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I’ve been practicing on a 1951 Grotrian-Steinweg 6’1” grand inherited from an amateur singer . My previous acquaintance has been Baldwin. Yamaha, Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, and five days with a Bosendorfer 200 (6’7”). So I began to get acquainted with this f Grotrian when it was 64 years old with very little use.6
Impressions that struck my ears were a very sonorous almost tuba like bass that resonated on an incredibly reverberant soundboard . Also very distinctive was a type of unique sustain in the treble .
Technician number one tuned it twice then recommended new hammers — with a very not positive result— that unique treble sustain was lost . Technician number two voiced to improve the treble, But that unique quality I found in this instrument’s treble has never recovered.
So I’m curious what impressions of tonal qualities do pianists have who’ve played Grotrians? My impression of the bass color overall is very German, sustain in the original treble is very singing, almost too? bright.
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German pianos from 1951 are VERY different from pianos made by same makers today. My take is that virtually all German makers are making (far) better
pianos today, this not necessarily including their recently introduced cheaper lines. Independent from make, most pianos of that vintage may require extensive restoration, something that IMHO makes such choice to be carefully considered.
Norbert
One thing about Grotrian that I think is really cool, is that, in terms of provenance, they are the original Steinway! Heinrich Steinweg (aka Henry Steinway)’s first company is still producing pianos to this day.
Thank you very much for your observations Norbert about considering any further restoration of this 1951 Grotrian. My instincts were beginning to register a real challenge in finding a satisfying nhand productive working relationship with a technician in doing any rehab work on this era of Grotrian’s instrument output. But I am very very amazed at the monumental amount of sound from the soundboard of this particular piano !
I have a 2004 Grotrian 192. I like the balance between bass and treble with no abrupt break. The treble is where it really sparkles. I haven't played any other examples, so I can't comment on that.
Thank you, jarobi, for your inspiring description of a 2004 Grotrian. This instrument I’ve worked with from ‘51 seems to have more separate characters between bass and treble . The original hammers produced that sparkle in the trouble that you describe .
A PW member wrote an entire book about this topic.
Originally Posted by Sir Lurksalot
A PW member wrote an entire book about this topic.


I was thinking this post sounded a lot like the Grand Obsession book (loved that book), and it's a Grotrian too. Interesting.
About Norbert's comment -

The immediate Post-War Grotrians that I've played have all been poor, really nasty jobs, that looked and felt cheap. However, newer pianos, from the late 70s on, have been beautiful, rather cool, but very elegant pianos. I've liked these "newer" pianos very much. To be clear, I'm not sure of the year exactly when they started to be what I'd consider to be a fine piano.

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY
Dear Coda9,

My knowledge of the piano you are referring to is not as good as I would like.

I have spent time in Germany and the director of Grotrian-Steinweg at the time, Burkhardt Stein, gave me (and the head of our restoration center) free reign to wander the factory floor and speak with the craftsmen while they worked. That was a wonderful experience. We were careful not to get in their way, but my elementary German prevented me from speaking with several gentlemen that we really wished to speak with.

Enter the staff of[ url=https://www.musikhug.ch/]Muzik Hug in Zurich. [/url] A wonderful group of fine piano men who happened to be visiting at the same time. They helped translate and helped us have a dialogue with a few non English speakers there, which resulted in us visiting them in Zurich just a few days later.... but that is another story!

Anyway, the pianos were beautiful in the summer of 2014. I had not liked earlier versions I had played (from the 1970's) and I do not know what has changed in their manufacturing since then. After all, ownership has changed and Burkhardt is no longer there. (Please fill in those blanks PW friends).

Anyway, here is a video that I filmed less than a year after visiting Grotrian-Steinweg in Braunschweig:





I hope that helps a bit.

Yours,
An experience Burkhardt gave me as well!

Coda9: I have a 2005 Grotrian 192. I suspect it's quite different from the 1950s pianos. And I'm sure it's identical to jarobi's. Almost no bass break. The mid bass has a woodsy resonance I don't hear in other pianos. The treble is really powerful and has almost obscene sustain.
To add to Karl's comment, I'm not familiar with those pianos, but Germany's production capacity was decimated in WWII. In the large, it took 10 to 20 years for most industries to fully recover. Germany's recovery was nearly miraculous, but it didn't happen overnight.

As a kid, I lived in Germany in the 1970s, and it occurred to me recently that those days were closer to the end of WWII than they are to now. People back then talked about post-war Germany, and for me at the time it seemed so distant, but it actually was. Germany was really getting back on track at that point.
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
To add to Karl's comment, I'm not familiar with those pianos, but Germany's production capacity was decimated in WWII. In the large, it took 10 to 20 years for most industries to fully recover. Germany's recovery was nearly miraculous, but it didn't happen overnight.

