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#2216265 - 01/17/14 02:48 PM Why is it always Steinway in concert hall
RX2Bunny Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/12
Posts: 116
Loc: Chicago
I have heard all these other extremely good brands (Grotrian, Bosendofer, Fazioli, and the list goes on..) but then when I watched youtube video of classical music performance, you still mostly see Steinway to be used in concert halls. I'm just curious why is that? If there's another thread that has already discussed it, pls let me know which thread (I had tried to look but didn't see one).

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#2216267 - 01/17/14 02:50 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1030
Steinway is EXTREMELY good at marketing itself and pursuing exclusivity contracts with artists and concert halls and recording labels.

That's not to say it's not a great piano, because it is, but its presence in concert halls is disproportionately large when you look at other pianos in its class.

The only other brand that puts similar amounts of effort and money into brand recognition and marketing is Yamaha.

The rest find it extremely difficult to make significant inroads.

All things equal, you'd see a greater variety on the stages of the world, but you don't.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2216269 - 01/17/14 02:53 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4821
Originally Posted By: RX2Bunny
I have heard all these other extremely good brands (Grotrian, Bosendofer, Fazioli, and the list goes on..) but then when I watched youtube video of classical music performance, you still mostly see Steinway to be used in concert halls. I'm just curious why is that?


You might want to read about Garrick Ohlsson's travails with Steinway when he decided to play a Bösendorfer in a concert. And Louis Lortie's similar problems when he 'defected' to Fazioli. And......

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#2216271 - 01/17/14 03:01 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: bennevis]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1030
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: RX2Bunny
I have heard all these other extremely good brands (Grotrian, Bosendofer, Fazioli, and the list goes on..) but then when I watched youtube video of classical music performance, you still mostly see Steinway to be used in concert halls. I'm just curious why is that?


You might want to read about Garrick Ohlsson's travails with Steinway when he decided to play a Bösendorfer in a concert. And Louis Lortie's similar problems when he 'defected' to Fazioli. And......


I've heard a few horror stories from other artists as well. To be fair, I don't have any independent confirmation of the truth of them. I have no doubt Steinway is fairly heavy handed with its contractual obligations; to what extent they go is really hard for me to say with any accuracy.

I will say that it does give me a certain amount of desire to support a different piano brand, if only because it helps all of us if the piano industry stays robust and varied.

But ultimately it will come down to what I, personally, most want to play when the time comes to buy a piano at the level of a Steinway, and what the availability is of other pianos like it. We'll have to see where I come out on that one.

But since that is step three of my four step plan, it's gonna be a while because here are the steps:

Step one: get much better at piano.
Step two: wait until it's a financially opportune time to obtain one.
Step three: Choose a piano
Step four: Buy a piano
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2216277 - 01/17/14 03:16 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Aggressive marketing and façade of the "Best piano" will only last so long. Not 100 years.

If Steinway didn't make the absolute best instrument, the concert stage marketing would last only 5-10 years.

Pianists are constantly trying their best to distinguish themselves from their competitors. If there was a piano that was noticeably better than a Steinway, I think they would use it even if they are at risk of making Steinway mad.

A piano is a pianist's voice. It is the most important thing to them. If an opera singer had a sore throat a few days before a concert, they would take the best quality cough syrup, not the best marketed one.

Most famous pianists have tried other brands. Steinway only gets "Jealous" if they perform on one in public, so they are aware of the other options out there. A few chose the other options, but most find Steinway is the voice they want to have.

Artur Rubinstein at the age of 60 was so famous, that making Steinway "Mad" would be of no consequence. He was pretty much a God and can chose whatever piano he wanted. If he made Steinway mad enough not to make available a Steinway at the concert hall he would perform at, he could easily afford to rent a Steinway D from a private source or bring his own. But even still, he chose a Steinway time and time again having a special relationship with the sound they produce.

For the human ear, in my opinion, Steinway found a sweet spot when it comes to sound. It's very pure, but not too synthetic and artificial. It has just the right amount of inconsistency in the timbre, that their pianos mimic a human breathing voice. If played fff the sound sends to break up a little bit just as a human voice would.

Whether they found that sweet spot on purpose by engineering, or luck who knows. But they definitely found it in my opinion.

