|MODELS & PRICES|
|All prices are of the polished ebony model.|
|*Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price|
**Suggested Maximum Price. Most retail sales take place at a discount to this price.
See Model & Pricing Guide for details.
The ED186, priced lowest (see sidebar for price information) and made entirely in Indonesia, had an attractive, light tone and a light touch to match. The easy touch didn’t make the piano hard to control, however, and touch dynamics felt very comfortable in rapid passagework. Although it had the slowest action of the three instruments, this did not hamper trills or ornaments. The tone was a bit bright for my taste, and even seemed a little thin at times, especially in the high treble. Oddly, there was a sense of fuzziness in the tone that inhibited clarity. When I experimented with forte sounds, a practical ceiling was quickly reached beyond which treble sounds became downright tinny. The piano had been voiced evenly and was quite consistent throughout the registers. However, as rewarding as it was to play Mozart on this piano, it felt decidedly lacking in the larger sounds of Liszt and Mussorgsky.
The ES186, priced between the ED and the SE, was in many ways my favorite of the three. There were clear similarities between this piano and the ED186, but the ES avoided some of the shortcomings of the less expensive model. In particular, the tone quality, though still thin in the treble, was less bright and allowed more color variety. The instrument I played had not been voiced well — its middle register was almost muddy — but still showcased a more substantial bass presence and better treble sustain than the ED. Its touch was very similar to the ED’s, but even more enjoyable to play. Repetition was adequate to most tasks, and the action felt faster. This piano was better than the others at blending sounds — pieces such as Chopin’s Op.10 No.6 and the chorale-style passages in the Mussorgsky really shone — and it felt easier to control. My favorite aspect of this piano was the ability to easily control the sustain pedal; mixing sounds with half-pedal effects and overlaps felt very natural, and was readily accomplished without my having to work too hard.
The SE186, handmade in Germany from German-made parts, represents the top end of the 186 line. Relatively expensive, the SE186 showcased sounds the other pianos simply didn’t have, with a richness and depth I noticed from the moment I began to play it. The warmer tone was also accompanied by a boldness that allowed me to take the tempestuous Mephisto Waltz as far as I wanted to go. Likewise, this piano displayed greater melodic sustain than the other two. Finally, the SE186 clearly showed the most variety of color; pieces like The Great Gate of Kiev and Mephisto Waltz were brought to life by its wider palette. Despite these advantages, the tone of this instrument was still too bright to really satisfy me, and the soft pedal did little to modify this characteristic. The tone was also somewhat uneven throughout the registers, the middle bass having some quite nasal sounds, though the low bass displayed the desired richness.
The SE186’s key descent was the smoothest of the three instruments, and its action was able to repeat the fastest. The resulting crisp feel was an asset when running through the passagework of Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto, K.537. However, the SE’s touch, though fast when sufficient effort was applied, was quite stiff and much less friendly than that of the ES or ED. Rapid and soft playing seemed risky enough to encourage me to avoid delicate effects in passagework. The stiffness made Chopin’s “Aeolian Harp” a challenge, and rapid repetition became a bit of a chore. Finally, the sustain pedal would not allow me the luxury of half-pedaling with anything like the ease of the ES. Overall, the SE seemed a potentially superior product, but this particular instrument may have needed some additional prep work to reach its full potential.
Seiler pianos appear to be headed to American showrooms in growing numbers, and there is much in them to praise. In particular, the touch control in the ED and ES models will be appreciated by serious students and teachers, and the pianos are adequate for most repertoire taught and performed today. The two models’ common downside is a lack of power and richness in the sound, but a player must perform at a professional level to exceed these pianos’ capacities. Despite the unevenness of the particular SE piano I played, this high-end instrument offers many colorful sonorities for the artist looking for an instrument lying just off the well-worn path of Steinways, Yamahas, and other familiar brands.
Dr. Kristian Klefstad is Associate Professor of Music at Belmont University, in Nashville, Tennessee. He teaches applied piano, coordinates the Piano Pedagogy program, and directs the Piano Ensemble. Dr. Klefstad is an active performer throughout the country, and serves as the President of the Nashville Area Music Teachers Association.