Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel

Posted by: BoseEric

Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 04:55 PM

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.

Posted by: kenny

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 05:05 PM

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:



Posted by: schwammerl

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 05:07 PM

 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.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 05:11 PM

2 more Bluthner pics






It was the first day...the tie never made it to the 2nd.
Posted by: Alex Hernandez

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 05:24 PM

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.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 05:42 PM

deleted by author
Posted by: Keith D Kerman

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 05:52 PM

 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.
Posted by: Deserves Fudge

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 05:52 PM

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
Posted by: Alex Hernandez

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 06:12 PM

Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 06:13 PM

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...
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 06:15 PM

I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your post, Alex.
Posted by: Alex Hernandez

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 06:15 PM

 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.
Posted by: Alex Hernandez

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 06:24 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by BoseEric:
I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your post, Alex. [/b]
Eric,

Don't worry about it.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 06:25 PM

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.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 06:57 PM

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.
Posted by: RickG

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 07:01 PM

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.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 07:41 PM

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!

Posted by: Piano World

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 08:24 PM

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).
Posted by: LJC

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 08:42 PM

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.
Posted by: David-G

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 09:17 PM

 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.
Posted by: Ori

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 11:28 PM

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.
Posted by: Ori

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/23/08 11:36 PM

Double post.
Posted by: Boxer

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 10:26 AM

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.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 11:21 AM



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.

Posted by: kenny

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 11:37 AM

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?
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 11:50 AM

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
Posted by: Norbert

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 12:01 PM

 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
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 01:04 PM

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.
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 01:08 PM

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."
Posted by: Alex Hernandez

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 01:38 PM

 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.
Posted by: Ori

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 02:13 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by BoseEric:
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. [/b]
Now that's worth quoting, remembering and repeating!
Posted by: Norbert

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 02:14 PM

 Quote:
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."
It's even more so: "identity"

The endless North American "who's the finest on the wall" is not exactly a European tradition where a great deal of manufacturers have always attempted to create something unique and lasting for/by themselves.

This "identity" was often very much influenced and shaped by the unique cultural surrroundings of a particular area, it's tradition of music, its composers, it's political and cultural make up, even religion, food and things like that.

Think of the 'clean' lines of the north, the more colourful shades of the South, the more romantic,almost melancholic tendencies as you move East.

Isn't it nice to have many beautiful flowers in one's rose garden?

This in essence, is what Europe is - and has always been - all about.

Norbert \:\)
Posted by: FogVilleLad

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 03:04 PM

N,[/b] your post and BoseEric's are well worth repeating. I've bookmarked this thread.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 05:35 PM

BoseEric,

I have been away but I have something to say after seing this thread for the first time.

Will you adopt me?

Seriously, tremendous post and great thread. Good show!

Also, both you and Alex have my tremendous respect and have always shown yourselves to be true gentlemen. I am glad this thread ended showing nothing but that.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 05:39 PM

Rich....does that mean you want this thread to end??
Posted by: pianistical

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 05:53 PM

Blüthner and Steingraeber featured in the same thread. Wonderful! :p
Posted by: Innominato

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 08:54 PM

"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".

Truly beautiful words.
Thanks
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 10:11 PM

double post - please ignore
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 10:12 PM

BoseEric said:
 Quote:
Rich....does that mean you want this thread to end??
[/b]

No, no no!! Go on. Please go on.

I meant that the potential verbal sparring ended. You were both gentlemen.

Usually it is best to ignore me, BoseEric. ;\)
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 10:16 PM

Just goofing on ya, buddy
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/24/08 11:32 PM

Kenny, if you will go back just a few months and read the very long thread on cantileavered bridges, you will find that a few modern pianos have decided to not use them. Some people are rebuilding old pianos without them as well. Del Fondrich wrote at length why he is against them. His pianos do not have them as well as the Charles Walters he designed not having them.
BoseEric, Thanks for this wonderful thread. I know how very much work you are putting into posting your report. Thanks for the effort to post the pictures.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 07:27 AM

Thanks to all who have said good things about this thread. Perhaps you can tell that I'm passionate about the subject. Glad it's finding kindred spirits out there.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 08:27 AM

After poking around Bayreuth, including some grave hunting, we hit the road for Braunschweig and Schimmel.

Braunschweig has medieval roots, but now is an important part of Germany's industrial core. I did not find the same kind of connection there like Bach or Wagner, which doesn't take anything from Braunschweig. It's just explaining why I don't have any scenic pictures.


Schimmel has staked a different place in the European piano world than the 2 other makers I visited. While Schimmel shares a long history and family management, Schimmel has committed itself to high volume (relatively speaking) production, making the significant investment in equipment and processes and taking the price advantages and product range advantages that come with that strategy.