People have a natural tendency to root for the underdog, so I can see why a question like this comes up often. And its not a bad question, and we always have to be open to the possibility that an underdog can indeed offer a better product.

But sometimes, the winning brand is on top simply because they deserve it. I urge anyone to at least be open to this possibility.

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#2216280 - 01/17/14 03:24 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4821
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes

I will say that it does give me a certain amount of desire to support a different piano brand, if only because it helps all of us if the piano industry stays robust and varied.

But ultimately it will come down to what I, personally, most want to play when the time comes to buy a piano at the level of a Steinway, and what the availability is of other pianos like it. We'll have to see where I come out on that one.


I've never been particularly enamoured of the Steinway sound myself, so I've no doubt that if I was ever in the position of being able to afford a top-tier piano (6ft and over), it wouldn't be Steinway.

But if I was a young and upcoming pianist trying to make my mark on the world stage, I'd jump at the chance of becoming a 'Steinway Artist'. It makes life a lot easier to know that there's a long-established brand support behind you. No other piano manufacturer offers anything similar.

It's quite surprising to me that someone as young as Daniil Trifonov can associate himself so publicly with Fazioli, but maybe that's because he's already quite well-known - but it's significant that his Carnegie Hall debut was on Steinway, not Fazioli. And that's despite having made a Chopin recording for DG on a Fazioli.

And I never did find out why Yulianna Avdeeva switched to Steinway after winning the Chopin Competition in 2010, playing a Yamaha CFX. Was it because Steinway made her an offer she couldn't refuse? wink BTW, that competition was such a pleasure to listen to because there were so many different pianos available for the competitors to play on. And it did show that pianists wouldn't automatically choose Steinway over Fazioli/Yamaha/S.Kawai if given a choice.....(and if Bösendorfer, C.Bechstein, Blüthner, Steingraeber, Grotrian-Steinweg, Stuart & Sons et al had also made their concert grands available, how many would eventually end up playing Steinway? grin )

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#2216282 - 01/17/14 03:34 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: Hamburg-D]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1030
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
Aggressive marketing and façade of the "Best piano" will only last so long. Not 100 years.

If Steinway didn't make the absolute best instrument, the concert stage marketing would last only 5-10 years.

Pianists are constantly trying their best to distinguish themselves from their competitors. If there was a piano that was noticeably better than a Steinway, I think they would use it even if they are at risk of making Steinway mad.


There's a bit of logical fallacy here. Why does the lack of a piano significantly better than Steinway prove that Steinway isn't overrepresented among like-quality pianos? What I'm saying is that Steinway is over-represented in concert halls relative to its status among LIKE pianos. There may not be a lot of pianos significantly better than Steinway that can produce a product in adequate numbers to furnish the worldwide stage with its pianos, but there are PLENTY that are similar to Steinway in workmanship and instrumental quality. But still, Steinway predominates in numbers that far exceed its position in the market among its LIKE-quality peers.

Quote:
A piano is a pianist's voice. It is the most important thing to them. If an opera singer had a sore throat a few days before a concert, they would take the best quality cough syrup, not the best marketed one.

Most famous pianists have tried other brands. Steinway only gets "Jealous" if they perform on one in public, so they are aware of the other options out there. A few chose the other options, but most find Steinway is the voice they want to have.


I don't think we can make that conclusion given that artists often do not have a choice as to what piano they are going to play. Just because the Steinway will suffice doesn't mean they wouldn't pick a different piano if they could conjure to the stage any piano in the world.

Quote:
Artur Rubinstein at the age of 60 was so famous, that making Steinway "Mad" would be of no consequence. He was pretty much a God and can chose whatever piano he wanted. If he made Steinway mad enough not to make available a Steinway at the concert hall he would perform at, he could easily afford to rent a Steinway D from a private source or bring his own. But even still, he chose a Steinway time and time again having a special relationship with the sound they produce.


Maybe Rubinstein truly preferred Steinways. It seems reasonable. It's a really nice piano. But the existence of artists that prefer Steinway, like Rubinstein, doesn't make it more likely that, say, Schnabel preferred Steinway. (NB: I have no idea what piano Schnabel preferred)

Quote:
For the human ear, in my opinion, Steinway found a sweet spot when it comes to sound. It's very pure, but not too synthetic and artificial. It has just the right amount of inconsistency in the timbre, that their pianos mimic a human breathing voice. If played fff the sound sends to break up a little bit just as a human voice would.

