The 5'9" model 175 grand was the tonal opposite of the European pianos I auditioned for these reviews. The sound was more rounded, with less of a sense of attack. When pushed to its dynamic limits, the 175 didn't sound edgy, bright, or percussive. It produced a healthy orchestral forte in Beethoven sonatas that seemed to work well stylistically. Also notable was a low-bass tone that was unusually clear for a piano of this size, and a uniquely designed system for adjusting the angle of the music desk. I perceived the action to be on the heavy side (note: due to psychoacoustic effects, a pianist's perception of the tone as "dark" can contribute to an action's seeming "heavy"), but it rewarded good technique with responsiveness. Minor nits to pick included a very stiff damper pedal spring, and a slightly perceptible tenor/bass transition among an otherwise very even-sounding scale. The Walter seemed like a particularly good instrument for chamber music, vocal accompaniment, or solo use in a living room of small or moderate size.
The Schimmel C182 and Vogel V177 grands are nearly the same size (6' and 5'11", respectively), both belong to the Schimmel family of brands, and they share similar-quality parts. The price of the Vogel is lower, likely the result of cheaper Polish labor, but are these pianos essentially the same?
The C182, part of Schimmel's Classic series, was an impressive and dynamic performer with the tone quality many associate with the Schimmel brand: clear and clean, with a unique sense of brightness. The tone of this piano was particularly smooth and uniform from top to bottom. The action was precise, responsive, and made my technique sound more refined than I probably deserve. While auditioning this instrument, another pianist thought the touch a bit shallow, while I likened its feel (though not the sound) to that of a Bösendorfer. The clarity of this instrument worked well for many types of music: Baroque counterpoint, highly ornamented early Classical pieces, jazz, even Prokofiev. It probably wouldn't be my instrument of choice for Brahms. Like the Petrof P-III, the projection and dynamic potential of the Schimmel C182 should make it a good choice for larger living rooms, classrooms, and smaller sanctuaries or halls.
From the first set of scales I played across the Vogel Model V177, it was obvious that this piano was closely related to the Schimmel C182. The tonal characteristics were similar—the distinctive Schimmel brightness was easily revealed, though the Vogel's sound quality was less tightly focused. The key dip on the V177 seemed deeper than on the C182 and the action was reasonably responsive and even. As with many sub-6' pianos, the bass/tenor transition was slightly detectable, and the Vogel lacked the absolute low-bass authority of larger instruments. The Vogel's narrower dynamic range and more diffuse tonal palette would seem to better suit it to medium-size living rooms than to large spaces.
Since individual pianos—even instruments of the same model—can vary, I advise anyone considering buying a Schimmel C182 to also try the Vogel V177, and vice versa. Your perception of their similarities may favor purchasing the less expensive Vogel; then again, their differences could be noticeable enough to justify the higher price of the Schimmel.
Dr. Owen Lovell is an Assistant Professor of Piano at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. He concertizes frequently as a soloist, chamber musician, and advocate of new music. Visit his website for more information at www.owenlovell.com.
SPRING 2010 -- page 117
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Hybrid & Player Pianos