By Stephen N. Reed
For over a century, player pianos have had the remarkable ability to play without a pianist sitting at the bench. The earliest mechanical systems used a combination of industrial era techniques, ranging from pumps to levers to pumps to cue each note from holes in paper rolls.
Fast forward several decades. A new player piano renaissance was coming into being. In the 1980s and 1990s, several companies began digitizing the player piano experience.
The Yamaha Disklavier, the PianoDisc and QRS systems were the main players. In these systems, a series of solenoids are activated under the keys, a real revolution in player piano technology. In 2016, the Steinway Spirio entered the player market as well.
The first player pianos lacked dynamic range. Today’s player pianos have surprising nuance and exceptional dynamic range due to the new technology available.
If you are potentially interested in a player piano experience, then understanding the different modern player piano systems is key to making the best possible piano selection. After all, the addition of a player piano system is a significant investment, and the last thing you want is to choose a system that doesn’t meet your needs.
Long before acoustic piano companies began to embrace digital technologies, we at M. Steinert built our reputation on helping customers select the best piano for them.
For an increasing number of our customers, that means including a player piano system. As a result, we are constantly learning about the various playing piano options as they roll out.
By the end of this article, you’ll understand how player pianos work, what they cost, and will also be introduced to Steinway’s Spirio player piano, which now accounts for over half of Steinway’s sales today.
QRS and PianoDisc are the main competitors in the custom installation world. While in macro similar, they each have their unique attributes, installation procedures, and technologies. The most obvious differences are in their user interface and the music library.
Either system can be added to almost any acoustic piano not over 20 years old (this is a recommendation due to increased wear and tear, not an imposed restriction). Adding one to a piano costs between $7,000 and $11,000, depending on the models and options selected.
Adding a player system involves shipping the piano to a qualified installer to make the modifications needed to install and test the system. Player system installations should not be attempted by an inexperienced piano tech.
Here is a look at other similarities and differences between PianoDisc and QRS:
QRS uses fully encased solenoids with Teflon impregnated solenoid plungers to deliver control over the range of motion. A longer plunger and solenoid deliver greater accuracy and the necessary dynamism to support this feature.
PianoDisc solenoids are shorter than those on QRS, which some feel reduces performance due to the physics of solenoid engagement.
Both QRS and PianoDisc allow upgrades to both their hardware and software components. The latest PianoDisc system is called the Prodigy and the most recent update to QRS is the PNO3 (Pianomation 3).
QRS uses an embedded web app system, where you effectively ‘login’ to the piano, and once connected have full control of the piano from any connected device.
In the first year of QRS ownership you access to all l 15,000 songs from the QRS library – which are pre-loaded into the system. After one year you get to keep 1500 without additional payment–and you can order more through the app.
Over 4,000 songs in all music categories have been recorded for PianoDisc. You can download music from PianoDisc’s music store via iQ.
Both the QRS PNO3 and PianoDisc iQ systems are retrofit and can be easily installed in any piano.
Both systems allow songs/tracks to have additional audio accompaniment. The balance between the piano and this additional audio can be mixed from the app controls.
With PianoDisc, music is mostly purchased as an entire album, while QRS allows users to purchase singles.
Demand for the modern player piano experience continued to grow. Yamaha rolled out their Disklavier player piano in 1987. See the article at the end of this article for details on the Disklavier and how it compares to the Steinway Spirio.
After several years of research and engineering, Steinway introduced the Spirio High-Definition Player Piano in 2016. Spirio set out to redefine the player piano experience in terms of both quality and ease of use.
In addition to having the player piano technology installed in the factory before the sale, three additional factors help to set them apart:
The cost to add Spirio’s Playback system technology to a Steinway & Sons’ Model M or Model B grand is about $27,500. To further add the Record technology is an additional $15,000.
In 2019, Steinway introduced the Spirio | r, allowing the capture, archival, and editing of live performances in high-definition. Spirio | r offers exclusive high-resolution recording, preserving all the music: every nuanced dynamic level from infinitesimal gradations of hammer velocity and every shade of resonance from proportional pedaling.
The Spirio | r adds a total of $45,000 to the new Steinway Grand Model M, B, or D (the Model D Spirio is only available in the Spirio | r version).
Continued interest in add-on player piano systems like QRS and PianoDisc, as well as brisk sales of Yamaha Disklavier and Steinway’s Spirio, are proof positive that modern player pianos are here to stay.
The fact that well over half of new Steinway sales are for Spirios confirms the increasing popularity of this intriguing combination of classic acoustic design and modern-day digital technology.
At M. Steinert, we encourage you to try all four major player piano systems before purchasing. Investigate PianoDisc, QRS, Yamaha’s Disklavier, and Steinway’s Spirio. Only then will you be able to make the most informed choice for your modern player piano.
Make an appointment to discuss these options with one of our seasoned piano consultants at M. Steinert. In the meantime, read more about the differences between Disklavier and Spirio in this article:
by Stephen N. Reed
A piano’s wooden cabinet, or case, is one of the most important parts of a grand piano. The case, which includes the rim in a grand piano, is key in protecting the other 12,000 parts of the piano, and it is responsible for critical parts of the piano’s sound, securing its musical quality.
Additionally, taking good care of the piano’s case is essential to maintain strong resale value–both for the protection of the interior of the grand piano as well as its external appearance. After all, the case is what most people visualize when they imagine a grand piano–a large, impressive, wooden structure.