Whether they found that sweet spot on purpose by engineering, or luck who knows. But they definitely found it in my opinion.


Again, no doubt Steinway is a lovely piano, but because it is, it doesn't necessarily mean that other pianos AREN'T just as lovely.

Quote:
People have a natural tendency to root for the underdog, so I can see why a question like this comes up often. And its not a bad question, and we always have to be open to the possibility that an underdog can indeed offer a better product.

But sometimes, the winning brand is on top simply because they deserve it. I urge anyone to at least be open to this possibility.


I'm open to it. It's just that the evidence you cite doesn't prove the inability of other pianos to suffice, it merely proves the sufficiency of Steinway as a general-purpose concert instrument. Perhaps others would be equally good, but we won't know because they can't penetrate the market and among two relatively equal things, the status quo often wins.

It's probably good enough that it would be hard to make a piano SO MUCH BETTER to overcome that status quo, and that, in and of itself, is probably unfair to other brands. Especially when you take Steinway's market share as evidence of its superiority, rather than its adequacy among relative equals.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2216293 - 01/17/14 04:04 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
Damon Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6064
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: RX2Bunny
.. you still mostly see Steinway to be used in concert halls. I'm just curious why is that?



Because Steinway rocks! and had a great marketing strategy
_________________________
It's been scientifically proven that Horowitz sucks.

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#2216294 - 01/17/14 04:04 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
twosnowflakes,
I am happy to have a healthy debate. You bring good arguments and although I do not agree, they are valid points of view and very reasonable.

A few thoughts:
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
...but there are PLENTY that are similar to Steinway in workmanship and instrumental quality....


Workmanship is quality finish don't necessarily go hand in hand with SOUND. Steinway sells SOUND. That's why they are not the MOST expensive piano on the market. Maybe if I have a professional carpenter take apart my Steinway and he can find some flaws. Maybe on a Fazioli he would find less. Maybe the clear coat on my piano could be better? I'm not a professional painter, looks perfect to me, but I bet somewhere someone can do it better.

But most of these things do not effect sound do they?

My point is that just because Bosendorfer has the same quality action and woodworking skills doesn't mean they found the sound.

For me, the sound of a Steinway is the best, everything else is a compromise. Everything else SHOULD sound like a steinway. That's why I have one, not because of the name on the fallboard, it's the sound. Forgive me for being so enthusiastic about their sound. It works really good with my ears. Maybe other ears are different...

Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes

It's probably good enough that it would be hard to make a piano SO MUCH BETTER to overcome that status quo...

Very true!!!!

Lets take for example Fazioli, I have never played one but I've listened to them closely. Very pure, very precise sound. Too precise, too perfect, too artificial. Better is not always better smile If perfection was better, I think high end digital pianos would win. Beauty perceived in humans is a strange thing. I saw a documentary a long time ago that studied what humans find beautiful in faces of certain people. It was very scientific and photos were analyzed by computers. Symmetry was the most deciding factor. A symmetrical face was found most beautiful. But the ones that were a "cut above" had something very subtle that was not symmetrical. That's steinway sound for me. Almost perfect, but not 100%. The quality pianos you mention are in some way more perfect. Bosendorfers I played were too perfect. So much fundamental, so clear it was unreal. But no character.

Maybe that's why when describing a steinway sound people use very interesting terms like "smokey" instead of bright or pure like some other super high quality brands.

I do apologize for being so black and white.

Have you ever played a Steinway that has been prepped to its full potential? The ones at the dealers most have that potential, but rarely they are prepped all the way, that's another topic though smile

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#2216299 - 01/17/14 04:16 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19225
Loc: New York City
Before WW2 other makers like Bechstein (and, I believe, Boesendorfer) represented a significant share of the concert pianos on the stages of Europe. Their factories were destroyed in the war, and by the time they rebuilt Steinway had overtaken the market for concert pianos. So, at least at one point in history, Steinway was not the overwhelming favorite for concerts that it is today.

