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#2981076 05/19/20 09:55 AM
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It was mentioned in another thread that Bechstein pianos upgraded their pianos 20 years ago. This suggests of course that prior to the upgrades that the pianos had problems. What were those problems and what changes did Bechstein make to fix those problems?

There are several facets to an upgrade:

1)tooling
2)craftsmanship
3)design
4) materials

I've had some experience with Bechsteins, as my mentor loved them, but any information towards a better understanding of what makes their piano unique would be appreciated.

-chris


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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
It was mentioned in another thread that Bechstein pianos upgraded their pianos 20 years ago. This suggests of course that prior to the upgrades that the pianos had problems. What were those problems and what changes did Bechstein make to fix those problems?

There are several facets to an upgrade:

1)tooling
2)craftsmanship
3)design
4) materials

I've had some experience with Bechsteins, as my mentor loved them, but any information towards a better understanding of what makes their piano unique would be appreciated.

-chris

In what world does making upgrades necessarily imply that there were problems?

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Originally Posted by DanS
Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
It was mentioned in another thread that Bechstein pianos upgraded their pianos 20 years ago. This suggests of course that prior to the upgrades that the pianos had problems. What were those problems and what changes did Bechstein make to fix those problems?

There are several facets to an upgrade:

1)tooling
2)craftsmanship
3)design
4) materials

I've had some experience with Bechsteins, as my mentor loved them, but any information towards a better understanding of what makes their piano unique would be appreciated.

-chris

In what world does making upgrades necessarily imply that there were problems?

My thought precisely, DanS! Pianos are musical instruments, and are subject to musical preferences and tastes. Every piano can be improved or changed, but some people may not like the changes so will say the old one was better.


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The new Bechsteins have a completely redesigned plate with a capo bar (instead of agraffes, all the way up). Also, they make some of the action parts in-house now, where I believe they used exclusively Renner before. Most of the lengths of the prior model pianos from decades ago have been slightly revised and made longer. Since that 1980 piano you examined, they have redesigned acoustic aspects using computer aided design which I suspect wasn't done on the older generation instruments. Finally, they offer two different lines of instruments under the Bechstein name at two different price levels, with slightly different tonal goals, materials selection, designs, and finishes. Most of this stuff dates back to 15+ years ago.


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From their website:

Manufacturing secrets

The manufacturing processes of the C. Bechstein B 212 parlor grand piano include secrets gathered by the brand’s piano-makers since 1853, as well as the latest discoveries of the C. Bechstein R&D department. Perfect mastering of the tensions within the acoustic assembly imbues each instrument with its own distinctive personality.

The soundboard of a grand piano in the C. Bechstein A C. Bechstein Masterpieces have soundboards that reacts like a vibrating acoustic membrane and transforms the tones into long-lasting pleasures that unfold like blossoms. Moreover, the cast iron frame was redesigned to optimize both the sound duration and the acoustic energy.

The pin block’s nine layers of high-quality wood ensure extra-precise regulations of the tuning pins and long-lasting tuning.

At the German C. Bechstein manufacturing site, the high in-house production depth ensures the high quality of all piano parts, including the hammerheads. This is why the C. Bechstein B 212 parlor grand piano boasts such a professional, high-precision action assembly.

C. Bechstein B 212 parlor grand piano: a magic instrument with a wonderful, subtle touch and a noble, transparent and richly nuanced voice. Discover this masterpiece for yourself!


They also say each soundboard with its projection surface is adjusted to the instrument’s specific acoustic assembly, just like in violin-making. Does anyone have more in depth knowledge of the Bechstein soundboard? Compression, RC and S? Do they adjust the panel after its installed?

Did their testing show that a plate with a capo bar( and longer string scale?) has more sound duration and acoustic energy than the agraffe version did?

There's no Bechstein dealer near me so i am unable to play on one.

-chris


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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
There's no Bechstein dealer near me so i am unable to play on one.

I'd say that's too bad, but until you've actually got your hands on one of those completely re-designed models, we'll have to live with the fact that your experience with new, re-designed Bechsteins is nonexistent and we'll have to wait for an actual evaluation of those new ones until you've actually encountered one of them.

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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
There's no Bechstein dealer near me so i am unable to play on one.

I'd say that's too bad, but until you've actually got your hands on one of those completely re-designed models, we'll have to live with the fact that your experience with new, re-designed Bechsteins is nonexistent and we'll have to wait for an actual evaluation of those new ones until you've actually encountered one of them.

You might be waiting a long time, since they are just so popular here and all.

Last edited by Chernobieff Piano; 05/19/20 07:35 PM.

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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Originally Posted by OE1FEU
Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
There's no Bechstein dealer near me so i am unable to play on one.

I'd say that's too bad, but until you've actually got your hands on one of those completely re-designed models, we'll have to live with the fact that your experience with new, re-designed Bechsteins is nonexistent and we'll have to wait for an actual evaluation of those new ones until you've actually encountered one of them.

