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Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner

Posted By: joe80

Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/14/19 09:58 PM


About a year to 18 months ago, maybe actually 2 years ago now, there was a video posted of Benjamin Grosvenor on one of my threads. It was posted because in the video he was playing a Blüthner concert grand.

I had said that in the video the piano sounded like a Steinway and I was certain he was just using the filming location for the video clip, with the sound coming from a Steinway concert grand.

Someone who had posted on that thread said that to them, the piano in the video had the classic Blüthner tone, and disagreed with me. I can't remember if that person said it to me in a PM, email, or on the thread.

Anyway I now have the issue cleared up. The Blüthner piano belongs to Jane Craxton, the granddaughter of Tobias Matthay's pupil Harold Craxton. I was speaking to Jane today about something else and she happened to mention the Blüthner, how it's very tired and how Benjamin Grosvenor came to shoot a video clip on the piano to promote his new album at that time. Jane then went on to say specifically that the audio for the recording was recorded on a new Steinway D in a different studio, and that Benjamin just wanted to shoot the video there because it was such a nice room. Jane said that the Blüthner really isn't good enough for a concert pianist to make a professional solo recording on it now without it being extensively rebuilt, and there are no plans to have that work done to the piano at this present time.

Here is a video clip of Benjamin 'lip synching' on that Blüthner, with the Steinway playback.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6nC3M3Oslk
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/14/19 10:09 PM

If true, there is something more than mildly disreputable about the pretense. I suspect Steinway AND Bluthner would be displeased.
Posted By: AaronSF

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/14/19 11:01 PM

Grosvenor is one of my favorite young pianists, whatever he is playing.
Posted By: WhoDwaldi

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/14/19 11:35 PM

There's another one that we discussed some time ago, with what appears to be a Kawai KG-2 piano standing in for what the pianist normally uses for recordings. I do think that such finger synching primarily has to do with the room being desired as a shoot location for a vid.




Posted By: John305

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 01:27 AM

Although not as egregious as the infamous 80’s duo of Milli Vanilli, with their lip syncing all their songs.


Posted By: BDB

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 01:54 AM

And then there is this:

Posted By: wolfgangmeister

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 02:16 AM

Cool Alexis Weissenberg video playing Stravinsky! And then there is this... Glenn Gould re-recording the Bach Goldberg Variations in 1981 on a specially prepared Yamaha CFIII and having the fallboard removed so that: a) nobody could easily tell he wasn't playing a Steinway D and b) perhaps knowing him, it may have allowed him to have a more intimate experience during the recording session!

Posted By: BDB

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 02:41 AM

Actually. Gould is playing a CF, not a CFIII. I am not too familiar with the CF, but the CFIII was nowhere near as good as the CFIIIs, and this piano does not sound all that great. But the action is top-notch!

The Weissenberg performance is made on a custom piano-shaped object, and synchronized with a recording that he made earlier.
Posted By: joe80

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 06:56 AM

I thought Gould had the fall board removed because of the length of his fingers. I had no idea it was to appease Steinways. Is that in "Romance on Three Legs"? It's about 3 years since I read it.
Posted By: OE1FEU

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 07:52 AM

The Gould piano is a Yamaha CFIIIS from the late 70s and it's a gorgeous instrument. He used this one also for his late recordings of the Haydn sonatas and Brahms Ballades and Rhapsodies.

The Goldberg variations were written for a harpsichord with 2 keyboards. Lots of hand crossing in the piece and it can be awkward on a piano Removing the fall board makes some of those sections a lot easier to play, because it gives fingers more room to move further up the keys without obstructing the other hand.
Posted By: willpianist

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 08:48 AM

I think Benjamin Grosvenor is not a Steinway artist (which is odd), so it is okay for him to publicly play a Bluthner I suppose.
Posted By: joe80

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 09:24 AM

It's actually OK for a Steinway artist to play on any piano that isn't a Steinway, even in public. It's just not OK for them to promote the other piano. Sometimes they make exceptions if that artist is so well established and has legendary status. For instance, Vladimir Ashkenazy appeared on some Yamaha publicity about 10 or 15 years ago, Steinways didn't bother about it. He has openly recorded on a Fazioli and used Bösendorfers in public. He owned an Imperial which he later sold to a girls' school in England. Steinways aren't as strict over here as they seem to have been in the USA in the past.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 10:21 AM

As Gould wasn't performing in public anymore, and had switched to a Yamaha in the studio, why would he care what Steinway thought?
Posted By: joe80

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 01:27 PM

Originally Posted by johnstaf
As Gould wasn't performing in public anymore, and had switched to a Yamaha in the studio, why would he care what Steinway thought?