It’s probably what you see in your mind’s eye, too, when the words “grand piano” comes to mind. What could be worse than buying what looks like an attractive grand piano, only to discover later that the case was made with shoddy materials?
M. Steinert & Sons has been helping our customers avoid such pitfalls for over 160 years. We understand how pianos are made and which parts deserve your particular attention.
By the end of this article, you will understand better the three reasons that a grand piano’s case is important: cabinet construction, the rim and its impact on the piano’s musical quality, and how the case allows you to express your personal style. You’ll also learn of some different styles of modern grand piano cases.
We tend to forget that some of the world’s great, early piano makers–Henry Steinway, Morris Steinert, and Ignaz Bosendorfer among them–had cabinet making in their backgrounds. They are known today for the beautiful pianos they created.
However, one can definitely say that the piano’s cabinet, or case, was there from the beginning of some of the great grand piano designs we take for granted today.
Approximately 85% of every acoustic piano is wood. The style of cabinetry and wood finish is an important consideration for many piano buyers.
Solid core construction: Solid lumber core with two outer layers of veneer on each side. This is the least economical approach to piano building. There are significant variations between manufacturers between types of wood selected and their strength, durability, and grain characteristics.
Plywood: approx. 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 inch plywood panels with face veneers on each side.
Fiberboard: panels made of compressed wood fiber, with face veneers applied to each side. (Most economical approach–often heavier due to presence of glue used to fabricate these materials)
Historically, piano cabinets have used solid core construction. However, plywood and fiberboard are now more prevalent in manufactured pianos. Legs, moulding, and various trim pieces are usually solid wood. On good quality pianos, they are of the same wood species as the rest of the piano’s cabinet.
Each part of a piano’s case has a specific function. A higher-quality build will result in less failure of case components and a longer lifespan overall.
Because of Henry Steinway’s commitment to making the best possible piano, Steinway’s handcrafted process has always used solid core construction.
Other piano makers have fine case designs. However, no piano maker has done more to develop an effective rim than Steinway. By 1880, Steinway started to produce their Model A, a smaller grand piano that nevertheless had significant ramifications for their larger grand piano models later.
Steinway’s Model A featured a laminated maple cabinet, resulting in their first modern rim case. This case was created by the use of long, thin planks of maple that were bent around a form and pressed together with glue.
The result was a patented, single-piece, continuous bent-rim that made a stronger and more stable case for the Model A. Steinway had hit upon an approach to their smaller grand pianos’ rims that worked for larger models like the Model D, as well.
The two rims–inner and outer–are essentially the foundation of the piano, along with the back-posts that are attached to the inner rim. Placed on top and attached to the top of the inner rim is the soundboard, which vibrates freely within the perimeter of the outer rim.
The vibrations of the strings after being struck by the hammers are transferred through the maple bridges into the spruce of the soundboard and then instantaneously conducted toward the rims.
Steinway has proven that the rim’s job is to absorb as little of that energy as the particular design of a given piano permits, reflecting the acoustic vibrations back into the soundboard and then releasing them outward as sound waves to the ear.
The species and density of the rim wood will determine the degree of efficiency of reflection of sound vibrations toward the ear. Many manufacturers use relatively soft inexpensive hardwoods for rim construction, such as Philippine mahogany (lauan). Steinway uses only more costly North American hard rock maple, known for its unexcelled density, durability, flexibility, and reflective efficiency as well as tonality.
Steinway is the only manufacturer that bends the inner and outer rims together at the same time into one homogeneous unit, thereby eliminating the possibility of rim separation between the inner and outer rims as the piano ages. A separated rim will compromise the tuning stability of the piano as well as have a detrimental effect on tone.
When it comes to the matter of a grand piano’s musical quality, evaluating the role of the case gets a little complicated. How one actually defines the “case” becomes all-important.
On one hand, many in the piano industry consider the rim, so integral to producing the piano’s sound, as a separate part altogether. What’s left are the other exterior parts of the case–like the lyre, the legs, the music desk, or the fallboard–which do not significantly affect the musical quality of the piano.
On the other hand, others in the piano industry believe the rim should be considered part of the “case,” as the outer rim of the grand is part of the visible cabinetry.
“The outer rim not only defines the primary curved furniture of a grand piano but is integral to its sound,” says Phil Schoonmaker, a veteran piano consultant at M. Steinert & Sons. “So the case, in my view, includes the outer, visible rim which provides architectural design and beauty as well as structural construction essential to tone production.”
According to this view, the case, with rim included, becomes an essential part of the musical quality of a grand piano.
Steinway’s patented one-piece continuous bent rim generates its strength by bending single laminations of premium, straight-grained rock maple in an unbroken curve to form the rim of the piano.
The process of bending our rims completely by hand has taken place in Steinway’s factories for over 140 years, and recent developments in that process have produced a vastly improved piano rim.
Today’s Steinway rim has improved stability, durability, and strength, which together create the distinctive Steinway sound. Never before has Steinway’s rim emboldened the company’s patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard to vibrate so freely and generate a golden tone.
Thus, this patented rim not only helps to strengthen the case but contributes mightily to Steinway’s signature sound.
The outer veneer of the piano’s case does not affect musical properties. A designer Steinway Model B has no more or less musical quality than a standard ebony Model B.
