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#181908 - 05/23/08 04:55 PM Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
My son and I took a trip to Germany in April, during his school break, and visited these 3 manufacturers. I thought there might be interest in our little excursion. My son (he's 11) has been exposed to various parts of the piano world (if you know my story you'll know of what I speak) but this was the most intense dose of piano making for him. I must say, he was a real trooper.

We flew into Berlin and, after a little sightseeing, drove to Leipzig. The next morning we visited Bluthner and were shown around by Christian Bluthner himself. Bluthner was the only one of the 3 companies that allowed me to take photos. As Christian said: "you can take all the photos you want, and you still won't be able to build a Bluthner" and he's right.


I'm not short...Christian is tall.


I like different, as in different approaches to piano building (notice my signature) and Bluthner does it different. In my opinion, there are 3 significant design differences to the Bluthner piano. These 3, plus the normal factors of tradition, handwork, tradition, history, materials, tradition, history and handwork, give the Bluthner piano it truly unique sound.

Those 3 are:

1. The "sectioned" rim construction, where a laminated rim (that is not a bad thing) is joined in sections rather than one complete piece. To Bluthner, this means the rim has no internal tension.




2. The cylindrical soundboard crowning, rather than spherical




3. That cool 4th unison in the treble.

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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181909 - 05/23/08 05:05 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
kenny Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 7051
Cool!
Thanks.
I had never considered that about the rim having no internal tension.
Others start out as a straight laminated board, then are bent, and so they are springs in tension.
Why else would M+H make the spider?

Here's a fourth unique thing Bluethner does.
Hammers are cut at angles that match the strings and mounted perpendicular to the shanks.
Others makers cut them perpendicular then mount them at angles that match the strings.

Except the first, these pics are from my Model 1.

Here is the standard way of cutting/mounting hammers:
Mason & HamlinBB:

Bluethner Model 1:




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#181910 - 05/23/08 05:07 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
schwammerl Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/06
Posts: 2012
Loc: Belgium
 Quote:
I like different, as in different approaches to piano building (notice my signature) and Bluthner does it different.
My hat off for broad-minded piano professionals.

schwammerl.

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#181911 - 05/23/08 05:11 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
2 more Bluthner pics






It was the first day...the tie never made it to the 2nd.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181912 - 05/23/08 05:24 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Alex Hernandez Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/02
Posts: 1967
Eric,

It sounds like you and your son had a great time.

I appreciate the Blüthner mention but to be accurate there are more then three things that make Blüthner unique, and the comments you attribute to Herr Blüthner sound almost comical out of context.

I am still waiting for a copy of the video you shot of our booth at NAMM, 2008.

And please if you need any more additional information on Blüthner feel free to call me.
_________________________


Blüthner USA, LLC

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#181913 - 05/23/08 05:42 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
deleted by author
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181914 - 05/23/08 05:52 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Keith D Kerman Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3304
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
 Quote:
Originally posted by kenny:

Others start out as a straight laminated board, then are bent, and so they are springs in tension.
Why else would M+H make the spider?
[/b]
I believe that the overall stiffness the tension resonator adds to the rim and belly rail structure allows less energy leakage from the soundboard.
_________________________
Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales of vintage and pre-owned Steinway and Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Charles R. Walter, Brodmann, Feurich
www.pianocraft.net
http://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel/videos

keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460

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#181915 - 05/23/08 05:52 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Deserves Fudge Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/20/06
Posts: 15
Loc: Seattle
Thanks very much for posting this. Fascinating. I'm dissappointed that Schimmel wouldn't allow pictures.

I'm not sure why, but I'm always a little surprised when I see pictures of German piano factories. They all seem to inhabit big, ugly, drab, depressing buildings in industrial parks. I'm not sure what I think they ought to look like, but the reality isn't very romantic. Of course, I haven't seen pictures of very many factories, so maybe there are some in 200 year-old stone buildings with plank floors and natural light...