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#2216301 - 01/17/14 04:18 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: Hamburg-D]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4821
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou

Have you ever played a Steinway that has been prepped to its full potential? The ones at the dealers most have that potential, but rarely they are prepped all the way, that's another topic though smile



As I've never played NY Steinways, living across the pond, I can say that all the Steinway A, B, C and Ds that I've played are fully-prepped. Because they're Hamburg ones, and because this isn't USA.

And I've never thought of any of them as anything less than perfect - for Steinway.

BTW, the Bösendorfer sound is many things, but to me, perfection it's not. The uppers have a bell-like quality that doesn't quite match to the woody sound of the mid-range. And the bass is way too dark, especially on the Imperial 290 with its extra low notes. And that's precisely why I prefer its sound over the generic and well-balanced Steinway sound. Because it has real character, a Viennese character, if I may say so. (A bit like Schubert).

Whereas the Fazioli is completely different, a blank and pure canvas on which you paint your own colors. I like it for other reasons than those than endear me to the Bösendorfer.

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#2216307 - 01/17/14 04:33 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1030
Ok, I still think we are not quite on the same page here. when I say quality and workmanship, I do mean sound.

I think it would be difficult to say that Steinway has The Best Sound. I think you'll easily find a variety of opinions that other pianos have sounds that are better preferred. And not all of it is just people wanting to be contrary or fussy or perceived as having an independent opinion (though those certainly abound).

I have played wonderfully prepped Steinways. And I would not hesitate to tell you they sound beautiful. But just because they sound beautiful does not mean that I don't find equal beauty in another sound, too.

You just can't prove a negative that way: you can't say the existence of a beautiful sound by Steinway means others lack something equally beautiful, though different. Can't be done.

It's a bit of a chocolate vs. vanilla thing. I love ice cream. I love good ice cream. Give me a choice among two equal terrific ice creams, and you'll discover I have a preference: chocolate. But set it up in the way that I only have one choice, and it's vanilla, but it's terrific quality vanilla, and I'm going to eat the heck out of that vanilla and probably enjoy it. Because I do, after all, love ice cream. But here's the rub: you can't conclude I prefer vanilla to chocolate just because I enjoy to a high degree all ice creams of sufficient quality. All you can say is that I...like vanilla ice cream.

Good lord, I want some ice cream right now.

Anyway, point is, we have an external confounding factor that can account for Steinway's relative over-representation: marketing and contractual obligations. It prevents us from making any conclusions as to preference or overall quality of the instrument because we are comparing things that are all demonstrably good enough to do the job.

The proof is really here: If you ask people simply for their preference in piano, you'll hear a greater degree of variety than the concert-hall penetration percentage is, which I believe is something on the order of 90%.

Do 9 out of 10 people objectively prefer Steinway to any other instrument? I seriously highly doubt that.

Do 9 out of 10 people consider a Steinway to be one of several brands of piano that are perfectly reasonable to find on a stage? Now you're probably closer to a defensible position.

Given the likelihood that the second proposition is more reflective of reality, you can now see why you might not see that much complaint. The fallacy comes in when you try to take that lack of complaint and use it to demonstrate, somehow, that Steinway is, 9 times out of 10, the superior instrument. Just that 9 times out of 10, people will agree that the Steinway is not inferior.

The over-representation can be explained by other factors that are external to its intrinsic quality, which, as I've certainly agreed, is no doubt of the highest category of quality. I just think that echelon has other worthy members and their exclusion from the world stage is not a straight-line reflection of their merit relative to Steinway.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2216311 - 01/17/14 04:47 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1030
Originally Posted By: bennevis

BTW, the Bösendorfer sound is many things, but to me, perfection it's not. The uppers have a bell-like quality that doesn't quite match to the woody sound of the mid-range. And the bass is way too dark, especially on the Imperial 290 with its extra low notes. And that's precisely why I prefer its sound over the generic and well-balanced Steinway sound. Because it has real character, a Viennese character, if I may say so. (A bit like Schubert).

Whereas the Fazioli is completely different, a blank and pure canvas on which you paint your own colors. I like it for other reasons than those than endear me to the Bösendorfer.


Chocolate! Vanilla! Viennese mocha coffee ice cream! And, of course, good ol' stracciatella!

Which is best? ALL OF THEM!
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2216314 - 01/17/14 04:56 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Snowflakes, you have alot of logic.