However, the outer veneer of a grand piano’s case can be an expression of the owner’s individuality or decorative style. While the classic ebony Steinway grands are the ones that spring to mind automatically from their ubiquitous presence on concert hall stages around the globe, Steinway has always made available a range of case styles for its customers.
Perhaps best known is the Crown Jewel Collection, with fine veneers like high-quality mahogany, walnut, and East Indian Rosewood, among others.
Wrapping a piano’s case in the best color for one’s interior design is another option available at piano stores like M. Steinert & Sons.
As with standard ebony grands, the care and maintenance of more individualized, limited edition grands make a huge difference in any future re-sale.
For musical quality, resale value, and aesthetics, the piano’s case matters a great deal. It is the first part of the piano that the owner or audience sees. Plus, it is what protects the other 12,000 parts within the piano.
Combined with the unique Steinway bent-rim, the case plays a major role in creating the Steinway sound.
The best way to appreciate these contributions of the case to a Steinway grand is to come into one of our two showrooms in Boston and Newton to allow your senses to take in several different Steinway grands.
In the meantime, learn more about the way Steinway cases are made by reading this article:
by Stephen N. Reed
Wrapping is a decorative art come of age. You may have seen company cars wrapped in the smooth vinyl that peels without difficulty, helping to advertise products, services, or a special event coming up.
Wrapping is suddenly everywhere these days, even as a massive art statement covering a key, recognizable landmark like Napoleon’s famed Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
This final, posthumous work by the artist Christo, who recently passed away at age 84, will be unveiled on September 18th and will run through October 3rd.
The total cost for L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped? $14 million dollars, entirely funded by the late Christo. Happily, the cost of wrapping a piano at M. Steinert & Sons is much less expensive!
Piano wraps are rising in popularity as one of M. Steinert & Sons’ creative offerings. Whether it’s the perfect finish to add some color to a new interior design or for a special performance or event, a wrapped piano can transform a space instantly.
So why would a piano buyer prefer vinyl over paint? According to Dr. Helen Ming, a piano consultant for M. Steinert & Sons, vinyl has several significant benefits:
During the installation process, the different exterior parts of the piano are disassembled to wrap the individual parts like the legs, pedal tree, lid, and bench. The seams and cut edges are meticulously hidden, allowing a wrapped piano from M. Steinert & Sons will look quite like paint.
“We provide this wrapping service for both individual and business customers alike,” says Dr. Ming. “These are people who want something different for their home or office, yet tasteful.”
All of the wrapping work is done on site at M. Steinert & Sons with assistance from Wrap Solutions in Boston, which specializes in such wrapping projects.
As for the cost, wrapping a piano, with all the painstaking work that goes into it, is surprisingly affordable. Wrapping a piano depending upon details sought costs between $5,000 and $8,000.
Also, look into our Designer Piano Collection From Steinway.
Most people are fascinated to learn about the most expensive things–whether jewels, or cars, or houses, or clothing. For instance, many people would find it interesting to see the world’s most expensive mansions and to know what they cost, such as:
Sometimes visitors to our Steinway showrooms express surprise at the cost of a new Steinway piano – and we remind them that Steinway is NOT the most expensive piano. We wanted to find out what the most expensive pianos were in 2021 and find out where Steinway landed on that list.
Ordered from high to low – the following is a list of the most expensive pianos that are generally available for sale or from current manufacturers in stock finishes — not rare historical instruments that are found in museums, or irreplaceable one-of-a-kind Art Case pianos, or unique collectibles—these can exceed $18,000,000.
Note: Pricing on a per-model basis can vary between information sources (we used a combination of internet research, and inside-industry pricing knowledge – last updated 2021).
Most people also know from experience that the most expensive things they buy are not always the best, or don’t necessarily meet their needs. When it comes to pianos, you may be surprised to learn the results.
Fazioli was founded in 1978 in Rome by Paolo Fazioli, a musician and engineer who held management positions in his family’s furniture factories in Rome, Sacile, and Turin. Fazioli builds only grand pianos (no uprights), about 150 per year.The F308 concert grand is 10’2″ long and has 4 pedals like the Stuart concert grand.
Features includes Val di Femme soundboards (like the Ravencroft), adjustable bronze capo d’astro bars, Canadian pinblocks, and two actions and two pedal lyres as options on all models.
One of Australia’s last remaining piano-makers, Wayne Stuart, custom makes unusual pianos of unusual size–97 keys, 102 keys, and even one 9’10” model with 108 keys (9 octaves)–standard pianos have 88 keys.
Stuart’s family-run business in Tumut, southern New South Wales, uses timbers largely native to Australia and incorporates certain technical features that deviate from the norm such as 4 pedals and bridge agraffes. There are two models available, a studio grand 7’2″ in length and a full concert grand 9’10” in length. A small number of instruments are built to order each year.
The Petrof company was created in 1864 by Antonin Petrof who was from the small town of Hradec Kralove, about 150 miles east of Prague in the current Czech Republic. He traveled to Vienna in 1857 to learn piano manufacturing and returned to his hometown to found the Petrof piano factory.
Almost 90 years later, after WWII, the company was confiscated under nationalization and it wasn’t until 1990 that Jan Petrof took over to get the company back on its feet with the return of democracy. Made in the Czech Republic, the P284 concert grand is 9’2″ and is available only in polished ebony finish.