They are a true German piano maker with the same commitment to an individual sound and style. But they are also committed to making high quality German pianos available to a wider market, both in price points and a truly huge range of models, styles and features.

Schimmel did not let me take photos and I have an appreciation of why. Many aspects of their approach could be copied by other manufacturers interested in higher volume production. Of course, all the traditional piano making techniques are present in the factory. However, different product lines and price points show different combinations of machine work and handwork. The handwork steps are as well known and as transparent as at other makers. However, some of the ways of easing materials handling, mechanizing certain repetitive steps and processing components in large volume are creative and unique.

Lothar Kiesche, the Director of Sales and Marketing gave us the tour and I really appreciate his taking to time to do so. Schimmel is expanding their focus on the higher end of their model line, the Konzert Collection. One feature of this series, if I understand it correctly, is to use the same action (key length in particular) in a series of different sizes, allowing consistency in touch.

There is another Schimmel innovation that I love and think all makers should adapt. There are a couple of critical dimensions in bass strings, including the distance from the back of the bridge to the hitch pin loop. On notes where there are 2 (sometimes 3) bass strings, the traditional design has the hitch pins staggered, meaning that this "tail length", from the end of the bridge to the hitch pin, is different for the 2 strings of a unison. This is why, when ordering individual replacement bass strings, you have to count tuning pins rather than keys. Schimmel has the hitch pins in a straight line for each note, meaning this tail length is the same for each string, greatly easing production and avoiding mistakes when ordering replacement strings.

I know, this is a small issue that only a piano manufacturing geek like me could get excited about, but I'm stuck with my personality and have chosen to embrace it rather than fight it. I'll post a photo of this feature later.

Posted by: Starting Over

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 08:33 AM

Norbert said...

 Quote:
This "identity" was often very much influenced and shaped by the unique cultural surrroundings of a particular area, it's tradition of music, its composers, it's political and cultural make up, even religion, food and things like that.

Think of the 'clean' lines of the north, the more colourful shades of the South, the more romantic,almost melancholic tendencies as you move East.

Isn't it nice to have many beautiful flowers in one's rose garden?

This in essence, is what Europe is - and has always been - all about.
Indeed. Well put!
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 08:35 AM

Remember, this thread is first a travelogue with some thematic sideroads. I'm not trying to duplicate websites or marketing material in describing all the features and aspects of each maker. Each maker has lots and lots of individual features they consider important and unique. Trust me, they would LOVE to describe each one in detail (as would I about Bosendorfer). But that is not my purpose here.

Another point about Schimmel is their sophisticated keyboard manufacturing capability. This is a benefit of their volume and ability to selectively vertically integrate.

Making keyboards is surprisingly difficult which explains why most makers don't do it. There is a management technique called "stick to your knitting" that most high end makers adhere to in regards to actions and keyboards. However, Schimmel has been able to surmount the keyboard making issues in house.
Posted by: Emanuel Ravelli

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 11:05 AM

BoseEric --

Thanks for the vicarious thrill your posts have provided. You and your son have just lived my dream vacation.

I do have one questgion about your itinerary. I didn't know Schimmel's factory was in Braunschweig, but I'm well acquainted with the town's name because I owned a Grotrian 189 for 18 years and that's where their factory is located (or was the last time I checked). Why would you go right next door to Grotrian's plant without dropping in to visit them too? (I may have read this thread too quickly and missed the explanation. If so, I'm sorry; if not, I'm just puzzled.)
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 11:38 AM

No reason except for time constraints and because of the informal relationship between Bosendorfer and Schimmel I felt I should visit them first.

Grotrian is definitly on my future list.
Posted by: piqué

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 12:03 PM

 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.
eric,
i am really enjoying your travelogue, and reliving my own visit to steingraeber through yours.

i would love it if you could please elaborate on the statement i quoted from you. this is something i intuited during my visit to the region, but could not quite put my finger on, being new to that part of the world. can you give some tangible examples?

how is a bluthner a product of its geographic and cultural environment? can you characterize the geography and the culture, then characterize the traits in the bluthner that you feel mirror them?

also, did you get a chance to visit the heart of braunschweig and see the amazing recreation of its medieval buildings and churches? (all destroyed in the war.)
Posted by: polostrings

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 12:19 PM

This has to be one of the best threads in the piano forum. Thanks for sharing!!
Posted by: Emanuel Ravelli

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 01:06 PM

BoseEric -- I should have remembered that kids' spring breaks don't last forever. Let us hear about your next trip too.

Perri -- I've been curious about your book and finally decided to check it out at your website. If you play half as well as you write, you could have made a career in music. I was hooked halfway through the first page. Interestingly, it was something non-musical that grabbed my attention. My mother and siblings live in Colorado, and I've often marveled at the beauty of aspen leaves shimmering in a gentle breeze. Your description -- "Quaking aspen lined the banks of the Boulder River; their burnished leaves turned up their bellies to the wind and trembled in unison . . . " perfectly captured one of nature's great beauties. Then I read the rest of the excerpts and bolted for Amazon to order some copies.

