Robert Lowreys Piano ExpertsMy experience with Bösendorfers began when a 9'6" Imperial concert grand model was purchased by one of the concert halls I used to service. This theater also had both New York and Hamburg Steinway concert grands. It was interesting to hear each piano on the same stage with the same orchestra during the various orchestral seasons. Frankly, most artists preferred the Steinways for their superior ability to project to the back of the hall. But when the Bösendorfer was on stage, it was quite beautiful and strong in its own way.

The Bösendorfer rim, made of spruce and an important contributor to the piano's tone, is more flexible than the rims of other brands, so the piano may not be ideal for situations that require frequent dismantling and long-distance moving, such as concert rentals. However, it should be fine for the home or salon, or as a house piano for a concert venue, and maintenance will be reduced if the room and/or piano are humidity-controlled.

— Arlan Harris

Bösendorfer pianos, built in the Vienna suburb of Wiener Neustadt, enjoy a well-deserved reputation for excellence in design and workmanship. Possibly the only piano made with a spruce rim—going against the conventional wisdom that a piano rim must be made of hard, dense woods such as maple or beech—most Bösendorfers sound best when voiced on the mellower side. When voiced up to a brighter sound, they tend to sound hard-edged and with short sustain rather than singing, and the tone may distort in louder playing. An exception to this is the company's 9'2" model 280 concert grand, in which maple is used to stiffen and add mass to the outer rim, and to create the potential for a more powerful instrument with better tonal sustain. When I tried this model at the Bösendorfer factory soon after it was introduced, I immediately felt it was the most impressive Bösendorfer I had ever played.

Several years ago Bösendorfer introduced the Conservatory Series (CS). These pianos have a less expensive finish and a few cosmetic differences, but are otherwise the same as the regular series while costing $20,000 to $30,000 less. (Originally, the CS pianos had loop stringing instead of the regular series' individually hitched strings, but this difference has since been abandoned.) Because I can't imagine that these differences are worth that much, the CS pianos seem a very good deal for those whose interest in the Bösendorfer piano is primarily musical rather than cosmetic. My own experience with servicing CS pianos suggests that they might not receive the same amount of technical preparation in the factory as the regular pianos, though Bösendorfer claims otherwise.

— Steve Brady

The Bösendorfer is truly a unique piano. The instruments are built on solid spruce inner and outer rims and keybeds, with a beech cap on the inner rim serving as both a mounting surface for the soundboard and a hardwood base for the plate mounting hardware. With exquisite design and meticulous workmanship, the pianos hold up well, and are excellent candidates for rebuilding due to their original design and high resale value.

Properly voiced, a Bösendorfer's tonal palette offers the advanced player a wider spectrum of timbre than do many other pianos. To truly experience what Bösendorfers have to offer requires that the prospective owner spend time discovering a different way of perceiving lyrical tone. In particular, the rich, clear sound of the tenor section brings definition to the inner notes of chords and harmonies, while the clarity of the lower treble cannot be overplayed. There is surprising volume and tremendous carrying power—not necessarily heard at the piano bench—throughout all ranges. However, attempts to voice a Bösendorfer to sound like a Steinway typically result in a piano that lacks the richness of the tenor voices, with reduced volume and limited carrying power, even though it will likely have a very sonorous, pleasant, and engaging sound.

— Ed Whitting


SPRING 2010 -- page 82

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