I don't think he did by then. As far as I'm aware he was quite open about going to Yamaha, or at least the Yamaha dealer in Toronto at that time.

Anyway the poor guy died shortly after. 4 decades too soon.
Posted By: BDB

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 03:20 PM

Originally Posted by OE1FEU
The Gould piano is a Yamaha CFIIIS from the late 70s and it's a gorgeous instrument. He used this one also for his late recordings of the Haydn sonatas and Brahms Ballades and Rhapsodies.


No. it is not. You can clearly see that it is a CF in the overhead shot. It is not even a CFIII. The CFIIIS came out in the early 1990s. I remember tuning the first one that we got, which still had packing material on it.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 08:37 PM

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=318894258800064

The above video about Prokofiev shows him playing one of his sonatas but the sound is from a recording by Richter.
Posted By: OE1FEU

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 09:10 PM

Originally Posted by BDB
Originally Posted by OE1FEU
The Gould piano is a Yamaha CFIIIS from the late 70s and it's a gorgeous instrument. He used this one also for his late recordings of the Haydn sonatas and Brahms Ballades and Rhapsodies.


No. it is not. You can clearly see that it is a CF in the overhead shot. It is not even a CFIII. The CFIIIS came out in the early 1990s. I remember tuning the first one that we got, which still had packing material on it.


Maybe you're remembering it wrong. I bought a CFIIIS in 1992 from Yamaha in Rellingen, where I selected it and it was a 10 year old rental instrument back then. I also heard Richter about 15 times on a Yamaha, first time in 1986, and I went backstage after many of those recitals and looked at the piano, which was a CFIIIS.

If Yamaha is wrong on the CFIIIS, you should tell them. There is a contact form as one of the links below the article.

https://usa.yamaha.com/news_events/...iano-celebrates-40th-anniversary_us.html
Posted By: BDB

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 10:02 PM

There is no release date for the CFIIIs in that article.
Posted By: OE1FEU

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 10:36 PM

Originally Posted by BDB
There is no release date for the CFIIIs in that article.


There is also nothing but anecdotal evidence in your article.

But to make it fair, I'll visit the place where the piano I bought still resides (it's a municipal concert hall) and make sure I got the model right and take down the serial number. Won't be tomorrow, though, it's some hundreds of kilometers away from where I live now and not a place I would regularly visit.
Posted By: PianoWorksATL

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/15/19 10:41 PM

It's fairly unusual, but Yamaha's line of concert grands do not line up in time, they overlap for long periods. I believe BDB is correct that the first CFIII-S is early 1990's, but CF production overlapped the CFIII production for many years, and the CFIII production overlapped the CFIII-S production for many years. I don't know how much overlap the CFX had with the CFIII-S, but I don't think production ended with the introduction of the CFX.

The Yamaha article is a bit confusing about the lineage of the related models. I think that press release is now 12 years old, celebrating the CF through CFIII-S (1967 - 2007). Between no mention of the CFX (not exactly new anymore) and the quote from a long closed dealer, I think you discovered old news OE1FEU. wink
Posted By: DiarmuidD

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/16/19 10:24 AM

This would seem to back up what BDB says:

https://europe.yamaha.com/en/products/musical_instruments/pianos/grand_pianos/cx_series/history.html
Posted By: Karl Watson

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/16/19 12:30 PM

Friends:

It's distressing to find oneself in agreement with BDB on any subject at all, be it the time of day or the weather. And now, here I am, agreeing with him TWICE in two years. This is undeniable proof of the decline of civilisation.
The extremely semipro tech is correct about the model of Gould's Yamaha concert grand. I once met the man who sold him that piano, in NYC. He insisted that there was absolutely NOTHING unusual about it, that it was a very unexceptional instrument. But, as BDB opines, I'm sure that the action underwent SERIOUS regulation after GG took delivery.

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY
Posted By: joe80

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/16/19 03:22 PM

It actually kind of makes sense that Gould would opt for an unexceptional instrument. His Steinway was by all accounts not that great, being 40 years old and battered by the time he bought it. His Chickering was absolutely terrible, if one listens to the recordings, and the Yamaha CF of that time was most probably not a patch on the CFIII or CFX of later years. Gould was looking for a particular quality that didn't necessarily equate to what the rest of us would regard as good tone.