As to tension in the rims, Kenny, what did you mean by "Others start out as a straight laminated board, then are bent, and so they are springs in tension"? As I understand it, most people make a piano rim by stacking the proper number of laminations, gluing them, and then clamping them into the correct shape to dry. There will be a bit of springback, but you can account for that by overbending (not sure if piano manufacturers do that). You wouldn't be able to bend a "straight laminated board," assuming that by that you meant a laminated board in which the glue had been allowed to dry prior to bending. Now, whether there's any acoustical disadvantage to having a continuous rim vs. segmented, I have no idea. Bluthner obviously has an opinion about that.

Cheers,
Warren

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#181916 - 05/23/08 06:12 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Alex Hernandez Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/02
Posts: 1967
_________________________


Blüthner USA, LLC

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#181917 - 05/23/08 06:13 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Alex has helped me realize that I should be more clear about my intention.

Although I work for one specific maker, I see myself as a high end piano guy with 1 primary purpose; to encourage the awareness and sales of high end pianos.

In a world of mechanization and low production costs, the reasons for spending a lot of money on a high end piano often get lost. These pianos represent culture, history, human craftsmanship and inspiration and still exist as real world objects of importance, rather than some museum oddity like a Faberge egg.

Each of these makers is truly unique, with unique construction methods and resulting sound. A lover of one make will rarely be swayed to purchase another brand, regardless of the price difference or salesmanship. These makers (and I truly believe this) have more to gain from working together to reach new customers than from competing directly against each other. And by new customers, I mean those who might have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing one specific prominent brand as "the best" without really understanding the differences.

So, you may pick up a "thread" running through this...
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#181918 - 05/23/08 06:15 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your post, Alex.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181919 - 05/23/08 06:15 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Alex Hernandez Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/02
Posts: 1967
 Quote:
Originally posted by Keith D Kerman:
 Quote:
Originally posted by kenny:

Others start out as a straight laminated board, then are bent, and so they are springs in tension.
Why else would M+H make the spider?
[/b]
I believe that the overall stiffness the tension resonator adds to the rim and belly rail structure allows less energy leakage from the soundboard. [/b]
People like to argue about the benefits of the tension resonator but it's role in minimizing energy dissipation is pretty well accepted.

It's a wonderful piano.
_________________________


Blüthner USA, LLC

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#181920 - 05/23/08 06:24 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Alex Hernandez Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/02
Posts: 1967
 Quote:
Originally posted by BoseEric:
I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your post, Alex. [/b]
Eric,

Don't worry about it.
_________________________


Blüthner USA, LLC

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#181921 - 05/23/08 06:25 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Anyway, back to Leipzig. We spend the rest of the day exploring, including a visit to St. Thomas Church, Bach's home for most of his life. There is really nothing like hearing Bach organ music (and some Messian) in Bach's church.



His grave is in front of the alter, having been moved there after WWI when the church of the original graveyard was destroyed.

Leipzig has always been a thriving trading city and a center of the European book trade. Leipzig has also been a significant music center, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra founded there in 1781! The orchestra includes Felix Mendelssohn as one of its Music Directors and there is a Mendelssohn window in St. Thomas church.

Which brings me to one of my themes: high end makers often have qualities that come from their locale, either geographic or cultural or both. In my opinion the Bluthner piano is a great example of a unique individual instrument very much a product of its cultural environment. That Bluthner could survive the Communist years and rebound is a great testament to the company and its family based leadership.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181922 - 05/23/08 06:57 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
That evening we drove to Bayreuth, and the next day visited Steingraeber. I was somewhat surprised and disappointed that Steingraeber did not allow photos, since, as with most true high end makers, there is nothing secret that can be readily seen and easily copied. The Steingraeber workshop was mostly guys with hand tools, working at benches.

However, the Steingraeber complex is truly unique, more of a palace in front, the historical Steingraeber home, with the factory across the street in back.




