logo-HailunThe 5' 10" grand from Hailun tied with the Palatinos for second place. Chinese entrepreneur Chen Hailun, determined to make his mark on the piano world, has hired piano-design engineers from around the world to work with him. In this 5' 10" model, American engineer Frank Emerson, formerly with Baldwin and Mason & Hamlin, has produced a piano with a very clear sound throughout, and an especially rich and pleasing bass. The break from the bass to the tenor was notable for its smoothness, and I found it easy to bring out the inner voices of complex chords in a Brahms piece I played. The responsive action and wide dynamic range of this instrument will satisfy many discriminating players.


RitmullerMy hands-down favorites in this category were the redesigned Ritmüller grands made by Pearl River, available in three sizes: one small (5' 3") and two medium (5' 8", 6' 2"). Except for the fancier cabinet styles available in the Ritmüller line, most of the Ritmüller grands were pretty much the same as the Pearl River grands--until this year, when the line underwent a complete redesign overseen by Luther Thomma, a German piano designer who began his career at Bechstein. For the new models, Thomma created new rims, plates, and stringing scales. The rims all have rather wide, flat-nosed tails, a shape that allows the bass bridge to be placed farther from the rim. In addition, the tails of the bass strings, between the back bridge pins and the hitch pins, are longer. This arrangement permits the bass bridge to vibrate more freely, among other things giving the bass sound greater clarity. Although this phenomenon was amply demonstrated by all three pianos, it was especially noticeable on the 5' 3" model, which lacked the "muddy" bass often characteristic of small grands. The new Ritmüllers also have solid spruce soundboards and vertically laminated bridges, better-quality features that arguably enhance tonal color.

I liked the sound quality and sustain of all the Ritmüller models. The medium-tension stringing scale avoids the excessive high harmonics and inharmonicity characteristic of the higher-tension scales sometimes found in modern pianos, producing instead a clear, bell-like, uncomplicatedly "European" sound. And these models' light, responsive action makes it easy to attain a great dynamic range from very soft to very loud and full.

Hailun HG178 5' 10" $17,295
Heintzman 168 5' 6" 17,350
May Berlin M 162
M 187
5' 4"
6' 2"
Palatino PGD-59
5' 9"
6' 2"
Perzina DX-160
5' 3"
6' 1"
Ritmüller GH-160
5' 3"
5' 8"
6' 2"

[We also wanted to review the Brodmann grands, designed in Vienna and built in China of European components, but the company did not display at this year's trade show. We'll catch up with them later.--Ed.]  ¤

Mary Cushing Smith has been a Registered Piano Technician member of the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) since 1985. She has served as Assistant Editor and Editor of the Piano Technicians Journal and has taught at local, state, and national PTG seminars. She resides in Austin, Texas and can be reached at marypianosmith@yahoo.com.


FALL 2009 -- page W2

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