...and it's OK to agree with BDB if he's telling the truth.
Posted By: OE1FEU

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/16/19 07:02 PM

OK, I'll add some more mystery to the whole Yamaha thing. I actually found the contract for buying my Yamaha concert grand and it not only had the model listed, but also the serial number. The model was a CFII (2) 275 with the serial number 3340100 which translates to a manufacturing date of 1981.

Funnily enough, I couldn't find any further information on the instrument with regards to differences between a CF and a CFIII. However, I found that obviously Glenn Gould's 'Goldberg' piano was a CFII as well, so at least with regard to my ears I was right, because my piano sounded just like Gould's.

I apologize for any misinformation I gave; I was convinced I had a CFIII(S) and I can only assume that difference between a CFII and a CFIII isn't that big. I still remember this piano very fondly and given different circumstances (I now have an old Steinway B), I would probably try to buy a similar instrument. The action was just stunningly precise and a pleasure to play.

As to Gould: I listened to the Goldbergs from 1981 last night and what you can hear is that some notes have a double hammerstrike, something that almost kills the fun in listening to his recordings of the Bach partitas and Inventions. Obviously he had the action regulated in a really weird way, which was obviously more important than the sound of the instrument itself. Isn't his concert teechnician still alive and can enlighten on that?
Posted By: BDB

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/16/19 08:45 PM

The biggest difference I have seen is between the CFIII and the CFIIIs, but I have only seen the transition between those and the CFX. The CFIII had a webbed plate, and the CFIIIs had round holes.

I think Yamaha would retire their concert instruments by refurbishing them and selling them to colleges. Last I looked, there was a CFIII at Holy Names and a CFIIIs at Mills.
Posted By: joe80

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/16/19 10:27 PM

It's true some Yamaha CFIII had a webbed plate, but some did have round holes on the plate too. There was a CFIII in the RCS in Glasgow that had round holes, and a CFIIIS that also had round holes.

I know that Yamaha have always used the concert grands as a kind of laboratory, and there will be certain years where no two are identical (well, even more so than usual), but it might not be immediately obvious by looking at the pianos.
Posted By: OE1FEU

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/17/19 12:09 AM

Originally Posted by joe80

I know that Yamaha have always used the concert grands as a kind of laboratory, and there will be certain years where no two are identical (well, even more so than usual), but it might not be immediately obvious by looking at the pianos.


That is incredibly fascinating.

Since I now know that I have obviously had such a laboratory intrument, I am really very intrigued to learn more about its provenience. I first played it in 1991 and was told that it has been a concert intrument in the Hamburg Conservatory of music. It was well played in and it has been refurbished with new hammerheads, but strings left original.

Could you give us some more backgrund on why the concert grands have been kind of a laboratory, how you've learned about this and how one can get some more details on what's actually been worked on with those experimental things?
Posted By: joe80

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/17/19 04:31 PM

First of all I can't give you specific details, but when Artur Pizarro was using Yamaha concert grands a lot (perhaps he still is?) he took me to Yamaha London, and Kumi who was the concert and artist manager there at that time (we're talking about 2008) showed me a concert grand with the CFIIIS designation, but much of it had what became the scale design of the CFX, it was one on the way to being the CFX. It wasn't obvious from the plate or the external appearance but it had different hammer heads, slightly different bridge set up, different soundboard set up, etc. It just sang more.

I can't tell you much more than that, but I was told there in the Yamaha showroom by Kumi that Yamaha operated like this, and that when Yamaha introduced the CFIIIS, it was the best they made at the time and so they made it available, but that they were even in 1992 planning and developing the next model. I can't tell you more than that because I don't know.

Really, all makers do this. A Steinway D from 2019 is not the same as a Steinway D from 1998, nor 1978, etc, but in Steinways case they don't advertise the changes in the same way, nor do they put out a different model designation. I know that the Hamburg Steinway action from 1970 is quite a bit different to the present one, because technicians have told me so, but what the differences are exactly, I have no idea. It's nothing to do with teflon, since Hamburg never went there.
Posted By: BDB

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor Blüthner - 05/17/19 04:40 PM

I have been posting measurements of keyboard widths, which show the variation in Steinways from 1920 to the 1950s.

Yamaha tends to signify changes with a stamped letter before the serial number when it does not signify a different plant. That was the case of the CFIII versus the CFIIIs, even though, as I said, the change was much greater than any other change that I have seen in Yamaha pianos.
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