other brands, notably Bechstein, were eclipsed, here: http://www.stephenhough.com/writings/selective/berceuse-bechstein.php

Perhaps one could compare Steinway's marketing genius post second world war, to that of Carl Bechstein fifty years before, at least in the UK and Europe, if not in the USA. Bechstein is by some way the single commonest pre 1914 piano brand I encounter.

Dr Alastair Laurence in his book Five London Piano Makers, discusses how English maker Danemann did not have great success with their powerful and beautiful concert grand piano. Not because it was inferior - it was superb - but because the company was not sufficiently 'savvy' about providing after-sales technical support to artists and venues. This was something Steinway got hugely right.

How interesting it might have been to hear Horowitz playing a Steingraeber or Bosendorfer!

Last edited by David Boyce; 12/04/20 02:09 PM.
Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052872 12/04/20 02:48 PM
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Actually there's a video in which I think Horowitz is either playing a Yamaha, or a Steinway that is not his own, backstage during an interview on tour in somewhere like Amsterdam, and he sounds like Horowitz on any piano it seems.

I'm a bit sad that we don't have these British concert grands being made any more. They all provided a unique voice. British uprights were actually excellent in many cases, and it's wonderful to see Cavendish still flying the flag. Towards the end of the 20th Century, really from the 1980s onwards, British piano making suffered badly and they were finding it difficult to compete with, at that time, Samick, Yamaha, Young Chang, and Kawai. It didn't matter if Young Chang and Samick were under-par at that time, they were good enough at half the price. Then the British makers towards the end of the 90s started to produce some really cruddy pianos (as well as some beautiful ones don't get me wrong), and it all got a bit confusing - when a Knight became a Bentley or a Rogers....

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Joseph Fleetwood #3052882 12/04/20 03:16 PM
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In 1985 Horowitz had a Hamburg Steinway C in his hotel room in Milano where he played a lot of excerpts from stuff he never fully performed in public such as Rigoletto and Don Juan Fantasy by Liszt. And in Moscow in 1986 he played Scriabin's Bechstein.

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052883 12/04/20 03:19 PM
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Steinway rules with iron fist.

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Joseph Fleetwood #3052925 12/04/20 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Joseph Fleetwood
Actually there's a video in which I think Horowitz is either playing a Yamaha, or a Steinway that is not his own, backstage during an interview on tour in somewhere like Amsterdam, and he sounds like Horowitz on any piano it seems.

I'm a bit sad that we don't have these British concert grands being made any more. They all provided a unique voice. British uprights were actually excellent in many cases, and it's wonderful to see Cavendish still flying the flag. Towards the end of the 20th Century, really from the 1980s onwards, British piano making suffered badly and they were finding it difficult to compete with, at that time, Samick, Yamaha, Young Chang, and Kawai. It didn't matter if Young Chang and Samick were under-par at that time, they were good enough at half the price. Then the British makers towards the end of the 90s started to produce some really cruddy pianos (as well as some beautiful ones don't get me wrong), and it all got a bit confusing - when a Knight became a Bentley or a Rogers....


As far as I knew, the bit of Scriabin recorded during the Moscow visit - was it in his neice's home? - and the bit on the same visit, with Michael Pletnev at the Tchaikowsky museum, were the only times Horowitz was filmed playing anything other than a Steinway. The home one doesn't show what the old piano is, and the Tchaikowsky one is a Bechstein. The Amsterdam film shows his own Steinway, with Franz Mohr tuning it.

The Danemann concert grands were beautiful. There is one in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, which used to be in the old Govan Town Hall. It is indeed sad that these and other fine British makes are no longer produced. The Cavendish pianos may be assembled in a somewhat artisanal manner, but they are largely Chinese, as far as I can make out.

I tried to find out when grand pianos stopped being made in Britain, for the Piano Questions page of my website. It seems that as late as 1987, Welmar were still making a 6 foot grand, but it looks like grand piano production in the UK had ceased by the end of the 1980s

Last edited by David Boyce; 12/04/20 04:50 PM.
Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3052960 12/04/20 05:54 PM
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Joseph Fleetwood's explanation is on point. Steinway's marketing plan in the beginning was key to establish their name. Building and maintaining their concert and artists department worldwide has been one of the key factors in my opinion. The fact that their are Steinway concert grands available in just about every major city around the world is critical. Very few pianists can afford to travel with their own instruments. Many of them practice regularly on Steinway pianos on a regular basis. Why? Because they know that more often then not, a Steinway D will be available any where they perform.

Quite often, pianos from other makers are not available. I recently was involved in an event. The organizers tried to find a Yamaha CFX or C7 in a major city. No Yamaha or Kawai dealers in the entire region (5 major US cities) had concert instruments for rental. The only option was a Steinway D. I was perfectly happy with that choice and enjoyed the piano. The other pianists involved were disappointed in the beginning but found it to be a lovely piano. I've heard similar stories from others in other regions around the country.

I wouldn't say that they rule with an iron fist as piano411 suggests. Maybe the issue is that other makers haven't made the investment that Steinway has in the C&A program.