I'm brainwashed, by the sound, and maybe back in my mind, the marketing smile

So don't expect me to say anything different, it's simply the best!!! Look no further.

Some have said to me "try a steingraeber, you might regret owning a Steinway".

I'm so positive I will not, I'm looking for a steingraeber to play. I am so certain that I will be even more convinced by the Steinway sound, as if I'm not too convinced already.

I have a Hamburg, but also there is nothing like an untamed barking angry NY D that has no manners! Hahaha.

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#2216320 - 01/17/14 05:07 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1030
No need to explain: you clearly prefer a Steinway. And that's...ok.

Great, in fact.

Because, lucky you, if you are a performing artist, you will rarely find disappointment in the instruments you encounter on stage.

The only error in your thinking, I believe, is the next step you take: the generalization of your own, completely legitimate personal conclusion of superiority to overall superiority, and using market penetration as evidence of it, when market penetration often has very little to do with objective superiority. It's confounded by the fact that Steinway is, of course, a great instrument, so the conclusion slides easily right into your lap.

Easy to do. And alluring, too. If I truly loved something, and it seemed like it had managed to receive universal recognition for being the best, I'd probably not question it too much, either.

I get it, I truly do.

But as someone wise (or at least incredibly loud and in a grating accent) once said in a Saturday Night Live sketch, "ya can't get there from here."
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2216321 - 01/17/14 05:08 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2271
Loc: Huntington Beach, CA
And do the other manufacturers have the same capacity to produce the required number of pianos to fill these stages? Just production has a lot to do with it, perhaps.
_________________________
Gary Schenk

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#2216324 - 01/17/14 05:11 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: Plowboy]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1030
Originally Posted By: Plowboy
And do the other manufacturers have the same capacity to produce the required number of pianos to fill these stages? Just production has a lot to do with it, perhaps.


Well, I was careful to qualify myself all the way upthread that we're talking about instrument makers that have the capacity to meet the worldwide concert stage demand.

I believe several brands do have the output capacity to do it. I don't think Steinway makes THAT many more pianos overall than a bunch of other brands. But I could be wrong there.

Either way, my suspicion is that all of the major brands make enough pianos to fill the major concert halls, whether or not all of them have the capacity to make pianos for every living room. There are certainly far fewer stages than living rooms.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2216367 - 01/17/14 07:18 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: Hamburg-D]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3443
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
Aggressive marketing and façade of the "Best piano" will only last so long. Not 100 years.

If Steinway didn't make the absolute best instrument, the concert stage marketing would last only 5-10 years.

Pianists are constantly trying their best to distinguish themselves from their competitors. If there was a piano that was noticeably better than a Steinway, I think they would use it even if they are at risk of making Steinway mad.

A piano is a pianist's voice. It is the most important thing to them. If an opera singer had a sore throat a few days before a concert, they would take the best quality cough syrup, not the best marketed one.

Most famous pianists have tried other brands. Steinway only gets "Jealous" if they perform on one in public, so they are aware of the other options out there. A few chose the other options, but most find Steinway is the voice they want to have.

Artur Rubinstein at the age of 60 was so famous, that making Steinway "Mad" would be of no consequence. He was pretty much a God and can chose whatever piano he wanted. If he made Steinway mad enough not to make available a Steinway at the concert hall he would perform at, he could easily afford to rent a Steinway D from a private source or bring his own. But even still, he chose a Steinway time and time again having a special relationship with the sound they produce.

For the human ear, in my opinion, Steinway found a sweet spot when it comes to sound. It's very pure, but not too synthetic and artificial. It has just the right amount of inconsistency in the timbre, that their pianos mimic a human breathing voice. If played fff the sound sends to break up a little bit just as a human voice would.

Whether they found that sweet spot on purpose by engineering, or luck who knows. But they definitely found it in my opinion.

People have a natural tendency to root for the underdog, so I can see why a question like this comes up often. And its not a bad question, and we always have to be open to the possibility that an underdog can indeed offer a better product.

But sometimes, the winning brand is on top simply because they deserve it. I urge anyone to at least be open to this possibility.