An unusual feature Petrof has invented and patented is a version of its new grand action that uses tiny opposing magnets on the wippens and wippen rail. These magnets allow for the removal of the usual lead counterweights in the keys and, according to the company, significantly alter the action’s dynamic properties.
The new action also furthers the European Union’s stated environmental goal of phasing out the use of lead in pianos. The action is adjusted in the factory for a standard touch weight and is serviced in exactly the same way as a standard action.
The Magnetic Accelerated Action, as it is known, is a special-order option on the grands. Petrof also offers as an option the Magnetic Balanced Action, which allows the player to quickly and easily change the touch weight in the range of ±4–5 grams simply by turning a knob.
Seiler Pianos was established in 1849 in Leignitz by Eduard Seiler and the company eventually became the largest piano manufacturer in East Germany. After WWII the company moved to Kitzingen, Germany where it resides to this day. In 2008 Seiler was purchased by the Korean manufacturer Samick but manufacturing of high-end Seiler pianos remained in Germany.
In 2013 Seiler introduced the lower cost Johannes Seiler series with new scale designs manufactured in Indonesia. Though in business since 1849, Seiler is relatively new to the concert-grand market, having had a 9′ grand in production for only about 15 years. The Seiler SE278 concert grand is 9’2”and it is available only in polished ebony finish.
Some features of this piano are nickel-plated cut thread German rod steel tuning pins, Renner action with hornbeam rail, solid spruce “membrator” system soundboard and white spruce ribs pre-curved and notched to the inner rim.
Ravenscroft Pianos is an American-based boutique manufacturer founded in 2004 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Under the direction of Michael Spreeman, Ravenscroft has cabinets crafted in Germany and shipped to Arizona, USA for customization. The Ravenscroft 275 is 9’0″ and is available in polished ebony, pyramid mahogany, or burled walnut finishes.
Some features of this piano are Val di Femme soundboards, CAD optimized actions, multilayer braces with inlaid beech and maple bars, and mahogany and ebony laminated bridges.
Steingraeber & Sohne started building pianos in the 1820’s in Thuringia, Germany. Today they are located in Bayreuth, Germany and are still run as a family enterprise. The Steingraeber E272 concert grand is 8’11” and is available in polished or satin ebony, walnut or sapele mahogany finish. Other veneers are also available by special order.
Some features of this piano are the Renner action, sympathetically vibrating second soundboard, natural materials and glues, white keytops from cattle bone, Bavarian spruce soundboards and hardened pressure bars and bridge pins.
The Bechstein company was established in 1853 in Berlin, Germany by Carl Bechstein. The company survived through two world wars and many economic challenges and has remained to this day. In 1963 it was acquired by Baldwin, and in 1986 Baldwin sold it to Karl Schulze, a leading West German piano retailer and master piano technician, who undertook a complete technical and financial reorganization of the company.
The C. Bechstein D282 concert grand is 9’2” and is available only in polished ebony finish. Some features of this piano are a European solid spruce untapered soundboard, solid beech bridges with beech cap, mahogany moldings and solid wood laminate beam construction.
The Bosendorfer company was established in Vienna in 1828 by Ignaz Bosendorfer. After his passing, Ludwig Bosendorfer took over and began expanding the company. In 1966 the company was purchased by the Kimball Piano Company of America and subsequently resold in 2001 to Austrian investment banking group BAWAG-PSK.
In 2008, Yamaha Corporation purchased the company, keeping the manufacturing in Austria. The Bosendorfer Imperial concert grand is 9’6″ and has 97 keys–a full 8 octaves.
The piano is available in a variety of cabinet styles–Strauss, Schubert, Baroque, Vienna and more. The finishes include satin or polished ebony, white and other colors. Features of this instrument include extra keys, an Austrian high altitude solid spruce pre-crowned soundboard, high tension independent capo bar construction, solid red beech and spruce rims pieced together, hand-wound single looped strings, and more.
Friedrich Grotrian began manufacturing pianos in Germany in 1835 in a partnership with Heinrich Steinweg (who later emigrated to the United States to found Steinway & Sons in New York in 1853).
Grotrian pianos were well known throughout Europe and well respected and managed to continue manufacturing throughout both World Wars until eventually, in 2015, a Hong-Kong based piano manufacturer under the name Parsons Music Group bought a majority interest in the company, continuing production in the Grotrian factory in Braunschweig, Germany.
Grotrian uses laminated beech hardwood for their grand piano rims and pin blocks, actions made by Renner, solid spruce soundboards like most fine pianos, and employ single-stringing throughout the entire scale. Grotrian uprights possess an unusual back construction with the posts arranged in the shape of a star for equal distribution of string tension.
In 2018, Grotrian introduced two more affordable versions under the label Wilhelm Grotrian. They are manufactured in Asia.
The Sauter company was established in 1819 by Johann Grimm in Spaichingen, Germany. When Grimm passed, the company was left to Carl Sauter, thus beginning a lineage of Sauters. Sixth generation Ulrich Sauter now oversees operations of Sauter Pianofortemanufaktur in Germany.
The Sauter 275 concert grand is 9’0” and the piano is available only in a polished ebony finish. Some features of this piano are Bavarian solid spruce soundboard, beech pin block, Renner action, a keybed reinforced with steel to prevent warping, and all pianos are fully tropicalized for humid climates. The factory produces about 500 vertical and grand pianos a year in its factory in the extreme south of Germany, at the foot of the Alps.