As a kid, I lived in Germany in the 1970s, and it occurred to me recently that those days were closer to the end of WWII than they are to now. People back then talked about post-war Germany, and for me at the time it seemed so distant, but it actually was. Germany was really getting back on track at that point.


As a follower of the History Channel and as a child who was really interested “in the war my daddy and uncles fought in” (one was killed in action in the Pacific theater), I’ve read about the long recovery period after WWII, especially in Germany. Many factories were bombed to smitherines and towards the end of the war, grandfathers and young boys were drafted to fight Allied Forces coming in from all directions. No factories, no materials, and nearly no workforce. With help from the Marshal Plan Germany’s recovery was indeed nearly miraculous. I remember reading the winter of 1944 - 45 was bitterly cold and the Allied troops burned Bösendorfer’s stock of aged spruce for soundboards to keep warm. I’m sure many families burned their own pianos to stay warm. 70 + years later we don’t realize just how bad it was and how fortunate we are now.
On my first visit to Germany in the 60s, you could still occasionally see war damage in the back alleys of buildings ... piles of brick and stone that had slid off of buildings as walls partially collapsed. That kind of thing.

I suspect it's much easier to bring back a piano factory than it is to rebuilt a complex manufacturing firm (steel, automobiles) from the ground up. Those firms require lots of backward and forward links. The piano industry probably didn't recover quickly because there was precious little demand for new pianos when shortages of far more vital products dominated the economic landscape.
Originally Posted by j&j
I remember reading the winter of 1944 - 45 was bitterly cold and the Allied troops burned Bösendorfer’s stock of aged spruce for soundboards to keep warm. I’m sure many families burned their own pianos to stay warm. 70 + years later we don’t realize just how bad it was and how fortunate we are now.


Yes J&J. On my first trip to Vienna, in the historic factory that was still in the city, I stood on the spot where that was said to have occurred. By the way, much of the Bösendorfer piano is made my f high quality spruce, not just the soundboard, so there were many large pieces that would have burned very clean.


Originally Posted by Piano*Dad

I suspect it's much easier to bring back a piano factory than it is to rebuilt a complex manufacturing firm (steel, automobiles) from the ground up. Those firms require lots of backward and forward links. The piano industry probably didn't recover quickly because there was precious little demand for new pianos when shortages of far more vital products dominated the economic landscape.


True PD. Dry true. I do not mean to minimize the hardships of Post War Europe but remember the support that was offered in the Marshall Plan. What kind of advantage would a firm have if it had all the latest and newest machinery and designs in a brand new factory? (Once it actually got the factory built and workers - and training, of course)
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
On my first visit to Germany in the 60s, you could still occasionally see war damage in the back alleys of buildings ... piles of brick and stone that had slid off of buildings as walls partially collapsed. That kind of thing.

In the 1970s it was still common to see oddly shaped buildings in which, for example, perhaps part of the second floor had been damaged, and the missing portion was simply bricked off. Stuttgart, where I lived, was very modern by then, because most of it had been leveled during the war due to it's manufacturing capacity.

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
The piano industry probably didn't recover quickly because there was precious little demand for new pianos when shortages of far more vital products dominated the economic landscape.

This is probably the case. It'd be difficult to recover if there was little demand for the product.
My topic of a Grotrian piano built in 1951 has had amazing reflections about production at that time of history in Germany — and yes I had contemplated concern of quality production in 1951 Germany
So how does the soundboard in this post-war piano produce an overwhelming blow you out the door sustain ? I curse my lack of experience with piano maintenance because I should have requested the original hammers not be thrown out ! They produced that sparkle and obscene sustain” impression mentioned by other owners of newer Grotrians. they produced that “sparkle and obscene sustain”impression mentioned by other owners of newer Grotrians. So far I’m finding the biggest challenge in working on this instrument is to find a technician interested and hopefully familiar with this piano company .
My intention is to sell the instrument because I simply don’t feel that it’s tonal character is not the voice I feel comfortable to express my interpretations — The bass is too dark for me .
Fortunately the technician who worked on voicing recently is someone I could recommend highly to anyone wanting to purchase this instrument .
Interesting that Grotrian postwar maintened its old design of soundboard double bridge (see here for rear bridge http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2865002/grotrian-185-underside.html#Post2865002), culprit of its "obscene sustain"...
Changing old hammers, which were always lighter than the newers,is always an impredectible aventure...
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