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I'm about to buy a 50 y old Erard, but nothing know about these pianos. Is a baby grand. It is recommendable?

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Erard were like the steinways of XIX century, but after world war two everything go down in Erard... Not a great piano, but it also depends on prices.


1942 Challen Baby Grand Piano

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Erard..<sigh>...

Erard were together with Pleyel, also in Paris, and with John Broadwood & Sons the most successfull pianos in the time 1820 to 1865.

In the mid of the 19th century european concert pianists - travelling to the U.S. - took with them preferably these french brands; Erard, or Pleyel..

After the Paris world exhibition 1867 the star of Erard and Pleyel began to sink compared with the "systéme americain", i.e. Steinway. The french companies stayed too long with the "cast iron condemnation" and with the concept of straigt stringing.

But every piano aficionado should bear in mind that the technical concepts of the very first Steinway grands was derived (..for not to say a copy..) from the Erard grands. The Steinway men themselves told it secretly: You can see it at the characteristical curvature of the wood besides the keyboard - the "vee" cut which is found in same manner at the Erard grands, the Steinweg grands and Grotrian grands in Brunswick - and at the "fancy" concert grands of Steinway until 1875.

This "vee cut" was a (hidden) reverence to the parisian masters who gave father Henry and sons Charles and Henry jr. the basic concept for their first grands. Erard grands used a very flexible concept to stretch the lenghts. Mr. Henry sr. recognized this - and took the basic idea, to make it better and better, speeding up fast.

Steady improvements, an ambition "to build the best piano possible" - the Steinway motto. Basic steps were the one-piece-cast frame, the overstrung bass and several inventions related to the mechanism, ending with the capstan screw and the fully covered pinblock at concert grands in 1875 - the birth of the modern concert piano. Maybe add the rim case from 1878 with the glued maple leaf strips. All these inventions made the quality gap between Erard, Pleyel on the one side, and Steinway on the other side deeper. The french stood still, adoring the "old" grands in use by Chopin et cetera, and the Steinway grands moved forward, fast.

So with every Steinway grand also today there is a minuscule DNA heritance of the former famous Erard grands. Even if nearly nobody knows this fact. If you see an old Pleyel or Erard, think of these facts and do a shy bending of your head,obey the reverencee, they were the grand-grand-grand-fathers of every modern grand. ;-)

At any time around the turn of the centuries the french piano makers overthought their condemnation against overstringing. But piano business in Europe was gone to the germans. Business in overseas (seen from Europe, I am european ;-)) was occupied by Steinway, Mason and Hamlin, Chas. Stieff, et cetera.

Erard and Pleyel never again gained back their old huge reputation. Business was slow, and at any time there were mergers and acquisitions, also with the Gaveau brand, all these now in the hands of Schimmel if I remember correctly.

If you go to soutehrn England, visit the Hurstwood farm. There you'll meet one of the two known pianos for which the personal use of Frederic Chopin is known. A Pleyel concert grand - not loud (the one and only disadvantage) but of such a rich offer of piano sound colours, which makes this super old grand from 1840 still one of the ever best pianos built.

At that time they were in heavy experimentations with the hammer layout, Mr. Henri Pape et cetera. Pinao hammers of that ancient time concisted of up to nine (!!!) layers of deer leather, lamb wool & felt, and rabbit fur. (BTW These inventions were condemned by the Steinway men.. for their prime aim: to build a LOUD grand whose sound is able to fill Carnegie Hall..) ;-) A suspicion is told that the relevant Steinway technicians all together had hearing problems (told in the book of Susan Goldenberg?).

The richness and colour palette of ancient Pleyel and Erard grands were lost a bit - hopefully not forever. But to dig out these gems-of-sound would be a lot of work and experimentation.

Please whenever you have the chance to hear an old Erard fortepiano or a Pleyel grand with "another" type of sound - check if it offers "sound colour"..


Pls excuse any bad english.

Centennial D Sept 1877

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Thanks for that very interesting information BerndAb!! How sad the color in piano is lost...


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Originally Posted by BerndAB
At that time they were in heavy experimentations with the hammer layout, Mr. Henri Pape et cetera. Pinao hammers of that ancient time concisted of up to nine (!!!) layers of deer leather, lamb wool & felt, and rabbit fur. (BTW These inventions were condemned by the Steinway men.. for their prime aim: to build a LOUD grand whose sound is able to fill Carnegie Hall..) ;-) A suspicion is told that the relevant Steinway technicians all together had hearing problems (told in the book of Susan Goldenberg?).

They may well have been. Factories were/are noisy places and people back then were even more blasé about hearing protection than they are now.