The Kawai company was formed in 1927 by Koichi Kawai and seven of his colleagues. Modern manufacturing began in 1955 and by 1963 Kawai centers were launched around the world. Shigeru Kawai are the company’s premium grade of grand pianos.
The SK-EX concert grand is 9’0” and is available only in a polished ebony finish. Some features of this piano are Australian wool hammers, a tapered and tuned solid spruce soundboard, alternating rock maple and mahogany rims, hand planed ribs, thinned hammer shanks, and post-delivery service when each buyer receives a visit within the first year by a Kawai master technician from the factory in Japan.
The most interesting fact regarding the New York-based piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons is that although it is the least expensive of the top 12 most expensive pianos, it is professionally and exclusively endorsed by 97% of solo concert pianists worldwide when playing with an orchestra, while all other piano manufacturers combined compete for a fraction of 3% of the symphony market.
Steinway has also been long recognized by piano historians as the world leader in technical and scientific piano innovation having garnered 139 engineering patents to date since 1853, the vast majority of which have been incorporated in some fashion into the other top brands and are now found in virtually every other piano manufacturer’s designs.
Each element of the Steinway concert grand has been designed and refined with the world-class performing pianist in mind. From the Rock Maple rim, to the Alaskan Sitka spruce diaphragmatic soundboard the Steinway D is the standard by which the others are judged.
Steinway owns the German Renner action company, the German Kluge key company and the Ohio O.S. Kelly cast iron plate company. Together these Steinway-owned companies supply many of the action and key components for most of the piano companies above.
The Model D concert grand is 9′ and is available in 13 different finishes including satin or polished ebony and many exotic hardwoods from around the world. Countless articles and books have been written about this most famous of all piano brands which has been the favorite piano of most of the world’s most eminent concert pianists in all genres.
The value of a given piano is something that remains somewhere between the heart, head and hands of the player. It’s fascinating to learn that the most famous and sought-after and respected piano in the world is not even in the top 10 in terms of cost.
As the New England representatives for Steinway & Sons we like to remind ourselves (and our guests!) that quality, cost, durability and reputation should be primary considerations when selecting a fine piano.
For more, check out our summary of all things Steinway.
by Stephen N. Reed
The Concert & Artist (C&A) piano department was one of the first at M. Steinert & Sons. The tradition of offering such pianos—lightly used and played by Steinway Artists in concert halls and other venues—began at least as far back as 1892.
That’s the year that Steinway & Sons sponsored a national 75-city U.S. railway tour by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the famous pianist, composer, and, in later years, Poland’s prime minister.
Paderewski connected with the public through both his piano playing and his magnetic personality. He was the perfect star for Steinway & Sons to elevate further. As the original Steinway Artist, Paderewski was one of the first sponsored music acts in America.
He was also a precursor to the fame today reserved for rock stars. During his U.S. tour, Paderewski became a mass-marketing wonder. He inspired ad campaigns for candy, shampoos, soaps, and party treats.
Children identified with him through a windup toy showing a little Paderewski pounding away passionately at his tiny piano. “Paddymania” even saw ladies in New York embroidering some of Paderewski’s “Minuet” on their stockings.
Steinway’s unique C&A program came into being after the success of Paderewski’s American tour. As more Steinways were used by famous performing artists, regional Steinway dealers were given the opportunity to sell them, with the condition that they also maintain some select, new concert grands for the use of other Steinway Artists to follow. 130 years later, that tradition remains.
Steinway dealers are expected to keep a bank of well-prepped Steinway C&A concert grands available in case a Steinway Artist comes to town and needs one. International and local artists count on Steinway dealers like M. Steinert & Sons to provide concert ready instruments and technical services for their performances.
To this day, no rental fee is charged for any visiting Steinway Artist.
This program is one of the great benefits of being a Steinway Artist. Without this program, a performer would be at the mercy of whatever piano was offered to them.
Meanwhile, a Steinway dealer, like M. Steinert & Sons, can still sell such lightly used Model B and D grands, replacing them as they are sold to the public, as long as they keep some well-prepped Model B and D concert grands at the ready.
“All Steinways are exceptional instruments, but these C&A pianos are among the best,” says M. Steinert & Sons President Brendan Murphy.
“So yes, there’s a certain mystique as to who’s played them,” explains Murphy. “For example, the story is told of how Vladimir Horowitz and Sergei Rachmaninoff, both Steinway Artists, met by accident in New York City’s Steinway Hall. Both had keys to practice on Steinways there.”
However, Murphy is emphatic that the underlying value to a C&A piano is that the buyer is getting a Steinway grand piano that was considered worthy of a top pianist’s performance.
“Steinways account for at least 97% on concert stages today; the other piano companies are vying for that other 3%,” noted Murphy. “Today’s rising stars prefer Steinways because they get the best music out of the performers. Plus, they want the newest, best Steinways out there, so that means we’re always renewing our stock with the latest versions. There are no active C&A pianos over ten years old.”
Today, over 1,600 professional pianists carry the distinction of being Steinway Artists. Each of them owns a Steinway, and all of them choose to perform only on Steinways.
None are paid to do so. According to Murphy, these professional pianists play exclusively on Steinway pianos because they prefer their sound and responsiveness.
