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Steinway D or B for Beethoven Sonatas
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Oliver
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28th December 2012
Old 28th December 2012
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Thanks for your thoughts.
Best, Oliver
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28th December 2012
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Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
Hello,
In our preparations for recording a Beethoven Piano Sonatas CD with an amazing young pianist we have various choices of rooms which have different sized pianos available. My first choice room-wise (medium sized recital hall) has a beautiful Steinway B my second choice (500 seat concert hall) has 3 Model D's to choose from. Both would have to be voiced and adjusted specifically for the recordings.

Steinway calls the B the "ideal piano" as in balanced tone and accelerated concert action, but what would I give up in terms of recording if I went with the B?

The artist is good with whatever we decide for best sound quality.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Best, Oliver
D. Absolutely no question about it.
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28th December 2012
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Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
D. Absolutely no question about it.
Indeed. No question.
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28th December 2012
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Biggest hall, biggest piano. Don't get too close with the mics. Please not inside the lid.
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29th December 2012
Old 29th December 2012
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A Steinway B is a crappy piano compared with model D.
Go with the D.

And yes, I have played enough b's and D's to have such an opinion.
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29th December 2012
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B is a dinky piece of junk. Well, not really. But in comparison to the D, there is really no contest. D is THE classic Steinway sound. Especially on something as powerful as the Beethoven sonatas.
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29th December 2012
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A better question would be: which of the 3 "D"s? And is one a Hamburg??

I think the real question to ask, though, is "WWLLD"?

http://vevo.ly/oCVVxo
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29th December 2012
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Agree, model D.

I think, get the pianist to try all three and choose the best one for him and then get the Steinway technician to voice and tune it.

I presume you will keep the technician on site during the recording sessions to make any adjustments as required and to fine-time during breaks.

That's what I did during my sessions at the Menuhin Hall - the technician was there all the time.
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29th December 2012
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We once filmed Oscar Peterson choosing a piano at Chappells of Bond St and at Steinway Hall in Marylebone Lane
Amazing event for BBC Jazz 625
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29th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
We once filmed Oscar Peterson choosing a piano at Chappells of Bond St and at Steinway Hall in Marylebone Lane
Amazing event for BBC Jazz 625
I have recorded at Steinway Hall in London.

My gift to my wife on our "Ivory" wedding anniversary was a piano key from an old Steinway which has the original ivory playing surface - quirky art now hanging on our wall.

Steinway recover ivory from old worn out pianos that are being scrapped to repair ones that still have ivory keyboards, rather than the plastic they have to use for new ones nowadays.
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29th December 2012
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Hi,
Like with most recordings it's about defining priorities and finding the best compromise. IMHO sound is only one of the priorities
If budget is high on the list, your first choice might be the best. I've seen good B's and bad D's, although on the Steinway website it says that model B is "often referred to as "the perfect piano", followed by "in intimate settings, teaching studios, and mid-sized venues". Don't pick the B because the website tells you it's perfect. You rarely see them in concert halls.
Most experienced pianists prefer a D but for a young pianist it might be different, and you say the B is beautiful.
Which sonatas are we talking about ? Especially with the earlier sonatas a B could be fine. If possible let the pianist try all 4 models to find the best match. There is no such thing as "the best" piano in absolute terms.

Large halls are great for recording if the pianist can handle them, but can also be a pita if there are other activities (concerts, rehearsals) scheduled and you have to clear the stage and redo the setup the next day.

I agree with John to "keep the technician on site during the recording sessions", if budget allows.
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29th December 2012
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We have a B, it's really, really great. I have recorded a lot of model D and B instruments, they are different not better or worse.

From what I have learned over the years, the D was developed with an extended bass response to project low frequencies better in a large venue (that's pretty common knowledge I guess). The overall tension is also higher on the instrument. They go out of tune faster too. That's a serious consideration.

I think a B would be a fantastic choice for Beethoven sonatas if it is a quality instrument. Classical records are being produced in a lot of different ways now. Giant pianos in giant halls recorded at a distance is not the only way to produce a classical record. A more intimate approach might be nice, and that is where a B shines over the overbalanced D.

Rachmaninov concertos with an orchestra, likely a D. Beethoven Sonatas....?

John
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Oliver
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29th December 2012
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Thank you for all the replies, great information to consider.

Best, Oliver
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29th December 2012
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A Steinway B does not sound like a D, but I would not say that makes it a bad piano. While it's true that the D has become the standard for works with orchestra, that's not what you're recording here. Beethoven certainly didn't compose these pieces for a Steinway D, because it didn't exist at the time. I recently heard a friend perform one of Beethoven's cello sonatas with pianoforte, and the work made so much better sense that way! So using a smaller instrument is not necessarily a compromise -- it might actually be a service to the music. I'd also give a lot of weight to the fact that the artist likes the B.

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29th December 2012
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These are both high quality instruments.

The reason I say D is that, in my experience, the D records much better for ALL classical piano repertoire than does the shorter instrument. It is easier to place mics on, and to get the desired stereo width which one seeks when recording classical piano.

You could certainly use the B, but experience tells me that the bigger hall and bigger piano are going to suit you much better. In my town I prefer to record classical piano in a 2500 seat concert hall on 2 D's, one Hamburg and one NY. The other hall is a 900 seat with 2 NY D's.