It is difficult for many factory voicers to tell just what the pianos they produce will sound like in the ultimate owner’s auditorium or home. It is common to see voicing rooms loaded with acoustical foam. Unfortunately the sound absorbing qualities of this foam is not linear across the audio spectrum; it is much more effective at absorbing sound energy at higher frequencies than at lower frequencies. Hence a piano that is voiced to sound reasonably bright in the voicing room is going to sound unnaturally bright—indeed, harsh and strident—when placed in a room with more “normal” acoustics.

I have observed factory voicers adding chemical hardeners to already very dense hammers (Renner Blue) to “bring the piano up” when I knew well that the pianos were already so bright and strident it was going to be difficult—later on in a showroom or home—to make the poor things sound even remotely musical. When I bring this up the standard answers are, “Oh, pianos have to be ‘bright’ for the ___(fill in the blank)___ market.” Or, “our dealers want them to sound bright.”

ddf


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Originally Posted by BerndAB
The richness and colour palette of ancient Pleyel and Erard grands were lost a bit - hopefully not forever. But to dig out these gems-of-sound would be a lot of work and experimentation.

Well, perhaps not all that much. We know how to produce these types of sounds; what is lacking is the will and the desire.

This is a question that has long puzzled me; why are no modern manufacturers even trying? We live in an increasingly diverse world. The piano market is not exactly thriving and yet no one seems to be interested in even trying to explore new (or old, for that) markets. “New” pianos are introduced that are, at best, rehashes of pianos just like those every other manufacturer is producing. They all look pretty much like every other piano of similar size. And their sound, while it may be a little more this or that, is also very similar.

It would not be all that difficult to produce a modern version of a flat-strung Erard. It might not sound exactly like its 150 year old predecessors but it could be pretty close. Close enough to capture the essence of the music that was composed on the originals. At least it would be if the developer could resist the temptation to give it enough power to fill Carnegie Hall and concentrate on how it would sound in a smaller, more intimate music room.

ddf

Last edited by Del; 10/06/12 01:48 PM.

Delwin D Fandrich
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Originally Posted by Del

It would not be all that difficult to produce a modern version of a flat-strung Erard.


Maybe not difficult but the cost of producing an Erard or Pleyel from 1840's is about x3 times more expensive than producing an steinway. (More expensive materials, more time to produce and less strong materials) Rabbit fur hammers were very weak (maybe they had a lifetime of 10-20 years) but the color is exquisite... The result is in my opinion x3 times better in quality of the instrument than an steinway but, the problem is the world we live in is not interested in that kind of instruments because its not a profitable option.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOAzPbdkFio&feature=g-all-u


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Originally Posted by Lluís
Originally Posted by Del
It would not be all that difficult to produce a modern version of a flat-strung Erard.

Maybe not difficult but the cost of producing an Erard or Pleyel from 1840's is about x3 times more expensive than producing an steinway. (More expensive materials, more time to produce and less strong materials) Rabbit fur hammers were very weak (maybe they had a lifetime of 10-20 years) but the color is exquisite... The result is in my opinion x3 times better in quality of the instrument than an steinway but, the problem is the world we live in is not interested in that kind of instruments because its not a profitable option.

That is why I said, “…a modern version.” Much of the cost of producing a copy, or replica, of an early Erard would not contribute directly to its tone or musical performance. Producing an exact—or even a nearly exact—copy would, indeed, be very costly. There is much, however, that can be simplified without detracting from the overall performance of the resulting instrument.

I realize that nothing less than a slavish copy down to the last detail will satisfy the purist and if the purist can afford to go that route, well and good; he or she should do just that. But that is not what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about a modern version of those pianos. A flat-strung 225 cm grand, for example, with a low-tensioned scale working with a very light soundboard assembly using a lightened version of a modern action (which is, after all, a derivative of the Erard/Hertz action) and very light, cold-pressed hammers. This piano would use a rim pressed using readily available woods and a string frame built up using steel components shaped by waterjet cutters. The whole thing could be done for a cost at least competitive with Steinway prices. Even in relatively limited production.

No, this would not exactly reproduce the sound of a 150-year old piano—for myself, I’m not sure I’d want to do that—but it would be a dramatic alternative to the heavy, often overpowering sound typical of a modern piano of similar size.

ddf

Last edited by Del; 10/06/12 01:51 PM.

Delwin D Fandrich
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Not to get OT, but I was surfing YT the other day and came
across this gem… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d5fc6eKWqA

I think we are very fortunate to have members like Del Fandrich (and others) to share their extensive knowledge and experience with us here on Piano World. Plus, we get to see what he looks like, along with Russell Kassman. smile

Rick


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Thanks for posting this. There are several "posters" that I make a point to read,
usually more than once, and Mr Fandrich is among them.

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Sometimes I think about - no, I dream of - a conversion...

..take an old seven footer (my idea also).. (..Yamaha C7..?.. <duck & cover..).. Any looong instrument, near to be dumped otherwise..

