“Legacy” and “legendary” are words bandied about too casually these days. This may seem like a callous even disgruntled perspective but consider the standard handed–literally–to Bösendorfer: Franz Liszt, one of the greatest and most demanding pianist/composers in the entire history of music, sang praises for the venerable piano company founded in 1828. The intensity of his playing and prodigious technique reportedly broke instruments; he required backup pianos as a result. For a historical concert in Vienna in 1838, the Bösendorfer Grand was the only piano that met his standards in construction, responsiveness, and tonal quality. Vienna was home to numerous historical figures in the Romantic era, including Carl Czerny, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and Liszt. It was fertile ground for artists; it makes sense that Bösendorfer was an integral catalyst for musicianship during that era. It helped shape the sound of Viennese music; one could say a Bösendorfer takes you right back in the middle of that rich period, the beauty of which still resonates today.
In 2019, Bösendorfer pianos continue to uphold their arguably unmatched reputation thanks to the company’s commitment to craftsmanship and– perhaps more importantly– the needs of pianists and the music they play. Bösendorfer pianos have been played by influential and historically significant classical, jazz, and pop pianists including Arthur Rubinstein, Victor Borge, Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Peterson, Nina Simone, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Tori Amos.
Bösendorfer pianos are meticulously hand-made in Vienna via its own team with traditional methods; they are not mass produced assembly line instruments. The company also embraces innovation and remain the only piano company that makes 91 and 97-key pianos (the Imperial Grands). These extended range pianos were created at the request of Ferruccio Busoni in 1909 who needed an instrument that can play Bach Organ pieces. While music that requires the full 8 octaves offered by the Imperial Grand are rare, the extra bass strings generate sympathetic resonances even when unplayed. The result is a fuller overall tone, which is also due to the larger body needed to accommodate the longer bass strings on the lowest octave.
In 1982, Bösendorfer updated the player piano with then-new technology replacing the perforated paper rolls; today, the Yamaha ENSPIRE Disklavier handles the self-playing piano technology. The company has been under Yamaha ownership since 2008 to preserve the unique heritage of Bösendorfer. While Yamaha itself makes its own line of respected pianos, Bösendorfer continues to operate and create autonomously under its own traditional standards. According to Bösendorfer Sales and Marketing Director Dr. Peter von Seherr-Thoss, it is a partnership borne out of great mutual respect between the two companies. All Bösendorfers remain Austrian-made.
Lyric Piano Corp is honoured and proud to be the official dealer of Bösendorfer for the Philippines. We unpacked and reassembled a 170VC Grand Piano at our Lyric Piano Gallery on Horseshoe Drive on December 6 with unprecedented excitement:
The soft-spoken and amiable Dr. Peter von Seherr-Thoss gave a brief historical lecture and relatively straightforward marketing brief for the Lyric piano agents. “Perhaps a customer is interested in Bösendorfer because of the great Viennese artists like Liszt, or they have heard of the playability, or the Bösendorfer sound. It is up to you if you wish to talk to your customers about just one of these points, or all of them.”
Bösendorfer piano bodies are 80% spruce. This tonewood is known for its resonant properties. To demonstrate, Dr. Seherr-Thoos struck a key. “If you put your palm here on the side of the piano, you can feel the vibration. ” This is what the piano company calls the Resonance Case Principle which is “using the whole body of the piano as a resonator to produce a violin-like sound character… to achieve the Viennese sound ideal: a tension free, singing, rich, powerful, yet refined sound.”
Before the lid was locked and covered, it was time for one final check although we emphasize that upon reassembly from the box, the 170VC was perfectly in tune. It is truly a precision instrument.
Bösendorfer makes an average of 300 pianos a year. Because each one is 90% hand-built, the construction period takes 12 months. If you are interested in owning a Bösendorfer– easily called the Rolls Royce of the premium piano market– contact a Lyric piano agent at a Lyric branch near you.
The video below gives an overview at how Bösendorfers are made and– under the hands of virtuoso pianist Valentina Lisitsa– showcases the dynamic and tonal range of these precision instruments.