Noam, your post reminded me of this quote from Sir Francis Bacon: "There is no excellent beauty without some strangeness in the proportion." Real beauty is not usually found in clinically perfect, cold perfection but in something that pulls at the heartstrings... I have the same weakness for Steinway as you do. However, I don't think the Steinway sound breaks up at volume-- in fact that is one of their strengths-- a lot of headroom in the sound which is why many concert artists love Steinway in the concert hall and concerto repertoire. The sound projects without breaking up at fortissimo volumes and over the playing of a full orchestra. It also has a fullness and richness to the sound. I think of playing Steinway as painting with oil paints-- rich, luminous and layered-- whereas some other pianos are more transparent, like working in water colors. Beautiful and in some pieces, perhaps a better fit, but less satisfying overall imho.

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#2216372 - 01/17/14 07:38 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1714
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
One other point: This board self-selects for people who have gotten themselves interested in the differences among various makes of pianos, but because so many of the makers we discuss here produce very small numbers of instruments, even a lot of good pianists aren't familiar with them, whereas Steinway is ubiquitous in pianists' discussion, at conservatories, etc.

My music teacher -- a master's performance graduate of the Odessa Conservatory -- had never heard of the brand of piano I bought, even though -- to my particular liking -- it is preferable to a Steinway. Even some of the vocal posters on this board -- clearly accomplished pianists -- haven't played some of the top tier pianos.

Now take that phenomenon and transfer it to the role of the administrator of a concert hall, who may not have ever played piano. S/he has heard of a Steinway (great things, doubtless all deserved), but a Bluthner? Not likely. Does s/he routinely get blamed for everything that ever is perceived to go wrong at the hall? Almost certainly. Does that favor a degree of risk aversion? You tell me.

What concert hall administrator ever got fired for acquiring a Steinway D?


Edited by ClsscLib (01/17/14 07:39 PM)
_________________________


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#2216481 - 01/18/14 12:21 AM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
No need to explain: you clearly prefer a Steinway. And that's...ok.

Great, in fact.

Because, lucky you, if you are a performing artist, you will rarely find disappointment in the instruments you encounter on stage.

The only error in your thinking, I believe, is the next step you take: the generalization of your own, completely legitimate personal conclusion of superiority to overall superiority, and using market penetration as evidence of it, when market penetration often has very little to do with objective superiority. It's confounded by the fact that Steinway is, of course, a great instrument, so the conclusion slides easily right into your lap.

Easy to do. And alluring, too. If I truly loved something, and it seemed like it had managed to receive universal recognition for being the best, I'd probably not question it too much, either.

I get it, I truly do.

But as someone wise (or at least incredibly loud and in a grating accent) once said in a Saturday Night Live sketch, "ya can't get there from here."



Hahaha thanks fir understanding and the points you are making are quite good and I don't have a good answer for that. The only think I can comment on is why I like the Steinway sound. No the marketing, not the logo.

In regards to Sophia's comment, I went to play my piano too verify what I mean by breaking up. I think the term breaking up was misleading and sounds negative.

The sound of a some Steinway, (the ones more to my taste) have a slight distortion in all dynamic ranges, even when played softly. When you really dig in you get even more distortion. Its very subtle. Like on an electric guitar if you use distortion but turn the gain way down so it still sounds like an acoustic guitar, but with a very slight distortion.

I have not found this type of Smokey, sound in any other brand of piano. Even the lower end brands are too clean, too precise, too pure.

Almost impossible to put it into words, I'm sorry.

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#2216686 - 01/18/14 12:47 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3443
Loc: US
HI Noam,
What you're calling distortion, I think I would call "color" or texture in the sound-- more interesting possibilities to work with and a more human vocal quality to it.

Sophia

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#2216716 - 01/18/14 01:52 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
Hakki Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2405
Originally Posted By: RX2Bunny
I have heard all these other extremely good brands (Grotrian, Bosendofer, Fazioli, and the list goes on..) but then when I watched youtube video of classical music performance, you still mostly see Steinway to be used in concert halls. I'm just curious why is that? If there's another thread that has already discussed it, pls let me know which thread (I had tried to look but didn't see one).



It is certainly a very well build piano.
It has a unique sound that most pianists find very expressive.
The bass is powerful and also has depth and resonance.
The treble is both complex and singing.
The tone control is extremely good.
fff passages do not sound harsh, and ppp passages are not hard to produce.
The touch is very even and responsive. Not heavy, not light, just the way it should be.