Good luck keeping your piano in voice, and let us know when we can expect more writing like this. Congratulations on a creating a wonderful reading experience.
Posted by: lluiscl

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 02:15 PM

Hello. I visit Blüthner factory last April. Herr Ingbert Blüthner-Haessler let me to take pictures and explained me everything about its pianos. Really a great man and a wonderful visit. Anyway I want to say that I was a little suprised about diferences of tone of the newest pianos against my older one (6'3" grand from 1921, recently I reconditioned). Really I prefer the old sound, with its incredible sustain and unique warm tone. May be Blüthner pianos are like the best wines, growing up with the age??
All the best,
Posted by: pianistical

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/25/08 02:56 PM

Hi lluis,

I am glad to see a fellow vintage Blüthner owner on this forum. The crispness, clarity, warmth and depth of tone of old Blüthners are hard to beat IMO.

Although I admire other pianos and can be impressed with them only the tones of Blüthners have this far brought tears to my eyes.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/27/08 06:20 PM

 Quote:


i would love it if you could please elaborate on the statement i quoted from you. this is something i intuited during my visit to the region, but could not quite put my finger on, being new to that part of the world. can you give some tangible examples?

how is a bluthner a product of its geographic and cultural environment? can you characterize the geography and the culture, then characterize the traits in the bluthner that you feel mirror them?

[/b]
Pique

In a word (or 3) no, I can't. In my opinion, Bosendorfer and Bluthner both have very individual, distinctive tone. I'm very familiar with the relationship between Bosendorfer and the history of piano building and music in Vienna and how that has shaped the tone of the instrument today.

I'm extrapolating when considering that Bluthner also has a very distinctive, identifiable sound (again, in my opinion) and also comes from a city with a long and vibrant musical and cultural history, quite different from Vienna. After all, Martin Luther spoke at St. Thomas church!

It would be great if someone else can elaborate. But I have to admit, I stated my opinion, not fact.
Posted by: kluurs

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/27/08 06:53 PM

Add me to the lovers of the old Bluthner sound - not beating up the new ones - but just a preference.
Posted by: Alex Hernandez

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/27/08 07:50 PM

I have prepared new Blüthners and have played new Blüthners others have prepared that have had the same historic voice as the early 20th century instruments.

I think it is critical to point out that when one hears a new Blüthner that has been modified or not prepared with that historical ideal in mind the pure experience cannot be realized.

I also think that Leipzig being a center for commerce, education and culture was the perfect place for Blüthner to be established. The idiosyncratic nature of the instrument reflects the type of cutting edge innovative thinking that attracted so many such as Goethe, Wagner and Nietzsche.

The reunification of Germany began in Leipzig as did the war of nations, it is historic, beautiful and significant just like the piano that comes from there.
Posted by: David-G

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/27/08 09:05 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Alex Hernandez:
I have prepared new Blüthners and have played new Blüthners others have prepared that have had the same historic voice as the early 20th century instruments.

I think it is critical to point out that when one hears a new Blüthner that has been modified or not prepared with that historical ideal in mind the pure experience cannot be realized. [/b]
Alex, could you clarify this? I am not clear what you are saying. Are you implying that some special preparation is necessary for new Blüthners to have the same historic voice as the early 20th century instruments? If so, what sort of special preparation is required?

Or are you saying that if a new Blüthner sounds different from the "historic voice", it is probably inadequately regulated and voiced?

I think several of us Blüthner lovers are very interested in this point.
Posted by: Alex Hernandez

Re: Visit to Bluthner, Steingraeber and Schimmel - 05/27/08 09:24 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by David-G:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Alex Hernandez:
I have prepared new Blüthners and have played new Blüthners others have prepared that have had the same historic voice as the early 20th century instruments.

I think it is critical to point out that when one hears a new Blüthner that has been modified or not prepared with that historical ideal in mind the pure experience cannot be realized. [/b]
Alex, could you clarify this? I am not clear what you are saying. Are you implying that some special preparation is necessary for new Blüthners to have the same historic voice as the early 20th century instruments? If so, what sort of special preparation is required?

Or are you saying that if a new Blüthner sounds different from the "historic voice", it is probably inadequately regulated and voiced?

I think several of us Blüthner lovers are very interested in this point. [/b]
David,

I guess what I am saying is that the Blüthner blood lines run very pure. There is no doubt that there is some differences between the old and new as design changes would ensure, but the basic tonal character remains consistent.

To achieve this historic sound requires familiarity and sensitivity to both the historic sound and modern instrument.

I call it chasing the golden tone, with enough practice you can catch it. \:\)