Two of the best pianos I have ever played were Hamburg Steinways.
One was a recent model purchased brand-new for a music school I was
attending and the other was a factory-reconditioned 1898 model B (I
think) purchased in Vienna by a faculty member and shipped to the
USA. It was like playing melted chocolate. It must have been one of
the last to have only 85 keys - the top A#, B, and C are not present.
It's very strange playing one of these if you are used to the
"standard" 88-key keyboard.
The Hamburg instruments seem to have a rounder tone, maybe a little smaller (though I did not think so) and sweeter than the American Steinways. A lot of American Steinways seem to me to have a disagreeable, "brassy" tone and a clunky action that makes it impossible to do a real pianissimo. But this may be due more to the huge number of them out there and the large variation among piano technicians' abilities.
Unfortunately I never got to play the Bösendorfer Imperial Grand at my alma mater. That one was kept under *very* tight supervision. Even doctoral piano candidates had to appeal to the powers that be to play it on their recitals. This 11-ft. piano has extra keys at the bottom to get it down to E-flat below the normal low A. Since pianists can get confused seeing the extra keys in their peripheral vision, there is a flap that can be lowered to hide the extra keys. I was told that the extra notes were there mostly to provide additional sympathetic vibration (more resonance) when the dampers were raised, rather than being put there to actually be played on. La Monte Young wrote a five- hour piece called "The Well-Tuned Piano" in which the Bösendorfer is tuned in extended just intonation in E-flat, presumably to take advantage of that feature of the instrument.
Best regards, Aaron
On Aug 31, 2006, at 9:29 AM, Eric Goldstein wrote:
But what about the German Steinways?