Bösendorfer

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L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH
Type private
Industry Musical instruments
Founded 1828
Founder(s) Ignaz Bösendorfer
Headquarters Vienna, Austria
Products Pianos
Parent Yamaha Corporation
Website www.boesendorfer.com

Bösendorfer (L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH) is an Austrian piano manufacturer, and since 2008, a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha.[1] Bösendorfer is unusual in that it produces 97- and 92-key models in addition to instruments with standard 88-key keyboards.

Characteristics[edit]

A Bösendorfer piano, model 214CS

Bösendorfer pioneered the extension of the typical 88-key keyboard, creating the Imperial Grand (Model 290), which has 97 keys (eight octaves). Ferruccio Busoni initally ordered this innovation in 1909 as part of a custom piano as he wanted to transcribe an organ piece that extended to the C below the standard keyboard.[2] This innovation worked so well, that this piano was added to regular product offerings and quickly became one of the world's most sought-after concert grands. Because of the 290's success, the extra strings were added to Bösendorfer's other line of instruments such as the 225 model, which has 92 keys. The extra keys, at the bass end of the keyboard, were originally hidden beneath a hinged panel mounted between the piano's conventional low A and the left-hand end-cheek to prevent their being struck accidentally during normal play; more recent models have omitted this device and simply have the upper surface of the extra natural keys finished in matte black instead of white to differentiate them from the standard 88.

The Bösendorfer sound is usually described as darker or richer than the purer but less full-bodied sound of other pianos, such as Steinway & Sons or Yamaha. On the Imperial Grand, this characteristic tonal quality in part derives from the inclusion of 9 additional bass notes below bottom A. These extra 9 keys were originally added so that pianists could play Busoni's transcriptions of J.S. Bach's organ works, which required the 32' bass pipes (usually played on the pedal organ). As very little other music makes direct use of the extra strings, they usually contribute to the piano's sonic character not through being played directly but by resonating, when other strings in the piano are struck, contributing additional body to the tone. Moreover, the bass notes of the Bösendorfer, including the extra bass keys, are very powerful, adding volume in demanding literature.

Music written to include rich harmonic colorations, such as bebop, often calls for the player to sound the upper parts of a musical chord's harmonic series (3rds, 6ths, 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths, for example) without playing the fundamental pitch. In these cases, it is up to the listener's ear to "replace" the missing fundamental. When such music is played on a large Bösendorfer, however, the additional strings generate, albeit at low volume, the fundamental by vibrating sympathetically with the played notes, contributing further to the fullness of the sound. The extra strings' contribution to classical music typically is more subtle, as compositions in that literature typically do not omit the fundamental, at least for long.

The rim of a Bösendorfer grand piano is built quite differently from that of all other grands. Instead of veneers bent around a form, the rim is made in solid sections of spruce and jointed together. Spruce is better at transmitting sound than reflecting it. This is perhaps why Bösendorfers tend to have a more delicate treble and a bass that features the fundamental tone more than the higher harmonics.[3] There are also two other features of Bösendorfers, that are shared with only a few other piano brands. One is a removable capo d'astro bar in the treble, which facilitates rebuilding of the instrument and, Bösendorfer says, provides greater acoustic separation from the plate, decreasing tonal absorption. The other is single-stringing, providing each string its own individual hitch pin on the plate instead of connecting it to a neighboring string. This design may slightly improve tuning stability and is an advantage in case of string breakage.[4]

The latest development in the Bösendorfer range is the CEUS digital grand piano reproducing system, which incorporates a computer controlled mechanism that records a performance and plays it back. The requisite equipment can be fitted to most Bösendorfer pianos to allow the direct recording of pieces whilst capturing all the keyboard velocity data as a .boe file.[5]

History[edit]

Bösendorfer, one of the oldest piano manufacturers, was established in 1828 by Ignaz Bösendorfer.[6] It has a history of producing highly respected instruments; in 1830, it was granted the status of official piano maker to the Emperor of Austria. Ignaz's son Ludwig Bösendorfer (15 April 1835 – 9 May 1919) assumed control in 1859, operating from new premises from 1860. Between 1872 and its closure in 1913, the associated Bösendorfer-Saal was one of the premier concert halls of Vienna. In 1909, Carl Hutterstrasser purchased the company and was succeeded by his sons Alexander and Wolfgang in 1931. In 1966, the Jasper Corporation (later renamed Kimball International), parent company of Kimball Pianos, assumed control of Bösendorfer where it remained before returning to Austrian hands, when the BAWAG PSK Gruppe purchased it in 2002.[7] BAWAG signed an agreement to sell all stock in Bösendorfer to Yamaha on 20 December 2007.