The photos are all from the CD that they gave me. The gentleman who showed us around was a rather new apprentice so there were some details that, well, got lost in translation. However, the production manager Alexander Kerstan filled in a lot of the blanks and Udo Schmidt-Steingraeber enthusiastically met with us at the end.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181923 - 05/23/08 07:01 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
RickG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 947
Loc: Texas
BoseEric,
A couple of years ago, we went to a recital and the Sunday service at St. Thomas in Leipzig. Your pics brought back many happy memories of Leipzig.
_________________________
RickG

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#181924 - 05/23/08 07:41 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Wumpusbear

As you can see, the Steingraeber factory not drab.

Of course, I'm partial to the Bosendorfer factory, though Austrian, not German:



While the Sauter factory may not be a stunning design, the view from inside out is pretty great!

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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181925 - 05/23/08 08:24 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5571
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
BoseEric,

Thanks for sharing, great stuff!

I hope your son enjoyed the trip.

Is Christian really that tall? :-)

Oh, and thanks for your hospitality at the NAMM show, you definitely had the best hospitality goodies :-)

Too bad you didn't make the LA party, you missed the part where I slammed Steve Cohen's hand in the car door (sorry Steve).
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#181926 - 05/23/08 08:42 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
LJC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/04
Posts: 1516
Loc: New York
Great report, I dont care what the factory looks like as long as I like the product and these are some of the finest products. Thanks again.

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#181927 - 05/23/08 09:17 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1242
Loc: London
 Quote:
Originally posted by BoseEric:

[/b]
It was different in the good old days!





David

PS If anyone can read and translate the handwriting on the front of the card, I would be very grateful.

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#181928 - 05/23/08 11:28 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Ori Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 1703
Loc: Stamford CT, New York City .
Eric,
Great report.
It looks like you had a good time.


Frank,
Yes, Christian Bluthner IS that tall.
Sometimes I wonder if the European piano industry have a 6'5 plus height requirement.

The super tall club includes Christian Bluthner and his brother Knut Bluthner (who is the designer and production manager for Bluthner), Andreas Kaufmann (head of Bosendorfer marketing), Veno Laul of the Laul Estonia piano factory (Indrek's father), and Christian Hoferl (formerly of Bosie and now of Brodmann) among others.
_________________________
Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - New York City and Stamford CT showrooms.

Authorized dealer representing:

Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai.

Restored Steinway pianos.

www.allegropianos.com

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#181929 - 05/23/08 11:36 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Ori Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 1703
Loc: Stamford CT, New York City .
Double post.
_________________________
Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - New York City and Stamford CT showrooms.

Authorized dealer representing:

Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai.

Restored Steinway pianos.

www.allegropianos.com

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#181930 - 05/24/08 10:26 AM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Boxer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/05
Posts: 210
Loc: Chicago
Hi Eric--cool stuff. Thanks for sharing your personal impressions to us non-industry schlubs with limited travel funds.

And Alex, your post came off to me as defensive, insulting and condescending (in that order), and was particularly unwarranted since I saw nothing in Eric's description of Bluthner other than praise. Hopefully not opening a can of worms to derail this thread, but I thought it should be mentioned. Just an impartial observer here. Normally I enjoy reading your stuff.

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#181931 - 05/24/08 11:21 AM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT


While Steingraeber uses the traditional laminated inner and outer rim construction, there are a number of other things they do differently.

One is the strings in the treble pass through holes drilled in the capo bar, rather than passing underneath (sorry, no photo). Anything in the capo bar area has to do with power and sustain, but maybe Ori can explain their specific reason?

They also spread black sand on the soundboard and activate it, looking for areas where the sand collects showing inactive sections. They then contour the soundboard to even out the sand distribution.



There are other unique steps, including a very interesting optional hammershank knuckle and optional bridge termination. But, at Steingraebers heart is traditional, hand craftsmanship with a specific sound in mind, following design ideas developed over many years.

