By Dr. Owen Lovell
Feurich (Ningbo) pianos are a new range of models resulting from the merger of Wendl & Lung, of Vienna, Austria, and Feurich, a very-small-production German company. These less-expensive instruments (three grand and three upright sizes are currently offered), formerly marketed under the Wendl & Lung brand, are built at the Hailun factory in Ningbo, China, and supplement the traditional series of Feurich pianos, which continue to be produced exclusively in Gunzenhausen, Germany.
Although the sizes and place of manufacture of the new Feurich (Ningbo) pianos match specific Hailun-branded models, their parts specifications and acoustic design elements are unique. Also of note is a European approach to prep work that is unusual for a lower-priced piano: Prior to being shipped to dealers, assembled instruments are sent to an authorized distribution center for extensive prep that includes tuning, regulation, and, particularly, voicing.
From a distance, the 48" Feurich F 122 looked like a typical tall upright finished in polished ebony — until I slid back the bench and opened the fallboard: the hinges, pedals, and nameplate were all finished in chrome. The effect was special, and elegant to my eye, though the U.S. distributor noted that these parts can also be ordered in traditional brass finish. The tone quality was warm and pleasant through the bass and tenor, while the treble range was intimate — this instrument was voiced not to overpower a smaller room. The bass/tenor transition (a problem area for many pianos) was satisfactory, whereas the lowest few bass notes lacked the sonic authority of larger and/or more expensive uprights. I felt that the projection and sustain of the treble register of this particular instrument were in need of refinement. The F 122's action was light, easy to play, and fairly deep under my fingers — characteristics matched by the instrument's pedal mechanism.
The theme of aesthetic enhancements is carried over to the polished ebony 5' 10" Feurich F 178 grand, whose opened lid revealed a beautiful inner rim of bird's-eye maple. Most impressive was the simple, open-design music desk — a sort of contemporary Craftsman furniture style carried over from the German Feurich pianos. A fringe benefit of this distinctive music desk was its sonic transparency; from the player's perspective, most solid music desks reflect a good deal of the sound back into the piano.
The well-prepped F 178 I auditioned had a beautifully regulated action that was quite even, and controllable down to the softest dynamics. The touchweight was moderate, while the key dip — the distance the key travels downward when depressed — was slightly shallow. Its tone was focused and clear, but not bright and strident unless I pushed it past forte. Considering the Feurich's modest size, its pitch clarity throughout the bass register was good, though the bass/tenor transition was more noticeable than I would have liked.
Priced near the higher-rated Chinese brands and less than Japanese-made Yamaha, Kawai, and Boston pianos of the same size, these new Feurich models are solid entries with real visual appeal in a growing segment of the market: pianos made in China with upgraded features and design elements. Dealer and additional model information can be found online at www.feurich.com.
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. For more information, visit his website at www.owenlovell.com.