Models[edit]

The removable capo d'astro bar is located across the upper two (treble) sections of the cast-iron plate.

Bösendorfer makes seven models of grand piano (from 5'8" to 9'6") and two vertical pianos (48" and 52" upright). The 9'6" Imperial Grand is one of the world's largest pianos.

Standard Black Models[8][edit]

Each numerical Bösendorfer model directly corresponds to its length in centimeters. For example, a Model 170 is 170 centimeters long (approximately 5'7"). The following table describes the current Bösendorfer models:

Model Length Keys
120CL Upright 88
130CL Upright 88
155 5' 1" 88
170 5' 8" 88
185 6' 1" 88
200 6' 7" 88
214 7' 88
225 7' 4" 92
280 9' 2" 88
290 "Imperial" 9' 6" 97

Conservatory Series[edit]

To appeal to a wider market, Bösendorfer designed the Conservatory Series for colleges and universities that could not afford Bösendorfer's standard black-model pianos. The production of the two CS Series pianos spends less time in "non-critical areas", cutting down costs of production and purchase, making them more affordable than standard models. The cases and frames are of satin finish, rather than polished, and initially, the pianos were loop-strung[9] rather than single-strung, but that difference has since been abandoned.[10]

Special and Limited editions[edit]

Bösendorfer has produced a number of specially designed pianos named after famous composers such as Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, as well as pianos designed for special occasions, such as Bösendorfer's 170th and 175th anniversaries.[11]

SE reproducing piano[edit]

Under the ownership of Kimball, Bösendorfer built and sold a small number of 290SE automatic reproducing pianos.[12] The 'SE' designation was for Stahnke Engineering, whose founder, Wayne Stahnke, invented the mechanism. The 290 was fitted with electronics and mechanics to record on magnetic tape and playback through electro-mechanical actuation of the piano. After the release of the Microsoft Windows v3.1 operating system, the 290SE could be attached to a PC computer for recording, editing, and playback. The 290SE system was the first commercially available computer-controlled "player piano" capable of accurately reproducing both the notes and intensity of a performer's playing. Unfortunately this system was not further developed or patented due to its high cost. Competitors soon introduced patented reproducing piano technologies such as the Yamaha Disklavier in 1982.[13]

Thirty seven SE models were produced between 1984 and 1986, including the 225SE, the 275SE, and the 290SE Imperial model pianos. In the 290 range, this included some 290 to 290SE conversions, while one third of the production were 290SEs that sold for $90,000.[citation needed]

The research that went into the 290SE later laid the foundation for the CEUS computerized reproducing piano system.[citation needed]

Designer Models[edit]

Bösendorfer produces a limited number of Artisan Models annually, each available for order only during the calendar year in which it was developed. An example of a designer model is the Bösendorfer Swarovski Crystal Grand piano. Three of these special pianos were produced in 2003 in honor of Bösendorfer's 175th anniversary. Each piano's case is encrusted with 8000 crystals and layers of gold.[14][15]

Three notable architects who have designed Bösendorfer piano models are Theophil Freiherr von Hansen (1866), Josef Hoffmann (1909) and Hans Hollein (1990). There were only two Hans Hollein 225 models produced in 1990; one can be found in the lounge of the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando, Florida.[16]

Noteworthy events[edit]

  • On 10 April 2007, a second-hand Bösendorfer Model 275 concert grand worth £45,000, but insured for half that amount, was damaged when it was dropped 2.5 m (8.2 ft) from a delivery truck. The piano was to feature at the "Two Moors Festival" in Devon. Bösendorfer replaced the piano with one valued at £85,000, and delivered it personally.[17][18]
  • In 2006, a group of friends of local pianist Ward Virts commissioned a Model 214 as a gift for the fine arts department of the College of Southern Maryland in his memory.[19] The piano, now on campus in a humidity and temperature controlled room, is valued at over $85,000.[10]:223
  • In 2008, a YouTube video went viral showing an elderly couple playing the Bösendorfer given as a gift in the atrium of Gonda building at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.[20] Fran and Marlo Cowan had been married 62 years in 2008 when the video was taken.[21]