Wilmington, Delaware native Craig Maynard discovered that a favorite Boston-area pianist, Grammy-nominated Marc-Andre Hamelin, has played his C&A Model D. Maynard is retired from the California tech industry. Now he offers chamber music concerts in his home in Southern Rhode Island.
Maynard’s Core Memory Music concerts (www.corememorymusic.com) allow rising musicians a place to perform in an intimate setting of about 40 people. “Chamber music is more social than other performances,” explains Maynard. “You get to meet with other guests, as well as with the musicians.”
Earlier in Maynard’s life, he played the flute seriously and enjoyed his interaction with musicians during that time. However, his musical interests were put mostly on hold during his tech career.
He decided that he wanted to give music lovers in Rhode Island a place to go once the well-regarded, annual Kingston Chamber Music Festival ended each summer. That required a suitable grand piano.
“I purchased my Model B Festival piano from M. Steinert & Sons and loved its sound,” said Maynard. “I was able to find out through Steinway that it was played at Tanglewood after it was built in 2014. Steinway retained ownership of it until 2016, at which point it was sold to M. Steinert & Sons. I bought it soon thereafter.”
After those two years, Maynard started thinking about trading in his Model B, at 7 feet, for a C&A Model D, at 9 feet. “I loved the Model B,” said Maynard. “However, because of the M. Steinert & Sons trade-in policy, I was able to get the Model D, which has been a whole new experience. It’s the dynamism of the range. Not only can the pianist play it louder but also much softer when need be.”
Maynard doesn’t play the piano, but he now appreciates just how unique each Steinway is, not just in different models but also individual pianos of the same model.
A few months ago, a piano technician from M. Steinert & Sons came to Maynard’s home to tune his C&A Model D. “He played a few chords, but mostly just single notes, explains Maynard. “As I listened, I remembered why I decided I wanted this magnificent instrument. The difference between the Model D and my previous piano, a Model B, is like the difference between a total solar eclipse and a partial eclipse. It’s that dramatic.”
Meanwhile, the local community is getting a significant benefit from these C&A concert grands, as well. Not only are they made available to certain local artists, they are also offered by M. Steinert & Sons to select, local music educators who want their piano students to have the empowering experience of playing a Steinway concert grand at their recitals.
So whether your C&A concert grand was played by Yuja Wang, Billy Joel, or Lang Lang, remember that you share with them an exceptional musical instrument that helps you bring out your own inner Steinway Artist.
by Stephen N. Reed
Steinway Chippendales and M. Steinert & Sons have a long and storied history. The earliest known Steinway Chippendale Grand was completed on November 21, 1902 and was shipped to M. Steinert & Sons on November 29, 1902.
But long before the first Steinway Chippendale was created, the Chippendale style had endured in generations of fine furniture. Interest in this English Rococo style continues, with Chippendale remaining a household name today.
Thomas Chippendale’s style emerged at a time when England’s furniture craftsmanship was at its zenith in the Mid-to-Late 18th Century. English trading companies sailed across the globe, resulting in new cultural influences in arts like furniture making.
In these exciting times, a cabinet maker like Chippendale could have influences as diverse as Chinese arts and French interior design.
Chippendale’s woodworking was greatly influenced by the Rococo style that was sweeping Europe in the mid-18th Century.
A reaction to the more heavy, formalistic Baroque period, Rococo style is characterized by elaborate ornamentation, asymmetrical values, pastel colors, and curved or serpentine lines. Rococo artworks frequently depict lighter themes of love, classical myths, youth, and playfulness.
The style was highly theatrical, designed to impress and awe at first sight.
Furniture in the Rococo period was freestanding, as opposed to wall-based, so as to accentuate a lighthearted and versatile atmosphere. Mahogany became the most widely used medium due to its strength, and mirrors also became increasingly popular.
Rococo salons often employed the use of asymmetry in design, which was termed contraste. Interior ornament included the use of sculpted forms on ceilings and walls, often somewhat abstract or employing leafy or shell-like textures.
The most elaborate Rococo designs, carved and gilded, were those for mirror frames, girandoles, and console tables. Probably the best-known Chippendale design is a broad-seated ribbon back chair, with a back rail in the form of a cupid’s bow, and the pierced splat composed of carved interlacing ribbons.
Chairs may seem simple pieces of furniture, but their design and style can be quite involved. Two renowned 20th Century architects saw Chippendale’s approach to furniture like the chair as timeless. Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe noted, “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.”
Adolf Lous noted that it would be folly to design a new dining room chair, because the one from Chippendale’s time was perfect. “It was the solution. It cannot be surpassed. Like our fork, like our saber.”
The descriptive term “Chippendale” comes from a book of furniture designs that was published in 1754 in London and called The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director. This book was the first of its kind.
The identity of the designers of the patterns in The Director is debatable in some instances, but Thomas Chippendale was clearly responsible for many of the best designs himself.
The book was enthusiastically received, and furniture based on Chippendale’s designs was crafted in England, on the European continent, and in the American colonies. Hence, Chippendale’s enduring popularity got off to a flying start.
Chippendale designs come in three major styles: Gothic, Rococo and Chinese. Chippendale blended these disparate stylistic elements into harmonious and unified designs. The term “Chippendale” specifically refers to English furniture of the 1750s and ’60s made in a modified Rococo style.