You might be waiting a long time, since they are just so popular here and all.
What a snarky comment. It doesn't seem like you were really too interested in discussing Bechstein's design features. Your motivations for this thread seem to be something else entirely.

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I posed good questions, so far only Terminaldegree offered a decent contribution.

-chris


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The thing I have notice from looking at photos of the newer Bechsteins is that the grands no longer seem to have corners. But I have not tried any.

I have tuned several old ones over the years. They have a distinctive sound. I remember that in 2004 I tuned a 1990, but old design C a few days after tuning the 100 year old plus E concert grand that I tune more regularly, and thinking that they both had the same quality of sound.


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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Do they adjust the panel after its installed?

Most high end manufacturer do so by adjusting the thickness of specific areas of the soundboard by hand with a draw blade. They spread sand on the soundboard and make it vibrate. Then they look at the allocation of the sand. By adjusting the thickness of the board they influence the resulting sand picture.


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I'm not a tech but what I've noticed is that the Bechsteins post c.2010 (and maybe before then) look and sound a lot more like Hamburg Steinways than the older Bechsteins. The Bechstein from the 1980s and 90s is still based on the early 20th Century Bechstein designs. The late ones have a really thick continuous rim, they've changed the length of the B to the same length as the Steinway B, and they've incorporated the sound bell underneath.

They don't sound exactly the same as a Hamburg Steinway, they are of course very fine pianos, but they're kind of similar enough not to be all that different. I'm talking about the Concert series and not the Academy series. The Academy series are also very different to the Concert series. The differences were explained to me at NAMM but by now I can't remember the details all that well, except the rims and bridges are very different.

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FWIW - I find Joseph Fleetwood's comments spot-on, and I agree with his observations. I've played several Bechstein grands, including a concert grand in recital, from the re-designed era, and, indeed, they are more akin to the Hamburg Steinway sound than older ones.

I believe this change in sound was a response to a demand for more brilliant pianos that projected better in larger venues than the older designs. The concert grand I played had all the usual Bechstein virtues - impeccable attention to detail, no compromises build quality, a wonderfully responsive action.

Sidebar: during the time I worked in the computer business, I was sent to Vienna (Austria, not Virginia). While I was there I could NOT resist stopping at Bosendorfer. The instruments were wonderful. When I asked about pricing, the sales person had the most interesting response which I paraphrase here: "Well, we build the pianos the way we always do, with the same quality materials, the same attention to detail in the workmanship, and when we're done we tally up the costs and add our usual and customary mark-up, and that's the price we charge". I mention this, because of my comment about "impeccable attention to detail, no compromises build quality...wonderfully responsive action" for the Bechstein concert grand. This is true of true "Tier 1" pianos to use a Fineism I think, and I also believe that the C. Bechstein pianos (like Bosendorfer's equivalent models) fit into that tier nicely.

As to the OP's starter question about "upgrades", I would respectfully suggest this is the wrong question. IMO what Bechstein has done is not to "upgrade" their pianos. Rather, they have CHANGED them to meet a demand for a different tonal aesthetic than their earlier instruments. I think a better question would be: "how has Bechstein evolved their designs in response to the demands for more brilliant pianos played in larger spaces"?

I can also say that had I not been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study and perform for several multi-week periods in Germany, I would not have the same understanding of the tonal projection thing that I do having had that experience. Without exception, the halls in which I played (seating from about 100 to 500 people) were all far more reverberant than similar sized halls in which I played in the USA. There's a lot more exposed wood and stone, less upholstery and padding on the seats, carpeting, etc, in those small European halls, at least in Germany, and one doesn't need the projecting power of a Steinway type sound to fill them.

Grist for the mill. Even when we disagree on things, it is refreshing to me to be able to chat with people who are as passionate as I am about pianos and making music with them. Good Day to all.


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What you say about the concert halls is true! A common complaint levelled at European pianos in American halls, and for that matter some 90s built soft furnishing halls in Europe (I'm thinking of Glasgow, the RFH is another that springs to mind) is that they're too quiet. Honestly the Hamburg Steinway is regarded as a projecting piano in Europe and despite the differences with the American piano it's still built for projection.

In general pianists don't choose New York Steinways in Europe for concert hire - and yes, they are available because each Steinway Hall/Haus in Europe generally has at least one - because the NY models are regarded as too brash for European Halls.

Yes you can voice pianos (well this is the technician's forum, I hardly need to say it), but you can't voice away from the inherent design, right?

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Joseph Fleetwood, which hall in Glasgow are you thinking of? The Royal Concert Hall would strike me as needing the 'projecting' piano, as I always feel that music, even orchestral, seems to get a bit 'lost' in there. City Halls Glasgow is a different matter, being something more skin to Wigmore Hall.

This is a very interesting thread and I am enjoying the comments. Concert pianist Stephen Hough has a nice essay about the dominance that Steinway gained over Bechstein in the last century here: Stephen Hough Bechstein essay

Recent Bosendorfer models also seem to be striking out in new directions, perhaps as a result of ownership by Yamaha.