.., take into account that it is most probably an overstrung instrument (and will be this forever),

put in an extremely slim soundboard, thicknes much lower than 10 milimeter, maybe other materials like loudspeaker membranes or folios

maybe another bridge design which needs no downbearing and no zigzag.. with their irritations to convert vibrations.. => i.e. bridge agraffes

put in lighter wires, much (..) lighter hammers with some other layers (rabbit fur..?..) and install a very light action, downweights lower than 40 gr.

and/or a rebirth of the viennese action <again duck & cover>


Voila Messieurs, Dames, wouldn't this be a piano which might eventually please Mr. Frederic C from Poland in heaven?
;-)


I am with Mr Del Frandrich. Why did nobody experimentate in a completely other direction as this old and boring ideal of "we MUST fill Carnegie Hall.." and this boring "bright, brighter.." ??

...asks the owner of one of the ever-best built pianos (of the "wrong" type?) Steinway Centennial D Concert grand - bright and able to serve in Carnegie Hall..


Pls excuse any bad english.

Centennial D Sept 1877

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Del:

I've been dreaming about such an instrument since I returned home from studying in Paris, c.1970. My teacher had an Erard, straight-strung, from the '90s. Although kept completely closed, it made a fine and adequate forte for most of the repertoire. Of course, it was also possible to play pppp and with perfect control. Next to a modern S&S, you would need an ear trumpet to hear it but it certainly was a useful guide for a young (20-something) student as to the dynamic range known to those composers that would have used such an instrument (Ravel, for one).

I practised on a Pleyel that was built later, was about 190cm, and was more "normal" to a young American's ears. It had a sweet tone, not unlike a late 19th century Knabe. I also played many Gaveaus which rather reminded me of Baldwins.

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that something was lost when we started to crave (demand) all that power.

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY

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Once I heard some classical composer said that he stopped composing music for piano was because modern pianos lost all colors. Imposible to understand Chopin without color in a piano.


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There are some pianos with color on this page. Plus a couple without, including a Pleyel.


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Originally Posted by Rickster
Not to get OT, but I was surfing YT the other day and came
across this gem… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d5fc6eKWqA

I think we are very fortunate to have members like Del Fandrich (and others) to share their extensive knowledge and experience with us here on Piano World. Plus, we get to see what he looks like, along with Russell Kassman. smile

At least you get to see what we looked like 20+ years ago.

ddf


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Originally Posted by Lluís
Once I heard some classical composer said that he stopped composing music for piano was because modern pianos lost all colors.
And thousands of composers, including
almost all the greatest of the 20th century, who didn't stop composing for the piano.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 10/06/12 08:07 PM.
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The "illusion' of this unending need for loud pianos is laughable, in an age of modern miking technics.. it may have been neededed in the early 20th century..but certainly not today..and especially in a "home" setting..

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The concept of miking pianos in a great concert hall is laughable. Maybe a string quartet could be miked and then sound like the Boston Symphony.


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I think the Pleyel grand is at Finchley Park? I know there is one there because I was there last month, it has a tone which brought tears to my eyes.
Finchley is near Hurstwood Farm: I also went there on the same trip. At Hurstwood a Mr Dain and his assistant Mr Sapsford are fitting carbon fiber sound-boards to the Steingreaber Phonix piano - also the most wonderful tone and VOLUME!!
They have also nearly completed what will be a small grand where there is NO metal harp: just what resembles a (cabonfiber) harp, the same as one sees being played by hand plucking strings. The action is by WNG - aluminium supports to cabonfiber action parts.
For replacing felt I suggested they look to using the same material which is used for bullet proofed vests; I got what I took to be a knowing wink !
The strings are stainless steel, even the wrapping is ss.
The sound was great - even perched on their work bench.

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For the original poster: I agree with louis that Erards were only good when the company was run by the original team which is before WWII.. preferably before the great recession..

actually, the best pianos made by Erard IMO were before 1893 or so, because they started cutting corners and I believe they also changed soundboard wood.. nevertheless there are some nice cross-strung grands I have seen made before WWII as well as the traditional parallel ones (I have a parallel one in my living room)

The frame of these pianos was part of the sound, and as you can see it was quite complex in it's construction:
[img:left]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ddP971uXToI/S_p-PPr16dI/AAAAAAAAAJc/mQC3pRKgUoM/s400/erard+1872++sotto.bmp[/img]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


The other thing to worry about is the quality of felt.. on these kinds of pianos with low tension etc. the felt needs to be really good

but I agree with Del! why don't manufacturers build something different, more suitable for the home and closer to the pianos of the composers?

Conservatories would have to agree to an extent, though.. I know that here in Italy piano sales are dictated largely by what conservatory teachers tell their students to buy.. which is usually Yamaha or Kawai etc.. everything is standardized.

but I think that sooner or later a market will spring-up for such things.

Last edited by acortot; 10/10/12 07:12 PM.

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