A piano adventure in Chicago

Posted by: gutenberg

A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/23/13 11:27 PM

Every once in awhile I've had the opportunity to sample high end pianos in fun locations. A few years ago it was Steingraebers and the full line of C. Bechsteins in New Mexico.

A few days ago I was in Chicago and couldn't get home to Wichita because of winter storm Q. I spent several hours in the Fine Arts Building on S. Michigan Ave. Most of the time I spent at Pianoforte.

This little thread is about a few pianos there, but its also about the store. I don't have enough good words to say about Pianoforte or its proprietor, Thomas Zoells. What a wonderful place.

Ah the pianos. I have wanted to play Fazioli's for a long time. There was the 10'2". Angela Hewitt played this piano a few weeks earlier. I just pretended to play it. It is a high-revving, turbo-charged beast. I played one note and felt I played it wrong.

The 6', however, was for me very controllable, very even. I could rev it up and it challenged and rewarded me. Contrary to what some others have written it was quite musical to me, not clinical.

Then there was the Grotrian Charis, dark, moody. All the pianos I played were well regulated. Though the Grotrian was responsive it didn't suit me as well as some others, action-wise.

The Shigeru SK3 was very nice but was simply outgunned by the competition and the size of the competition. Of course it was cheaoer too.

And then there was the Bosendorfer 213. Used from 1991. For me, that was the piano for all seasons and all literature. It was the first Bosie that I've played and I think I'm hooked. I don't know if the 213 is representative of Bosendorfers given that the 214 came along, but now I know I have to play more Bosies.

Finally, the Grotrian 52" upright. A big surprise. For me, in tone and action this piano could easily hold its own against many grands. It challenges the belief, often stated here, that the grand action by its nature has to be superior to the vertical action.

A visit to Pianoforte when you're in Chicago will reward you I think.
Posted by: Numerian

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/24/13 08:42 AM

I have played that Grotrian 52" upright. I was quite surprised too. The action was comparable to most of the grands in the showroom. Somehow Grotrian has solved the gravity problem when it comes to upright actions. It is certainly the finest upright piano I have ever played in tone and responsiveness. If it isn't the finest in its class, it has very few competitors.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/24/13 09:09 AM

Originally Posted By: Numerian
Somehow Grotrian has solved the gravity problem when it comes to upright actions.

Numerian, I haven't played a 52" Grotrian although we had a smaller model years ago that I liked.

Does the gravity problem you are referring to affect playing the note and/or repetition?
Posted by: Entheo

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/24/13 09:16 AM

i second gutenberg's sentiments re: thomas and the store. they're moving to bigger & better digs too.

for thomas it's a labor of love. he also organizes lots of events, including the chicago amateur pianist guild (which i've participated in) and the following:

http://pianofortefoundation.org/
Posted by: PattyP

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/24/13 09:57 AM

Nice thread, gutenberg. smile

What you said about the Bosies, spot on. That's been pretty much my feeling about them since the first time I played one, and every one since. I'd pretty much ruled them off my short list of acoustics when the times comes because they are so much more piano than I will ever be a pianist, but now you make me re-think myself.

The best part about not having the dream acoustic yet is that the dream can get as big and grandiose as the imagination allows.
Posted by: RX2Bunny

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/24/13 10:40 PM

Yes, Pianoforte is very reputable in chicago. I also really admire Thomas's passion to piano. I had visited their showroom and it's a gorgeous place. I heard and read from news that the piano business is struggling in general so I really wish them the best. I would definitely like to see them sticking around forever because they offer a very good selection of piano for different levels of players. I think they are also the only Feurich dealer in Midwest. I encourage everyone to stop by the piano store if they have a chance.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/25/13 07:02 AM

Thomas has purchased a beautiful building just down Michigan Ave and will be moving there over the next year (substantial construction work to be done). So (knock on spruce) it appears that fine pianos will have a home in Chicago for the foreseeable future. And no better home then PianoForte!
Posted by: Numerian

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/25/13 07:35 AM

Originally Posted By: Withindale
Originally Posted By: Numerian
Somehow Grotrian has solved the gravity problem when it comes to upright actions.

Numerian, I haven't played a 52" Grotrian although we had a smaller model years ago that I liked.

Does the gravity problem you are referring to affect playing the note and/or repetition?



Yes. Controlling the tone, even down to pianissimo, and fast repetition, is easy to do on these Grotrian uprights. You don't need a grand for this purpose anymore if that's why you are thinking of upgrading. Mind you, I've only played this one instrument, but I've heard good things about Grotrian uprights from others. Also, you can achieve even better tonal control and repetition on high-end grands. The point, however, is that if are looking for something for a talented amateur where you want a grand-like action and you want to avoid fatigue, these uprights will be excellent choices.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/25/13 08:15 AM

Originally Posted By: Numerian
Yes. Controlling the tone, even down to pianissimo, and fast repetition, is easy to do on these Grotrian uprights. You don't need a grand for this purpose anymore if that's why you are thinking of upgrading.

Agreed, a well regulated good quality upright should play pianissimo and repeat well. I believe Grotrian use Renner actions.
Posted by: Steven Y. A.

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/25/13 10:55 AM

Grotrian uprights use their own design and manufactured action. Renner vertical actions are used in Schimmel and August Forster.
these pianos have actions feel like average grand.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/25/13 08:41 PM

Thomas does a great job and enjoys a fine reputation in the industry.

Glad you found him and thanks for the report! smile
Posted by: Withindale

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/27/13 05:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Steven Y. A.
Grotrian uprights use their own design and manufactured action.

Are you absolutely sure, Steven?

See, for example: http://www.klavierbau-kalscheuer.de/grotrian-steinweg_klaviere.htm.

I would surprised if a manufacturer like Grotrian would find it worthwhile to design and manufacture its own actions unless it bought in most of the parts from a supplier like Renner.
Posted by: Steven Y. A.

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/27/13 05:32 PM

I am not sure. You could be right.
Though I was very close buying a Federick Grotrian. I thought I read the same message twice. One from Pianobuyer and One from somwhere else. I could be wrong though.

nvm Pianobuyer didn't mention about vertical actions.
"Grotrian grands have beech rims, solid spruce soundboards, laminated beech pinblocks, Renner actions, and are single-strung."

I thought vogel vertical has Renner action too. The a british website says the otherway around.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/28/13 02:06 PM

Thanks, Steven. Renner or not, it's all down to the consistency of parts and regulation. I haven't followed all the threads but have you found your dream piano yet?
Posted by: Steven Y. A.

Re: A piano adventure in Chicago - 02/28/13 02:18 PM

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2034436/I%20paid%20deposit%20to%20the%20PLEYEL!.html#Post2034436

I paid deposit to a pleyel p124 (2007)
Checking with a technician (Steve Jackson) next week hopefully everything is good.