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#3083149 02/16/21 02:48 PM
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Hi all,

I thought I would share a project we are just completing for a family that sent their 19th C. Bechstein upright to us for restoration. The piano spent its entire life in a tropical region of India and has sustained some damage from insects who eat woolen fibers. This piano needed a new soundboard, pin block, bridges, strings, dampers, etc.

The action is unavailable, even on special order, so we did something we do not normally do. We rebuilt the original action with new rails. This included breaking glue joints, repinning, refelting, lots of cleaning, etc. Anyway, here are a few photos along the way:

[Linked Image]

Original condition of the action when we received it

[Linked Image]

The action upon completion

[Linked Image]

Another angle original condition photo

[Linked Image]

Almost the same angle upon completion

[Linked Image]

In the middle of work

[Linked Image]

New rail - before re-assembly


Here is a quick video from my phone as we are doing final adjustments along with several tunings. The cabinet still needs to be assembled: https://youtu.be/qkkd3KKKIn0

I know there will be a debate on whether we should have bothered to do the work to this piano at all. It is not a modern action or a totally modern piano, but this beautiful instrument speaks in a way that very few 21st C. pianos were designed to speak. I have had a wonderful time watching the restoration, tracing each step, and now being able to experience in a real way what a late 19th C. musician would have in a piano like this one.

I feel more strongly than ever (Having played this piano a bit now) that this instrument is an important part of piano history and deserved restoration. In a way it is a more direct window into the likely performance practices (or at least experiences) of that time period than even playing period music on a 21st C. piano.

Anyway, I am thrilled. I hope some of you are as well.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila Area
(215) 991-0834 direct
rich@cunninghampiano.com
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I am with you, that piano sounds nice.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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I’m thrilled you are saving just a little bit of historyβ€” and a beautiful sounding piano to save πŸ˜€ great job and three cheers!


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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That’s amazing, incredible job!!! 😍😍😍


Lisa

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Fantastic! It's always nice to see an old piano brought back to life. thumb
Thanks for sharing.

Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
I know there will be a debate on whether we should have bothered to do the work to this piano at all.

There should be no debate. The echo chamber response of "you can't sell it for what the work costs" is not even remotely applicable here. This is a family treasure, and has the best possible justification for a rebuild!

(btw, there's another family's old upright in your shop that I'm anxious to hear about...) wink


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Rich,

Did you look into using a WNG action? Just curious if that would have worked. I know that wouldn't have been traditional.


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Thanks for posting. Hadn't seen an action like that. Very interesting.

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Originally Posted by Bill McKaig,RPT
Did you look into using a WNG action? Just curious if that would have worked. I know that wouldn't have been traditional.

Hi Bill,

Frankly, with a full redesign, we could have used more modern parts, and WNG was a possible choice. There would have been some trouble points using modern parts, but it would have been possible. Since this is a client's piano, who wanted to remain faithful to what it was built to be, that made our choice easy.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila Area
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rich@cunninghampiano.com
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I quite understand that. I also know that's it's a lot of work to do what you had to do. Good job!


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Rich, you used to be a piano rebuilder, you are becoming a piano restorer. This is a bigger shift that you may yourself acknowledge.

Instead of being driven essentially by economic considerations, your work will be also driven by historical and artistic purposes. I applaud, and honestly believe it is the future for your profession, not for lofty arty reasons, but because you will also follow a new pattern of consumer demand.

The trade of rebuilding mid-aged Steinway's as a way to offering quality pianos to a budget-minded public at half the price of factory-fresh, is, in my opinion, doomed in the longer term; it will have trouble competing, one one hand with the new digital/hybrids that are on a crash course to perfection with each new generation (see the runaway success of NV5's and NV10's), and on the other hand with better and better brand-new products from low cost acoustic manufacturers.

I think it could go the way of re-building old marine or industrial/haulage big diesel engines, which used to be so prevalent but is no longer economical, and rendered obsolete by newer polution regulations, electrification, etc... I agree the comparison can sound far-fetched to many purists, but I do not mind a little courteous provocation, the spice of debate.

On the restoration side I see a brillant future as many people with more money and leisure, including to my great satisfaction from India, will want to preserve our worldwide music heritage, or simply their family heirlooms. Contrary to museum curators who are happy with dooming their wards to eternal silence, these private owners will want singing, living instruments. But they will rightfully insist on authentic rebuilds, not fitting any available carbon fiber parts as budget rebuilders could recommend on simple cost/benefits grounds.

