I was intrigued by some of what is being said on this thread;
Originally posted by Kevin:
Was a 1968 Chickering a good piano in its day? The rebuilt one I found played well and sounded rich and full. But it's not "vintage" Chickering, which makes me wonder...
Two questions are being posed here that could use some expansion; first was a 1968 5'8" Chickering grand considered a good piano in its day, 1968?
Well I was very much around in 1968 and occasionally went into piano stores and as I recall someone in San Francisco was carrying the Chickering line then and it's entirely possible that I would have seen and even played such a piano back then, and as a matter of fact I did. And yes it was a nice piano, quite expensive, but it wasn't my taste anyway, as it was in red Cherry and in a Louis XV case. But yes it was a nice piano, easily equal to a Baldwin R or Steinway M, but different of course, sweeter perhaps.
But this rebuilt 1968 piano is not "vintage" Chickering, or is it? For most of the 20th century, including a good bit of what we'd like to think of as the "golden age" period, most Chickering grands were made in one place, a piano factory in East Rochester, New York, that closed in 1982. This was one of the best piano factories in America for a hundred years. Do you not think that a certain legacy of quality in materials and workmanship wasn't preserved in such a place? The other piano that was made there was Knabe.
Secondly, when one is considering a piano rebuild from the pure economics of it. one wants to be able to get the rim, plate, keyboards and keybeds, for a piano for as little as possible because most of the rest is going to be replaced with new.
What one expects to do is to knock out the old soundboard, because let's face it people, modern soundboard technology is superior in the science of it, the determination of the optimum conditions for crown and downbearing, power and sustain, and I'm one who thinks that, other than for its uses as an amplifier for the piano's sound, it matters little what a soundboard is made of. Anyway, one expects that a new belly is part of a full rebuild.
Likewise the piano is refinished to look as new as possible. Refinishing can be very expensive, but it also sells pianos so people who are serious will pay attention to details.
I'm sorry to disappoint purists, but I really do favor replacement of most ivories with modern substitutes. I like a playing surface that is not shiny and offers me a little traction and looks clean.
Then there's the action. I have played rebuilt Chickerings and Knabes with reconditioned actions that seem to work just fine. The elements like the knuckles and back checks can be made of better products than were available even in 1968. There is every possibility that one of these actions can be as good as any action available today. There are exceptions with some early Chickerings, where they tried making some action parts out of a cheap cast metal, oh yeah, everything has been tried, but this would not be a consideration in a piano made in 1968 as they gave up metal parts before 1914.
Hammers are of prime concern. Here are my latest gleanings on this issue: Renner and Abel hammers tend to produce a brighter sound than Steinway, Ronson or Isaac hammers. It is possible to voice both these brighter hammers down somewhat, and I know of some who can do it well, but nevertheless, they do tend to be on the bright side.
Then there are Steinway and the others. These come softer than required for best tone and need to be hardened with lacquer solution and then voiced further. One can usually get these to stay once voiced for longer periods of time than for the brighter kinds. It should be obvious that I prefer these.
Strings? I'd probably use the best Mapes has to offer on a Chickering of this vintage.
If one did a really good job of it, there is no reason to think that a Chickering grand of this kind, once restored, wouldn't be as good or probably better than the original ever was. You might expect to see such a piano offered for $18K, in the low $20K's for an art case grand.
Because there's another factor; there are fewer and fewer of these anyway as time goes by, but THERE WERE NEVER THAT MANY MADE IN THE FIRST PLACE! That's right. In any year it was in operation, that plant in East Rochester was only turning out a few hundred grands a year of each Chickering and Knabe.
Originally posted by MarkS: Consumers' Research Magazine
used to rate pianos back in the 1960's. At that time Steinway, Baldwin, and Mason & Hamlin were in the top group. Sohmer was just below that. Then I believe it was Yamaha, followed by Knabe and Chickering. These were the ratings for grands. I don't know if you could ever find those reviews in a library.
According to The Piano Book
Aeolian-American was purchased in 1959 by Winter piano (Heller family) and went downhill after that so 1968 might not be the best for Chickering. I've forgotten what the dealer was asking, but the price should reflect the particular situation of the nameplate. [/b]
At that point, whether Winter piano (the Heller family) or anyone else was running that plant in East Rochester, it nevertheless represented one of the last sighs of the piano building art in America. There is not much evidence that the quality of materials or workmanship was going downhill in that plant, at that time, whether the whole piano industry was going down
after that, as it was. It was not the best time for Chickering, as it wasn't for anyone at that time. Nevertheless there were some competent grand pianos made (rim, plate, keyboard, keybed, actions (pretty standard, can be replaced by Renner in most cases).
Originally posted by BDB:
Chickerings of that time were certainly respectable instruments, and a good rebuilding job could make them even better. I recall that only a few years later, I was asked by someone from a church whether they should buy a Yamaha or a Knabe. I told them to get the Knabe, and I don't think I or the church have ever had reason to regret that decision. [/b]
And it would be my assumption that anyone who did a real rebuild job on a piano of this kind, make and vintage, could make it look, sound and play at least as well as brand new if not better.
This is not a piano buy for to be measured as a competition between cheaper alternatives, but between this piano and more expensive alternatives. Go play some brand new Steinway M's and Baldwin R's, and compare these with this Chickering. Consider what $16K might be buying you, and of course, do you love the piano enough, is it yours?