When all the above come together in a piano, it is hard to find a better one.
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#2216725 - 01/18/14 02:19 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: Hakki]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4777
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: Hakki
It is certainly a very well build piano.
It has a unique sound that most pianists find very expressive.
The bass is powerful and also has depth and resonance.
The treble is both complex and singing.
The tone control is extremely good.
fff passages do not sound harsh, and ppp passages are not hard to produce.
The touch is very even and responsive. Not heavy, not light, just the way it should be.

When all the above come together in a piano, it is hard to find a better one.

Great List Hakki.

I'd like to add: every Steinway is different. Each is hand made so it has its own personality and tone. I understand this is not true of piano brands which are machine made.
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Deborah

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#2216747 - 01/18/14 03:53 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: gooddog]
ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1714
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Originally Posted By: Hakki
It is certainly a very well build piano.
It has a unique sound that most pianists find very expressive.
The bass is powerful and also has depth and resonance.
The treble is both complex and singing.
The tone control is extremely good.
fff passages do not sound harsh, and ppp passages are not hard to produce.
The touch is very even and responsive. Not heavy, not light, just the way it should be.

When all the above come together in a piano, it is hard to find a better one.

Great List Hakki.

I'd like to add: every Steinway is different. Each is hand made so it has its own personality and tone. I understand this is not true of piano brands which are machine made.


It's also not true of a lot of top-tier pianos that ARE hand made. Piano-to-piano differences exist, of course, but by and large, most of the top-tier handmade pianos have much more consistency than NY Steinways.

Even Steinway concedes that point and tries to make a virtue of necessity by characterizing the inconsistencies as each instrument having a unique personality and voice, etc., etc., etc.

I'm fond of Steinways, but I've never understood why Astoria doesn't make a more consistent instrument.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#2216805 - 01/18/14 05:54 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19225
Loc: New York City
I think it's a fallacy that:

-any make of pianos are "hand made" in the sense of not using any machines.
-hand made is necessarily better than machine made for many parts of piano making.
-only Steinways are each different in sound/touch.
-each piano being quite different in sound/touch is necessarily a better thing.


Edited by pianoloverus (01/18/14 06:12 PM)

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#2216906 - 01/18/14 09:30 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7756
Originally Posted By: RX2Bunny
I have heard all these other extremely good brands (Grotrian, Bosendofer, Fazioli, and the list goes on..) but then when I watched youtube video of classical music performance, you still mostly see Steinway to be used in concert halls. I'm just curious why is that? If there's another thread that has already discussed it, pls let me know which thread (I had tried to look but didn't see one).


I think there have been numerous threads that discuss this - here's one I stumbled on about the "Steinway Artist" program, which is an integral part of how Steinway has managed to keep its instruments in concert halls. A basic element in the scheme is that the pianists must, with few exceptions, play on Steinway instruments. Obviously, that will have the result that Steinway pianos are used in concerts, if very many pianists sign up for the program. And very many have.

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1320562/1.html

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#2216958 - 01/19/14 01:02 AM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
RX2Bunny Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/12
Posts: 116
Loc: Chicago
thanks for all the reply and discussion. it did answer my question and solved the "mystery". I don't question the quality of Steinway, esp the ones in concert hall. However, I agreed with TwoSnowFlakes and others that whether Steinway is the "ABSOLUTE BEST", it's completely a subjective and personal choice.

with the combination of a superior quality of instrument AND a powerful marketing program, now it makes more sense to me where steinway is dominating most of the concert halls today.

If I have a 150K budget to buy a top-tier piano for home use, yeah i would very much want to have a steinway.

If I plan to spend a couple thousands on concert tickets, I probably would want to hear different artists and would be interested to hear different top tier pianos as well.

Was there ever a poll on PW that asked PW members whether they would like to hear other top tier pianos in concerts?!


Edited by RX2Bunny (01/19/14 01:07 AM)

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#2217113 - 01/19/14 12:51 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: RX2Bunny]
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Originally Posted By: RX2Bunny
However, I agreed with TwoSnowFlakes and others that whether Steinway is the "ABSOLUTE BEST", it's completely a subjective and personal choice.