I am currently commissioning restorations of a 1761 Kirkmann Harpsichord and, hopefully of a 1898 Pleyel grand. The professionals involved are wonderful people, and following up with them is a delight. Bravo.

Of course this does not preclude being also a successful piano seller and new piano designer/buider.


Steinway "A" (Hamburg, 2020). Roland LX 706 (2018). Viscount Sonus 45 hybrid organ with 165 real pipes by Pesce (2019). Franco-german 1780 style harpsichord by Marc Fontaine (2020). English-school harpsichord by Jacobus Kirkmann (authentic, 1761).
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Rich,
Of course I am intrigued !
As you say an important part of piano history and performance practice is right there. I can imagine quite a bit of research went into this project !
It is like looking through a window into musical 19th century world. Of course I too am wondering where you got those parts (apart from making some) to reconstruct this instrument. Are those Abel hammers?
Best wishes on a wonderful achievement !

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I have a 19th century C Bechstein upright. For someone who wants to keep a particular pieno they are worth preserving.


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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
Of course I too am wondering where you got those parts (apart from making some) to reconstruct this instrument. Are those Abel hammers?

Abel actually has a service to "refelt" original hammer cores, Lady Bird, and that is something that we considered. However, the hammers on the Bechstein were not unlike modern hammers, so we elected to replace them. You might have heard me thank "Ray" for the hammers in the video. They came from Ray Negron in Boiceville, NY. He owns and operates The Ronsen hammer company and he made this set of hammers specifically for this piano.


Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
I have a 19th century C Bechstein upright. For someone who wants to keep a particular piano they are worth preserving.

I totally agree!


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila Area
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rich@cunninghampiano.com
Learn more about the Matchless Cunningham
The Science Channel on our piano restoration
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
You might have heard me thank "Ray" for the hammers in the video. They came from Ray Negron in Boiceville, NY. He owns and operates The Ronsen hammer company and he made this set of hammers specifically for this piano.

Did I miss a video? I saw the one above that just has you playing, no talking.


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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
You might have heard me thank "Ray" for the hammers in the video. They came from Ray Negron in Boiceville, NY. He owns and operates The Ronsen hammer company and he made this set of hammers specifically for this piano.

Did I miss a video? I saw the one above that just has you playing, no talking.

Oops! Cancel that. I made another video where I spoke a bit, but I hated my playing on that one. Frankly, I don't like my playing on this one either, but such is life. wink


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila Area
(215) 991-0834 direct
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Learn more about the Matchless Cunningham
The Science Channel on our piano restoration
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Did I miss a video? I saw the one above that just has you playing, no talking.

Oops! Cancel that. I made another video where I spoke a bit, but I hated my playing on that one. Frankly, I don't like my playing on this one either, but such is life. wink

Ha ha! Man, I get it. Last Spring I had to create a mountain of course content on video. Fortunately, I had one course section that was "online" before the shut down, so I'd already figured out the mechanics of it, but I re-recorded a lot of stuff just because I didn't like the first pass(es...). And before I learned how to edit (cut, splice, etc) I'd just stop and start over, or re-record the whole thing. Anyway, at least by the time we "pivoted" to online for my other sections I'd already learned how to do it.


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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
You might have heard me thank "Ray" for the hammers in the video. They came from Ray Negron in Boiceville, NY. He owns and operates The Ronsen hammer company and he made this set of hammers specifically for this piano.

Did I miss a video? I saw the one above that just has you playing, no talking.
Yes I thought it was me just missing out on something again.
The hammers just reminded me of the hammers on the Sauter piano I had.( perhaps the dark inner core) although the shape of these look different , more oblong or perhaps that is because it is near the upper treble where the hammers are not as round.
Never mind just thinking πŸ€” or trying to remember aloud. Those insects in India really seemed to enjoy eating the original hammers of this piano!

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This is wonderful. Congrats to your team. What an amazing transformation. I can only imagine the amount of work that went into this project. It's stunning. It sounds lovely. The Ronsen hammers were an excellent choice. In my opinion, there is no piano that's not worth restoring if there is someone out there who is willing to put the time and money into the project. I hate to see any piano discarded. I think your playing is great. Will you have another video of the piano made -- maybe with Hugh playing?

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Ah, a Hugh concert on this piano is a wonderful suggestion 😊


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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I agree. Can't get enough of Hugh's playing and would love to hear him on this piano.

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