Technicians Speak About the High-End Brands They Service

Technicians Speak About the High-End Brands They Service, Part 2

In order to give prospective buyers of high-end pianos a better sense of the individual personalities of these brands, we will occasionally provide selected dealers, technicians, and pianists the opportunity to describe the musical and other qualities of the high-end brands they represent, service, or play. As you'll see over time, although different writers often describe the same brands in very different ways, certain common themes are evident.

PIANO TECHNICIANS who eventually drift toward the high-end market are usually people who appreciate quality, strive for excellence, and can even be called connoisseurs. Their mission is to provide the pianist with a sublime, inspiring, creative, and enjoyable experience every time he or she plays the instrument. It's a paradox, but their goal is achieved when the pianist forgets about the piano and is able to focus exclusively on the music being played.

In the Fall 2009 issue of Piano Buyer, we focused on the viewpoints of dealers who sell high-end pianos. In the short pieces below, you'll hear from the people who service these instruments — some of the most respected piano technicians in the country. Each technician has extensive hands-on experience with the specific brand(s) he writes about. All of them strive for quality and perfection, and have intimate relationships with the pianos, inside and out. Although you'll recognize common ground in these technicians' opinions, there are also differences, and each speaks only for himself.

Selecting a piano can be compared to selecting a fine bottle of wine, perfume, or cologne. There are many flavors and essences, and there can come a point at which the dominant factor in the selection process is personal preference. The pianos discussed below are all considered among the finest made today. All have been designed with certain qualities, sound, and touch in mind, and each instrument has been made with great care. Our goal in this article is to inform the reader of the special quirks, qualities, limitations, and characteristics of the brands the writers most admire and are most familiar with. We believe the viewpoint of the technician is a unique and valuable one that adds a measure of "inside" information that can help the prospective purchaser.

Due to the large number of brands in the high-end market, we have divided this article into two parts. Part 1, in the last issue, covered C. Bechstein, Blüthner, Bösendorfer, Estonia, Fazioli, Feurich, Shigeru Kawai, and Mason & Hamlin. Part 2, in this issue, will cover August Förster, Grotrian, Sauter, Schimmel (Konzert series), Seiler, Steingraeber & Söhne, and Steinway & Sons.


C. BechsteinAugust Förster

Outfitted with Renner parts, a lively soundboard, and relatively soft, resilient Renner hammers that are very responsive to voicing, August Förster pianos are rewarding to work on. As imported, they arrive in remarkably accurate tune and need very little preparation, especially since they respond so well to fine adjustment.

The Förster is a connoisseur's instrument, with a consistent touchweight of 50 to 53 grams and a colorful palette — indeed, the pianist can almost "paint" with tone — and with much color even throughout the bass. While Steinway's bass has been considered fuzzy by some players and Bösendorfer's one-dimensional or "boomy" by others, the Förster's bass is beautiful in tone color. I have prepared Förster concert grands for chamber concerts, though not for performances in large halls with full orchestras; I would question whether they have sufficient power and projection for the latter. However, for chamber music and for home use, their lush color provides much pleasure from forte to pianissimo. The Förster has a less percussive sound than do many high-end grands, one that I feel is most suitable for Chopin and the Impressionists. Its exceptional color, however, will allow one to discover new subtleties in most repertoires.

Greg Boyd, RPT