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
dhull100 #3052995 12/04/20 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by dhull100
Well-executed strategy to dominate that market, including the ability to deliver. Perhaps unfortunate, perhaps not, but that is how it is.
I agree, they executed an excellent marketing strategy post WW II onwards. Of course they also made fine pianos, but the marketing was well executed.

Not only did they develop a good stable of excellent Steinway artists, but they could deliver pianos to those artists in out-of-the-way places. They also had a significant presence in the cultural epicenter of the world at the time, and it wasn't just any old presence in Manhattan. For those who remember, they had the hands-down best piano store ever on 57th street, with the special basement for performing artists. It wasn't so much a store as it was an experience and a destination. Strategically located a block away from Carnegie Hall on 56th, 3 blocks from Lincoln Center and a quick walk down to Tin Pan Alley and Times Square / Broadway. Even Studio 54 was only 2 blocks away. So they weren't just selling pianos, they were deeply embedded in the culture. To top it off, many artists (piano and otherwise) also lived walking distance to that neighborhood.n NYC (Horowitz, Bernstein, Gould and hundreds more).


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Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Groove On #3053000 12/04/20 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Groove On
Originally Posted by dhull100
Well-executed strategy to dominate that market, including the ability to deliver. Perhaps unfortunate, perhaps not, but that is how it is.
I agree, they executed an excellent marketing strategy post WW II onwards. Of course they also made fine pianos, but the marketing was well executed.

Not only did they develop a good stable of excellent Steinway artists, but they could deliver pianos to those artists in out-of-the-way places. They also had a significant presence in the cultural epicenter of the world at the time, and it wasn't just any old presence in Manhattan. For those who remember, they had the hands-down best piano store ever on 57th street, with the special basement for performing artists. It wasn't so much a store as it was an experience and a destination. Strategically located a block away from Carnegie Hall on 56th, 3 blocks from Lincoln Center and a quick walk down to Tin Pan Alley and Times Square / Broadway. Even Studio 54 was only 2 blocks away. So they weren't just selling pianos, they were deeply embedded in the culture. To top it off, many artists (piano and otherwise) also lived walking distance to that neighborhood.n NYC (Horowitz, Bernstein, Gould and hundreds more).

As they say ... Location, Location, Location!

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
OE1FEU #3053004 12/04/20 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
In 1985 Horowitz had a Hamburg Steinway C in his hotel room in Milano where he played a lot of excerpts from stuff he never fully performed in public such as Rigoletto and Don Juan Fantasy by Liszt. And in Moscow in 1986 he played Scriabin's Bechstein.

THAT'S what I've seen yes.

David, I didn't know there was a Danemann in the Mitchell Library. I knew there was a Steinway D but I think that belongs to the RSAMD.

As far as the Cavendish being mostly Chinese, I don't know. I don't want to make claims about its origin but I would like if someone from Cavendish came on to the forum and spoke about it the pianos. I'm interested in hearing that one with the solid oak cabinet and green frame.

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3053097 12/05/20 12:26 AM
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WWII may have given Steinway an advantage for a while, but I can think of two reasons why their long term success cannot be attributed to that.

The point is made pretty regularly here that concert instruments are changed out every ten years or so. If the premise is that only Steinways were available in the aftermath of WWII, then the concert venues have still had to replace them several times since then, and Steinway has had to convince them to keep using Steinways, which they seem to have managed to do, even though other instruments are available.

Additionally, Baldwin was not impacted by WWII the way most European manufacturers were, and still Steinway has been able to dominate in American concert venues too.


Steinway is perhaps the only truly global piano brand. They enjoy a hegemony in terms of mindshare. Most people in North America don't know a Bechstein or Blüthner any more than Europeans know Baldwin. Most people know that a Steinway is a piano.

I'm not saying that Steinways are better (or worse) than the other pianos, but by good planning, execution, and some luck, they've managed to dominate the market.


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Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3053145 12/05/20 05:32 AM
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Quote
I'm not saying that Steinways are better (or worse) than the other pianos, but by good planning, execution, and some luck, they've managed to dominate the market.

Indeed yes. As Carl Bechstein had done from the late 19th century to the First World War, all over Europe, and into Russia.

A piano we see even less of in the UK than Baldwin, is Mason & Hamlin.

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
Withindale #3053231 12/05/20 11:11 AM
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In the UK I've seen only one Baldwin and one Mason, both very old. I've seen one Chickering as well, completely clapped out. I could tell they were good pianos in their day but these examples would not be representative of the best these makers had to offer

Re: Do Steinways rule in concert halls due to volume and glamour
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I will say this about Steinways:

The good Steinways I've heard are excellent at projecting tone to the back of the hall, even in some of the biggest halls like the RAH and RFH in London. I haven't actually heard a Blüthner or a Yamaha or a Bechstein in the RAH in London. I know Lisitsa played a Bösendorfer for her Albert Hall recital, so I'd have been interested to hear that. I don't know why I didn't go to that concert except I was probably teaching at the time.

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