I would love to hear a Steingraeber live in recital or concert.

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I was talking about Royal Concert Hall, because it's so soft inside there. Everything gets lost in there, it's like talking into a curtain. The Strathclyde room is even worse of course. It was of its time, of course. Built more like a hotel than a hall.

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Thanks for the contribution folks, very informative I must say.

I had no idea that any other company incorporated the Steinway Bell for one. Also had no idea about the different types of Halls. So it make sense that its not completely fair to judge a European piano by American hall standards.

-chris


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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Also had no idea about the different types of Halls. So it make sense that its not completely fair to judge a European piano by American hall standards.

I've obviously wrongly assumed that talking about concert grands is conceptually picked up by people who have some experience in concert halls that aren't within driving distance of one's home.

From my very limited experience with American concert halls, I am pretty confident that a modern Bechstein concert grand can easily fulfill an audience's expectation of presenting them with a gorgeous piano tone. I'd be surprised if the audience at Avery Fisher Hall. Carnegie Hall, Chicago Orchestra Hall, LA Hollywood Bowl, Detroit Symphony Hall and others would have perceived a modern Bechstein concert grand as a weak an less projecting instrument.

But that's just my personal impression, dating way back from the time before I started working for Bechstein and was still active as an artist manager.

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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
Also had no idea about the different types of Halls. So it make sense that its not completely fair to judge a European piano by American hall standards.
=====SNIP=====================
From my very limited experience with American concert halls, I am pretty confident that a modern Bechstein concert grand can easily fulfill an audience's expectation of presenting them with a gorgeous piano tone. I'd be surprised if the audience at Avery Fisher Hall. Carnegie Hall, Chicago Orchestra Hall, LA Hollywood Bowl, Detroit Symphony Hall and others would have perceived a modern Bechstein concert grand as a weak an less projecting instrument.

But that's just my personal impression, dating way back from the time before I started working for Bechstein and was still active as an artist manager.
OELFEU - We are in agreement.
I cannot speak for the OP, and officially leave the two of you to work that out, or not.

I completely agree with your comments on the projecting power of a modern Bechstein concert grand. I agree, because the Bechstein concert grand I played in 2003 was a new one, and although I played it in a smaller space, I would have felt comfortable playing it in a large American concert hall space, e.g., on the main stage at the Kennedy Center where I played an American Steinway D some years later.

Reiterating what I wrote earlier - I find the C. Bechstein piano to be a no compromises, top of the line, instrument. They are beautifully made, and the designs, at least as far as I understand things, have EVOLVED from earlier ones --- perhaps in an effort to make instruments that had a different tonal aesthetic (more brilliant) and a greater ability to project than previous generations. Some people prefer that sound; others do not. When I went to a Peter Feuchtwanger Master Class in Feuchtwangen, students played a modern Bechstein (not sure exactly which size, something like 7', bigger than a 208cm in any case). He preferred to demonstrate on an older, smaller piano from a local maker now out of business, and he pointed to the wonderful sustaining quality of the sound, and the "roundness" and "sweetness" of the tone. That smaller piano had... a smaller sound, different tonal aesthetic than the modern Bechstein.

Is the modern Bechstein "an upgrade"?
I say, again, this is the wrong question.
The older Bechstein pianos were superbly made and designed instruments.
As tastes changed, and more people wanted a more brilliant instrument, one that projected more, Bechstein decided to go that way - or so I believe. You work for Bechstein. Perhaps they have an official position relevant to this point?

I believe that this is a very different choice than Udo Steingraeber made. As he said, when I heard him lecture here in the USA, (paraphrasing) we have made a decision to build a piano that has a different TONAL aesthetic than the modern Steinway. We are not so enamored of homogeneity between the different registers. We base our designs more on the mid-19th Century tonal aesthetic than the later one championed by Steinway. I can attest, having played several Steingrabers, that the sound IS different from any other modern piano I have played. I like it, but it IS different. And even with Steingraber, I played two versions of a piano roughly 208cm in length - an older one recently rebuilt and a modern one, the modern one had a DIFFERENT character, somewhat more "forward" than the older one, but still within Steingraber's aesthetic. Was the new one "better"? I don't think so, just different, so again, I consider the new piano to be an evolution, rather than an upgrade.

And now, I retire from this battle with respect to you all.


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Originally Posted by Joseph Fleetwood
I was talking about Royal Concert Hall, because it's so soft inside there. Everything gets lost in there, it's like talking into a curtain. The Strathclyde room is even worse of course. It was of its time, of course. Built more like a hotel than a hall.

That's interesting. I have always felt that sound got 'lost' in the Royal Concert Hall. Felt it again some months ago when I went to a concert that included Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, the "Organ Symphony". The finale ought to have an impressive "splurge" about it, but I felt it was too remote and quiet.

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