BösendorferGrotrian

My first experience with the Grotrian piano came in the mid-1980s. The PTG's New York City chapter had been invited to give its monthly meeting at Curt Swidler Artist Pianos — a then-new dealership specializing in high-end pianos — and, with measured curiosity, I attended. In the elegant showroom, we were surrounded by a variety of grands and uprights, principally from the Grotrian and Feurich factories in Germany.

Eventually I got a chance to work at Swidler's, on both Grotrians and Feurichs, and all of us there generally agreed that while both pianos had their strengths, for overall versatility, Grotrian was the winner. Feurich had a smooth, silky, intoxicating tone that begged for late-Romantic composers, especially someone like Scriabin. Beethoven would be okay; Bach was unthinkable. Grotrian was brilliant and balanced — almost any type of music fared well on them, though their in-your-face sound occasionally demanded more attention to voicing to retrieve subtlety. It was a feast when a real player came in, sat down, and let rip on one of these instruments.

There were technical aspects to the Grotrians that seemed singular, even unique. Since the Grotrian tone is very transparent, ease of voicing is essential. The Grotrian has been one of the easiest pianos I have ever had to voice, not only because of the fine quality of the hammers, but even more for the ease of performing other various facets of tone regulation, such as checking string level, setting the strings at the hitch pins and along the bridges, and, most important, the process of lifting the strings to create greater tonal sustain. This is where the quality of craftsmanship in the factory really shows itself, and no piano delivers better in these areas than the Grotrian.

Also, technicians are aware that some five-and-a-half foot pianos sound like seven-foot pianos. Among the instruments I service, I have a few Steinway Ms like that. Here too, however, Grotrian leads the pack: with the 5' 5" Grotrian, the exception was the one that did not sound like a seven-foot instrument.

Just the other day I visited a new 6' 10" Grotrian. Nothing has changed — it's still a thoroughbred. As I played and listened to each bass note, one by one, every fundamental was as clear as a bell, down to the very bottom. What a wonderful contrast to the thunderously visceral low end of a Steinway B.

John Woodruff, RPT


Over the last three-and-a-half years, I have been privileged to work as a freelance piano technician at the Hannover University of Music and Drama, in Hannover, Germany. Currently serving 1,200 students, this facility is in use 17 hours a day during the week and 12 hours a day on weekends. Of the more than 200 pianos we maintain, 78 are supplied by Grotrian and, being used primarily in rehearsal rooms, are continuously exposed to very heavy use. Unfortunately, due to constantly falling budgets, most of the instruments have never been overhauled — just tuned every other month and maintained in good playing order, in some cases for 17 years! Without a doubt, these pianos' stable construction and carefully selected materials have been key factors in enabling us to provide working instruments for so long with so few resources.

We are fortunate to enjoy a good working relationship with Grotrian, and receive good service and are promptly supplied with replacement parts when needed. There is also a listening ear at Grotrian, and an interest in experience gained working in the field. This has resulted in many pioneering innovations and constant improvement.

Wilhelm Grotrian, son of the company's founder, is quoted as having said, "Boys, build good pianos and everything else will take care of itself." This attitude has survived to the present day, and provides a secure foundation for all who build, sell, service, or own these fine instruments.

Stephen Barker

SauterSauter

In many respects, a Sauter piano is a piano technician's dream. The instruments tune beautifully, and their fit and finish are very precise. Little things of which few owners are aware are a big help to the technician and to maintaining the instrument's stability, such as: Teflon sections in the keybed, so the action slides with little friction when the una corda (soft) pedal is used; easily adjusted pedal mechanisms; heavy-duty music desks with multiple adjustable positions that lock in place; super-heavy-duty casters and a lid prop with over-engineered hinges (not like the cheap, under-engineered casters and hinges found on some other prestigious brands); and the best, most easily adjusted damper parts, which enable very fine regulation. This is just a partial list, but you get the idea — Sauter is high quality, through and through.

There are only a couple of items that tend to need attention on these instruments. One is that the piano can sound too bright in some environments, so proper tone regulation is often necessary. The other is that the factory-set action tolerances are very tight, so the actions can become sluggish and need adjustment when the instrument is moved to a different climate. A good dealer knows this and will have the instruments properly regulated.

When looking at the price, keep in mind that Sauter pianos are also showpieces, art objects, and astounding musical instruments. Bravo!

Peter Clark, RPT