Like the Rococo style generally, Rococo Chippendale was a reaction against the formality of Baroque style furniture design, typified by the work of William Kent who died in 1748. Many of the Rococo designs originated in France, but Chippendale modified them for the less flamboyant English market.
This elegant, dark mahogany grand piano is an exquisite example of the Chippendale furniture style, beginning with its hand-crafted Ball & Claw style legs and feet.
Almost all historical sources believe that the Ball & Claw design was derived from the Chinese: a dragon’s claw grasping a crystal ball, or a pearl, or sometimes a scared, flaming jewel. In Chinese mythology, the dragon, a symbol for their Emperor, is guarding the ball, a symbol for wisdom or purity, from evil forces trying to steal it.
Another interpretation is that the ball symbolizes a polished river stone being held firmly by a crane, who stands watch over her nest. Resting on one leg, with the stone held in mid-air by the other, the mother crane watches protectively over her young. She would quickly awaken if she were to fall asleep and drop the stone.
The designs of Chinese artisans came to the attention of Europeans through trade. Porcelains, chinoiserie, and bronzes would have displayed examples of the Ball & Claw.
This design element first appeared on English silver. Craftspeople in other arts, textiles, furniture, and glass quickly copied this strong image that stirred popular consumer interest in what was then an exotic, faraway land.
English cabinet makers are credited with transforming the dragon’s claw into a bird’s talon or a lion’s paw; the lion representing English authority. The Ball & Claw remained popular in England from 1710 until 1750.
In addition to the Ball & Claw, other Rococo touches include the handcrafted, trademark Steinway pedal lyre and fancy music rack.
Such hand-carved art-case pianos were quite a bit more expensive than the traditional models, and fewer were built by Steinway. As a result, these instruments are rather rare today.-
In the Early to Mid-20th Century, a renaissance in historic period styles took place within the furniture and interior design industries. Some better piano manufacturers built a limited number of “art-case” pianos that reflected these popular historic styles.
This 1963 Chippendale, from the M. Steinert & Sons special collection, is 5’7” in length and was rebuilt and refinished in 2015. With the exception of the replaced pin block, all of the other restored parts were manufactured by Steinway: the board is the original, now refinished, re-notched, and bridges pinned. Additionally, new strings and new action parts –full action—are all Steinway parts.
The action is very smooth and responsive, capable of light pianissimos and grand fortissimos. It is quite pleasing to play. The keys have been re-bushed, and the key tops have been replaced.
Finally, the case has been restored to like new, with refinishing and painting the letters on the plate.
The refinished, dark mahogany exterior makes it suitable for any living room. This Chippendale is an impressive grand piano with a large, clear, concert quality sound for an instrument still small enough for the home.
New, a Steinway model of this design retails for $125,000, but this well-restored Steinway Chippendale is available for considerably less. For more information about this sparkling gem of a piano, visit https://msteinert.com/inventory/u404285/ or complete the form below.
Meanwhile, listen to Patrick Elisha of our Education Division play this classic Steinway Chippendale grand.
by Stephen N. Reed
Named for one of the last kings of France, Steinway’s Model M 501-A Louis XV grand piano is in a class all its own. While the Louis XV delivers in all of the ways one expects from a Steinway, its added flourishes make it a genuine piece of art.
Before we turn to the personality of this particular grand piano, a little background to the style of the Louis XV era gives some context.
Louis XV, King of France, ruled from 1715-1774. As a result, his was the last full reign before the upheaval of the French Revolution. Furniture from the Louis XV era features curves, asymmetry, and is characterized by a certain lightness.
Frequently, Louis XV style utilized marquetry, with inlaid, exotic wood in different colors. Later furniture from this period employed Chinoiserie, which evoked Chinese motifs and techniques.
Taken as a whole, Louis XV style stood in great contrast to the more box-like and straightened lines from the immediately prior era of Louis XIV.
The fullness of Louis XV style came in the middle of the king’s reign, from 1730-50, when he was no longer managed by a regent. This was when the asymmetrical and exuberant style called “rocaille” dominated.
Ever since, Louis XV style has come to be known for luxury, imagination, and old world charm.
What popularized Louis XV furniture? One reason is that Louis XV furniture was designed for small salons, not the huge staterooms at the Palace of Versailles.
Furniture from this later period included pieces, especially chairs and tables, that were easily moved from room to room. As a result, furniture from the era of Louis XV was not only ornate but highly functional.
The methodical process that Steinway numbers its various piano models gives us a look into the sheer number of piano drawings Steinway artists have created. In the case of Steinway’s Model M 501-A Louis XV grand piano, “501” refers to the piano’s Sketch Number in the Steinway Art Department files.
When a new sketch maintains the basic design features but incorporates a variation in the music desk, legs, or lyre assembly, then an alphabetical letter is added to the sketch number, like 501-A, 501-B, and 501-C, rather than creating a new sketch number.
The original 501 had a situation that required just such a variation. The legs on the original 501 were too extreme in their ’S’ curve. This left them with the possibility of breaking, especially when the piano was knocked down or set up by a mover.
Thus, the newer design, the 501-A, was born.
Steinert & Sons’ 1977 Model M 501-A Louis XV grand piano has features of that 18th Century style period, being an intricately, hand-carved instrument. It is noticeably different from most Steinway models in that it is made of Circassian walnut wood, with a compelling rich brown finish rather than the traditional black finish.