Bösendorfer Artists[edit]

Alfred Brendel - Salzburg 2009

Among the earliest artists to be associated with Bösendorfer was Franz Liszt who at least once opined that Bösendorfer and Bechstein pianos were the only instruments capable of withstanding his tremendously powerful playing. The renowned twentieth-century American composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein has also performed on a Bösendorfer. Another great pianist who championed Bösendorfer pianos was Wilhelm Backhaus.

In his memoirs, Arthur Rubinstein recounts having insisted on a Bechstein instead of the hall's Bösendorfer before a recital in Austria. After the performance, the then-head of the Bösendorfer company came backstage to meet this young artist who refused to play a piano highly cherished by his Russian namesake, Anton Rubinstein; Rubinstein claims he thereafter always sought out Bösendorfers when in Austria.

In the late 1970s, following a concert performed in Vienna, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson turned to his impresario, Norman Granz, with the words: "Dammit, Norman, where does this box go? I also gotta have such a thing!" Such was his reaction to playing a Bösendorfer 290.[22] Musician/comedian Victor Borge also played Bösendorfer pianos.[23]

More recent examples of notable artists who have played the Bösendorfer include Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter (who in later years chose to promote Yamaha claiming it had a preferable pianissimo sound and control, according to his own interview);[24] Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff; Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli; American free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor and American singer-songwriter Tori Amos;[25] German pianist Wolfgang Rübsam; Austrian pianist Friedrich Gulda, Walter Klien and Paul Badura-Skoda;[26] British pianists Leon McCawley and Mark Gasser[27] as well as the Irish pianist John O'Conor. Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa has recorded DVDs of Chopin and Schubert-Liszt on a 1925 model Bösendorfer, and has released a new video set of a recital using the 97-key Bösendorfer Imperial.

Minimalist composer Charlemagne Palestine chose a nine-foot Bösendorfer as the vehicle on which to perform his 1974 composition Strumming Music. Released as his first compact disc in 1991, it features in excess of 45 minutes of Palestine forcefully playing two notes in rapid alternation, slowly expanding into clusters, with the sustain pedal depressed throughout.[28] As the music swells (and the piano gradually detunes), the harmonics build and the listener can hear a variety of timbres rarely produced by the piano.

The jazz pianist Keith Jarrett performed solo improvisations (his Köln Concert) at the Cologne Opera House in Cologne on 24 January 1975 on a Bösendorfer.

The jazz singers/pianists Nina Simone and Shirley Horn performed on Bösendorfers many times throughout their careers.

In a recent interview for Broadway.com, Academy Award winning composer Stephen Schwartz stated that he purchased a Bösendorfer after the initial success of his musical Wicked.

Recordings[edit]

Bösendorfer pianos have appeared on numerous records. Some examples are:

Classical[edit]

