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The Definitive Piano Buying Guide for
including Wilhelm Schimmel and Fridolin Schimmel
Pianos made by: Wilhelm Schimmel Pianofortefabrik GmbH, Braunschweig, Germany (Schimmel), and Kalisz, Poland (Wilhelm Schimmel); and Guangzhou Pearl River Piano Group Ltd., Guangzhou, China (Fridolin Schimmel)
Wilhelm Schimmel began making pianos in Leipzig in 1885, and his company enjoyed steady growth through the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The two World Wars and the Depression disrupted production several times, but the company has gradually rebuilt itself over the past 70 years while earning a strong reputation for quality. In 2016, the Chinese piano maker Pearl River purchased a majority interest in Schimmel, in which the Schimmel family remains shareholders. Today, Schimmel is managed by Hannes Schimmel-Vogel, the husband of Viola Schimmel. One of Europe’s most prolific piano makers, Schimmel makes about 2,500 verticals and 500 grands per year.
Among European piano manufacturers, Schimmel has been a pioneer in the use of computer-aided design and manufacturing. The company has used its Computer Assisted Piano Engineering (CAPE) software to research, design, and implement virtually every aspect of making a piano, from keyboard layout and action geometry to soundboard acoustics and scale design. According to Schimmel, the combination of CNC machinery and handcraftsmanship leads to better results than handwork alone. Schimmel also believes that precision is aided by controlling as much of the production process as possible. For that reason, Schimmel produces its own piano-cabinet components and its own keyboards, which it also supplies to other German piano makers.
Schimmel’s model line is organized into five categories: Konzert (K) and Classic (C), both made entirely in Germany; the Schimmel International series, made in Germany from parts sourced globally (this series is no longer exported to North America); Wilhelm Schimmel (formerly known as Vogel), made in Poland; and Fridolin Schimmel, made in China by Pearl River.
The company says that the purpose of the Konzert series is to expand the Schimmel line upward to a higher level of quality than it had previously attained, whereas the Classic series represents models that have been tested over time and are solid, traditional, high-quality instruments, but without all the latest refinements. The Konzert-series uprights — 48" model K122, 49" model K125, and 52" model K132 — are based on a more sophisticated philosophy of construction than the Classics, and incorporate triplex scaling and other advanced design features. Schimmel’s philosophy for these uprights was to design them to be as much like the grands as possible. The treble scales, in fact, are exactly the same as in the Konzert grands. All uprights have adjustable gliders (to adjust to unevenness in the floor) and come with a matching adjustable bench.
All Konzert grand models are scaled to use the model 280’s concert-grand action. The case sides are angled slightly to accommodate a larger soundboard, and all have tunable front and rear duplex or triplex scales for greater tonal color. Other advanced features include: improved soundboard and bridge materials, more time spent voicing the instruments in the factory, sharps of real ebony, and mineral white keytops to mimic the feel of ivory. The largest grands have reinforced keys for optimal energy transmission.
Schimmel grand pianos historically had a very bright, clear tone that was a bit thin, and lacking in color in the treble. The grands were redesigned, in part, to add color to the tone, and the result is definitely more interesting than before. Sustain is also very good. The pianos are being delivered to U.S. dealers voiced less bright than in the past, as this is what the American ear tends to prefer. As for the verticals, the smaller models tend to have very big bass for their size, with a tone that emphasizes the fundamental, giving the low end a warmer character. The 52" model K132, which features a grand-shaped soundboard, has a very big sound; listening to it, one might think one was in the presence of a medium-size grand.
In 2002, Schimmel acquired the PianoEurope factory in Kalisz, Poland, a piano-restoration and manufacturing facility. Schimmel at first used the Kalisz factory to manufacture its Vogel brand, a moderately priced line named for the company’s president. This line has now been replaced by the Wilhelm Schimmel brand, named for the company’s founder. Schimmel says that although the skill level of its Polish employees is high, the lower wages and other lower costs available in Poland result in a piano approximately 30% less costly than comparable Schimmel models. Wilhelm Schimmel grand pianos feature full Renner actions, with other parts mainly made by Schimmel, in Braunschweig or in Kalisz. The Wilhelm Schimmel pianos, though designed by Schimmel, don’t have all the refinements and advanced features of the latest Schimmel models. Nevertheless, they have received praise from many quarters for their high-quality workmanship and sound.
The May Berlin line, made for Schimmel in China, has been discontinued. The Fridolin Schimmel line is named for Wilhelm Schimmel’s younger brother, who emigrated to America in 1890, and in 1893 established his own piano-manufacturing business, in Faribault, Minnesota. Fridolin Schimmel instruments feature scales, actions, and cabinets designed by Schimmel in Germany, and are made to high quality standards by Pearl River in China.
Warranty: Schimmel, Wilhelm Schimmel, and Fridolin Schimmel — 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
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