Bayreuth is, first, not pronounced as it looks, and, as I'm sure everyone knows, is the home of Richard Wagner and the annual Wagner festival held at the Festspielhaus that was built for him.


I took this photo the evening we arrived. The next day, even though it was April, we were there in a lovely light snow.

Here are a couple of short videos. I compressed them a lot but they still take a minute to load.

The first is of Wagners home Wahnfried

The second is of the setting of Wagners grave.


Wagner married Franz Liszt's daughter. Papa Liszt is also buried in Bayreuth.

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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181932 - 05/24/08 11:37 AM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
kenny Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 7051
Eric, thanks for this great thread and all the pics and info.
Very fascinating.
I also love living vicariously through your piano travels.

Putting sand on a vibrating sound board that distributes itself to show where the board needs to be modified for better sound is very clever.

Interesting that Steingraeber bass bridge is not cantilevered.
Don't all other makers cantilever the bass bridge on such a short piano?

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#181933 - 05/24/08 11:50 AM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Frank

My son really enjoyed the trip. His favorite parts were going over 100 mph for the first time:



and pretending that he owned a Trabi at the DDR museum in Berlin.



I also have a photo of him in Erich Mielkes office at the old Stasi headquarters in Berlin. It should be interesting when he gets to the Cold War in school
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181934 - 05/24/08 12:01 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14120
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
 Quote:

Which brings me to one of my themes: high end makers often have qualities that come from their locale, either geographic or cultural or both. In my opinion the Bluthner piano is a great example of a unique individual instrument very much a product of its cultural environment. [/b]
Exactly - you nailed it!

P.S. Wonderful report.....

Norbert
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#181935 - 05/24/08 01:04 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
I'm going to touch on another of my themes, namely that, at this level, to say that one particular feature or construction technique is better than another is nonsensical. Each of these makers has had a long time to learn what works and what doesn't.

More importantly, each has dedicated themselves to a particular idea of how a piano should sound, and imbued their instruments with this specific, very unique personality. This is why somebody considering purchasing a high end piano should spend more time playing them than worrying about whether something is "better" or "worse" than something else. Each feature plays a critical role in that makers unique sound and personality.

Now, extending this a little, one can also see that this makes sense since composers, at least the ones that people remember, also have very distinctive personalities and sounds. That unique, distinctive, memorable sound is what allows us to identify Brahms from Schubert, regardless if we have any idea of historical styles or not. These high end makers have all had close relationships with the composers and musical styles of their times. The sounds of their instruments have a direct relationship with the experience the company has had with the culture and personalities of their time. This is what makes the world of high end pianos so much fun (at least to me, and at least a couple of other similar nut-cases).

So, extending this a bit further, this is why I have trouble accepting the idea that there is one particular piano sound that is best for all performers, all composers, all halls and all audiences.

But, that's just me.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#181936 - 05/24/08 01:08 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
Bose Eric posted,
 Quote:
More importantly, each has dedicated themselves to a particular idea of how a piano should sound, and imbued their instruments with this specific, very unique personality.
I think that this is what Norbert is referring to when he mentions "soul."

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#181937 - 05/24/08 01:38 PM Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel
Alex Hernandez Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/02
Posts: 1967
 Quote:
Originally posted by Boxer:
Hi Eric--cool stuff. Thanks for sharing your personal impressions to us non-industry schlubs with limited travel funds.

And Alex, your post came off to me as defensive, insulting and condescending (in that order), and was particularly unwarranted since I saw nothing in Eric's description of Bluthner other than praise. Hopefully not opening a can of worms to derail this thread, but I thought it should be mentioned. Just an impartial observer here. Normally I enjoy reading your stuff. [/b]
Boxer, I really didn't have a problem with Eric's first post I just thought the conclusion he came to regarding what makes a Blüthner unique needed to be clarified.

My curt response was to his now deleted second response which I quoted and have now deleted myself.

But in the end no harm no foul, I appreciate Eric's great pictures and fun descriptions.
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Blüthner USA, LLC

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