The carved style, including the legs and molding, as well as the top lid, makes for a dramatic-looking, ornate centerpiece. At 5 feet, 7 inches, the Louis XV has serious power as well as elegance.
A grand piano like this one was one of Steinway’s most popular parlor models of the early 20th Century, and it was a favorite of both fine home musicians and professional pianists of the day.
Even today, the M 501-A Steinway is one of the most desired vintage Steinways.
Paul Murphy, President of M. Steinert & Sons, is fond of this 1977 Model M 501-A Louis XV at the 28 Damrell Street location. This particular grand piano has an interesting history.
Paul remembers the day that the wife of the owner of a successful regional supermarket purchased it for their home. Paul’s wife, Pat, a salesperson for M. Steinert & Sons at the time, sold it new to the lady, who enjoyed it for the rest of her life. The piano was then bequeathed to a family member.
However, the family member decided to sell this Louis XV piano back to M. Steinert, as sometimes happens when the heir is not a pianist or is unable to accommodate a grand piano in their home. “This piano must have been sitting in a room near the oceanfront, as we had to restore some of its veneer,” explained Paul.
Steinway has an extraordinary policy regarding such veneer restoring efforts on many of its models. According to Paul, the logs used for each piano’s veneer are kept in a humidity-free and heat-controlled wood “bank” in Astoria, New York.
They are kept there in case they are ever needed to repair an individual piano’s damaged veneer. “Steinway’s thought of everything,” noted Paul.
This 1977 Model M 501-A Louis XV model is an excellent example of a more ornate style more popular in the 1960s and 70s. But a vintage Louis XV like this one draws the eye of many customers who enjoy browsing the 28 Damrell Street showroom.
Patrick Elisha of Steinert & Sons’ Education Department recently played this beautiful instrument. Take a listen:
This 1977 Steinway Model M 501-A Louis XV piano has been fully reconditioned in our shop to include new tuning pins, strings, top action and refinished in American walnut.
New, this style case is available only by special order at a cost over $140,000.
Request more information below to learn more.
In a rare move for these extraordinary times, M. Steinert & Sons is reaffirming its commitment to New England in a big way. A new showroom at 1069 Washington Street is fully stocked with the latest Steinway & Sons pianos and Roland digital pianos.
“Whether you are shopping for your very first piano or the legendary Steinway, we will do everything possible to earn your trust and help you make an informed decision,” says Sales Manager Steve Hauk. “We will listen carefully and offer thoughtful recommendations.”
Steinert’s two-story building is easily accessible from Interstates 95 and 90. The multi-purpose complex offers an abundance of natural lighting, high ceilings, and a low-keyed ambiance. “Our central location and convenient parking make it easy to get here, and customers will experience a wonderful atmosphere well-suited to select the piano of their dreams,” Hauk says.
The showroom boasts a full-service Piano Academy with five teaching studios. “If you need lessons, our teaching studios are bright and spacious, and they are equipped with Steinway pianos,” he adds. When prudent, Steinert plans on hosting small performances and piano recitals to support the local music community.
Located in the heart of a culturally rich region overflowing with schools, houses of worship and private residences, “we are returning to our roots by coming to such a strong community as West Newton,” says Hauk, stressing that Steinert is celebrating its 160th anniversary. “Music teachers and businesses have expressed great enthusiasm for what we are doing here, so we are excited by the many possibilities before us.”
Steinert operates under an institutional philosophy “that we are part of the same musical and artistic ecosystem, with each part critical to the success of the others,” explains Brendan Murphy, Director of Institutional Sales. “In addition to workshops and offering space for student recitals, we can help teachers recruit new students. We also offer scholarships for students and honorariums to our dedicated partners.”
World-class institutions have come to rely on Steinert, especially in today’s environment. Relationships forged over decades at the historic flagship at 162 Boylston Street sowed the seeds for a successful expansion to West Newton. “We have been providing piano solutions for generations of leaders at a host of schools, universities and conservatories,” says Murphy.
“It is always wonderful to meet a new administrator, music chair or faculty member and assure them that we will continue to build on that legacy. We are long on institutional memory that helps us avoid pitfalls while creating a positive experience for all our clients.”
Having represented Steinway & Sons longer than any other retailer in the world, Steinert can evaluate today’s pianos with an unequaled degree of authority. “Quality improves year after year, and the new pianos are so wonderful right out of the box that our technicians often need only to tune them before they are ready for our highly-discerning customers,” Murphy observes.
The technological advances in Steinway’s line of Spirios — available in West Newton — are opening a whole new segment of the marketplace. “For many years, people with the desire and wherewithal to own a new Steinway just could not justify it. We would hear ‘I don’t play well enough’ or ‘what if my son or daughter doesn’t take to piano lessons?’ Well now, with the reproductive quality sounds of Spirio, the piano once again becomes a well-rounded home entertainment system, just as it was at the turn of the century.”
For those not quite ready for a Steinway, Murphy points to Steinway designs found in the Boston and Essex line of pianos. Bostons have become a staple at several prestigious music festivals around the globe, including Tanglewood. “The Boston piano is the world’s best production piano,” he asserts. “It provides a professional quality instrument at a price point achievable to many pianists. Steinway DNA is evident throughout the scale design, tone quality and action geometry.”
Whatever the need, M.Steinert & Sons stands ready to serve. Visit www. msteinert.com for updates on West Newton and other exciting plans as New England emerges from the pandemic stronger than ever.