Popular[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Yamaha History". Yamaha Corporation. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  2. ^ "Model 290 Imperial". Bosendorfer. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  3. ^ Fine, Larry (2007). 2007–2008 Annual Supplement to The Piano Book. Brookside Press. p. 31. ISBN 1-929145-21-7. 
  4. ^ Fine, Larry (2001). The Piano Book. Brookside Press. p. 103. ISBN 1-929145-01-2. 
  5. ^ "CEUS digital grand piano reproduces virtuosity and emotion". Bösendorfer. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  6. ^ "Yamaha calls the tune in fight for pianos". The Times (London: Times Online). 26 November 2007. Retrieved 2014-02-24. (subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ "History". Bösendorfer. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  8. ^ "Bösendorfer Standard Models". Bösendorfer. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  9. ^ Fine, Larry; Jarrett, Keith; Gilbert, Douglas R. (2000). The Piano Book: Buying & Owning a New Or Used Piano. Brookside Press. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-1-929145-01-0. 
  10. ^ a b Fine, Larry (2010). Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer. Brookside Press. p. 82. ISBN 1-929145-35-7. 
  11. ^ "Limited Edition". Bösendorfer. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  12. ^ Palmieri, Robert (11 September 2003). The Piano: an Encyclopedia. New York City: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415937962. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  13. ^ "Development of Yamaha Products". Yamaha. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  14. ^ "Special and Designer Models". Bösendorfer. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  15. ^ "Photo Finish". Honolulu Star Bulletin 12 (5). 5 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  16. ^ Kunz, Johannes (2002). Bösendorfer — A Living Legend. Molden Publishing Co. p. 213. ISBN 3-85485-080-8. 
  17. ^ "Pride of man who dropped £26,000 grand piano wounded". The Daily Telegraph (London). 12 April 2007. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  18. ^ Kennedy, Maev (26 September 2007). "Festival's next piano will be handled with care". The Guardian (Manchester). Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  19. ^ "CSM Concert Choir, Chamber Singers to Perform Benefit Concert for Ward Virts Piano Project" (Press release). College of Southern Maryland. 15 November 2004. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  20. ^ "Mayo Clinic atrium piano, charming older couple". Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  21. ^ Haley, A.S. (28 May 2009). "This Will Brighten Your Day". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  22. ^ "IN MEMORIAM Oscar Emmanuel Peterson - (August 25, 1925 to December 23, 2007) Bösendorfer grieves for a friend..." (Press release). Bösendorfer. 28 November 2007. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  23. ^ "He Introduced Me To The Bosendorfer Imperial: Victor Borge". company7.com. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  24. ^ "Richter - The Enigma (DVD)". Ciao!. 22 May 2005. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  25. ^ "A wonderful piano evening in Farmingdale" (Press release). Bösendorfer. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  26. ^ "Reference List". Bösendorfer. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  27. ^ "Piano Transport". maestro.net. 9 February 2003. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  28. ^ Duguid, Mark (April 1996). "Charlemagne Palestine Interview". Est. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  29. ^ Cameo Classics catalogue entry for CC9016CD – Havergal Brian: The Complete Piano Music
  30. ^ "Professor Peter Hill (Emeritus Professor of Music)". University of Sheffield. 8 March 2011. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  31. ^ Oppitz, Gerhard (1989). Johannes Brahms: Das Gesamtwerk für Klavier (CD). BMG Eurodisc. RD 69245, 5 discs. 
  32. ^ Pratt, Awadagin (1999). Pratt: Transformations (CD). EMI Classics. 72435 56836. 
  33. ^ Richter, Sviatoslav (1972). J. S. Bach – The Well-Tempered Clavier (CD). RCA Victor Gold Seal. GD 60949. 
  34. ^ Rosenberger, Carol (1992). "Water Music" of the Impressionists (CD). Delos. D/CD 3006. 
  35. ^ Rosenberger, Carol (1992). Beethoven Piano Sonatas op. 57 Appassionata op. 111 The Last Great Piano Sonata (CD). Delos. DE 3009. 
  36. ^ "Remarks on Moritz Rosenthal's Recordings". EarthLink. Retrieved 5 March 2008. 
  37. ^ [1] John Atkinson: "Ludwig van Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas," Stereophile, January 2001
  38. ^ Silverman, Robert (2000). Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas (CD). OrpheumMasters. KSP 830. 
  39. ^ Official Web site, "Piano" section, accessed September 9, 2012.
  40. ^ Official Web site, front page, accessed September 9, 2012.
  41. ^ Wheeler, Fred (2002). "Interview with Bradley Joseph". Indie Journal (archived version of indiejournal.com). Archived from the original on 1 November 2004. Retrieved 21 December 2006. 
  42. ^ Words by Jim Steinman, Jim Steinman's official blog, 19 July 2006. Accessed 8 September 2008
  43. ^ Notorious Owners of the Bösendorfer Imperial: Dr. Evil & Mini-Me
  44. ^ http://www.yessaid.com/bosendorfer.html
  45. ^ Keith Jarrett – Der amerikanische Jazzpianist im Porträt. 2007, 30 Min., written and directed by Frank Zervos and Ekkehard Wetzel, ZDFdokukanal
  46. ^ Matt Bellamy decided on Boesendorfer
  47. ^ Small Moments

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]