I agree but allow me to play devil's advocate.

The notion of something is "best" or lets use the term "normal" for an example. What is NORMAL?

Normal is very subjective. Who is to say eating rice with a fork is considered Normal. Maybe with chopsticks, or dare I say, eat it with you hands!

Normal is what the majority does. It's not necessarily better per say, but never-the-less, it's normal.

So what is BEST piano? The ones the majority chooses, or would choose if they could.

- when Steinways are on stage time after time
- when famous pianists own a steinway at home
- when you ask the general piano owner - what is your dream piano? Most say, steinway

Yeah, it has no tangible proof from the above perspective, but it's one way of asking what is "best" in the simplest form.

On the other hand, Hakki, and myself attempted to explain what we loved about a steinway that has nothing to do with what makes it best due to popular belief. Timbre, touch, dynamic range what why we prefer those elements in compared with other brands. But of course, that's 100% subjective, because it's our own personal opinion.

But going back to the initial point, if majority of pianists that belive what me and Hakki do about steinway, couldn't we conclude that Steinway is the "best"?

Or at the very least, if someone looking to buy a top tier piano asks me, what is best? I would say - start with steinway, but also look at bechstein, Fazioli, Bosendofer, Steingraeber etc...

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#2217136 - 01/19/14 01:23 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: Hamburg-D]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19225
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
So what is BEST piano? The ones the majority chooses, or would choose if they could.
- when Steinways are on stage time after time
- when famous pianists own a steinway at home
- when you ask the general piano owner - what is your dream piano? Most say, steinway
Re your three points:
It has been explained many times, including in this thread, that there are reasons why Steinways dominate the stage that have nothing to do with their quality. The Steinway artist program and the destruction of the factories of competitors (like Bechstein) during the war are two of these reasons. Another reason sometimes given, the ability of Steinway to project in a large hall over an orchestra, is irrelevant to a home owner's evaluation of quality.

To become a Steinway artist I believe a pianist must first own a Steinway so that covers your second point. In addition, knowing they will probably play mostly Steinways in concert, some pianists would choose to own a Steinway at home to be able to practice on a similar instrument.

Re point three, the general piano owner has not even heard of many/most of the other tier 1 and tier 2 instruments.

Your three points are essentially what Steinway uses in their ads.


Edited by pianoloverus (01/19/14 01:27 PM)

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#2217138 - 01/19/14 01:26 PM Re: Why is it always Steinway in concert hall [Re: Hamburg-D]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4821
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou


Normal is very subjective. Who is to say eating rice with a fork is considered Normal. Maybe with chopsticks, or dare I say, eat it with you hands!

Ask the general piano owner - what is your dream piano? Most say, steinway

Timbre, touch, dynamic range what why we prefer those elements in compared with other brands. But of course, that's 100% subjective, because it's our own personal opinion.

But going back to the initial point, if majority of pianists that belive what me and Hakki do about steinway, couldn't we conclude that Steinway is the "best"?



You're making quiet a few assumptions there. First of all, USA hasn't got the 'majority' of the world's great pianists. Europe (which includes Russia) has. And China has most of the world's pianists.

And many - possibly most, if you're talking Europe - "Steinway Pianists" have a different brand of piano at home. Even though they may only play Steinway in concerts. And many European concert pianists who have much greater exposure to other brands won't necessarily prefer Steinway, if they had a choice.

In the last Chopin Competition, only four out of the ten finalists chose to play on Steinway - yet no other prestige German/Austrian brand made their concert grands available to them (read my previous post about this). What would have happened if, indeed Bösendorfer, C.Bechstein, Blüthner et al had got into the act alongside Fazioli, Yamaha and Kawai? How many would actually have chosen to play Steinway then? (And almost certainly, they had all played Steinways at their conservatoires, and maybe none of the other brands that they ended up choosing).

As for timbre, touch and dynamic range, there are pianos that better Steinway - according to quite a few concert pianists (and myself). In fact, with regard to dynamic range, I don't think that there's any dispute that Fazioli beats Steinway. (Have you played the F278 or, even better, the F308?) The other two criteria are obviously subjective.

Finally, in the Indian subcontinent of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, they eat rice with their hands. Didn't you know? wink

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