The 3 smaller rooms I work in here all have Steinway B's. They work very well for the jazz stuff I record, but for classical they come out sounding substiantially more bass-light than you want from a classical recording.

Use the D for the most full-range classical piano sound. You won't regret it.
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29th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick View Post
Beethoven certainly didn't compose these pieces for a Steinway D, because it didn't exist at the time.
Beethoven complained about the limits from the piano forte existing at his time.
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Originally Posted by didier.brest View Post
Beethoven complained about the limits from the piano forte existing at his time.
In that case, wouldn't an Imperial Bösendorfer be more suitable?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick View Post
I recently heard a friend perform one of Beethoven's cello sonatas with pianoforte, and the work made so much better sense that way!
Did you mean fortepiano?
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29th December 2012
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The festival I record has 5 Steinway Ds
Always with a piano tuner in attendance (he also builds pianos)
One location has a expensive Italian piano he dislikes (too soon to tell..)
Did a gig with a Yamaha Piano in a luscious acoustic and big choir ( Rutter ,Magnificat)
penetrated well but did not resolve lower octaves as the D.
Roger
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30th December 2012
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Originally Posted by polytope View Post
Did you mean fortepiano?
Yes, thank you. (Too much holiday cheer, perhaps...)
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30th December 2012
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Both are correct, in the states anyways.

I love how we all turn into musicologists here in the remote forum.
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30th December 2012
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A Steinway D is a handmade, specialist concert instrument, all others are for the mass market.

That's not to say that there are many fine piano's that have been made by Steinway, however, a concert grand has a different sound in the bottom end and will show on a recording. Suffice to say, all piano recordings I know of, undertaken by large labels by well known concert pianists are recorded on concert grands.
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31st December 2012
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The piano technician that works one of my annual gigs is often herd muttering about the PSOs he has to put up with. (PSO = piano-shape objects)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick View Post
A Steinway B does not sound like a D, but I would not say that makes it a bad piano. While it's true that the D has become the standard for works with orchestra, that's not what you're recording here. Beethoven certainly didn't compose these pieces for a Steinway D, because it didn't exist at the time. I recently heard a friend perform one of Beethoven's cello sonatas with pianoforte, and the work made so much better sense that way! So using a smaller instrument is not necessarily a compromise -- it might actually be a service to the music.
There is a gigantic difference between a fortepiano and even the smallest modern concert grand. I'm personally a fan and advocate of period instruments myself, and I especially agree that the historical instrument often works better for chamber music. And as to the fact that Beethoven complained about the limitations of the instruments of his era, and the fact that it was partially in response to the challenges of his works that the modern piano was developed - well, there's something exhilarating about a fortepiano being pushed to within an angstrom of its life! Beethoven is dangerous again! (Not that Beethoven can't be thrilling on a modern piano.)
But again, a Model B isn't a fortepiano. It's a totally different beast. (A real fortepiano is actually surprisingly harpsichord-like.)
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Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
Both are correct, in the states anyways.

I love how we all turn into musicologists here in the remote forum.
I have a bachelor's in musicology and two graduate degrees in music theory. So yeah, I sort of started out as a musicologist!
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I have a bachelor's in musicology and two graduate degrees in music theory. So yeah, I sort of started out as a musicologist!
Lol! Well met, my friend ;-).
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4th January 2013
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The benefit of the longer string length in the bass of the D compared with the B should mean that the overtones are more in tune with the fundamental. Shorter bass strings suffer because local stiffness of the string due to the copper windings menas that the overtones are sharper than they should be compared with the fundamental. It's one reason why small pianos sound bad in the bass compared with large pianos, other things being equal. I'd suggest that the comfort of the pianist is an over-riding consideration which will also take account of the state of the hammers and the action regulation. Otherwise, use the D if possible, as that is the sound most people will be used to on classical CDs.
There was a previous comment which was unflattering about the Model B, but I have still to encounter an alternative piano of that size which is superior - although the Yamaha S model comes close.
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5th January 2013
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Originally Posted by honkytonkpiano View Post
There was a previous comment which was unflattering about the Model B, but I have still to encounter an alternative piano of that size which is superior - although the Yamaha S model comes close.
When I was looking for a 7' grand piano, I tested several Steinway Bs and a Steingraeber 205 (meanwhile replaced by Steingraeber C-212). I preferred the Steingraeber. I tested also the Yamaha S6, which I found very close to the C6, whith this distinctive Yamaha sound signature, slightly nasal, rather different from the Steiway one.
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5th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by honkytonkpiano View Post
The benefit of the longer string length in the bass of the D compared with the B should mean that the overtones are more in tune with the fundamental. Shorter bass strings suffer because local stiffness of the string due to the copper windings menas that the overtones are sharper than they should be compared with the fundamental. It's one reason why small pianos sound bad in the bass compared with large pianos, other things being equal. I'd suggest that the comfort of the pianist is an over-riding consideration which will also take account of the state of the hammers and the action regulation. Otherwise, use the D if possible, as that is the sound most people will be used to on classical CDs.
There was a previous comment which was unflattering about the Model B, but I have still to encounter an alternative piano of that size which is superior - although the Yamaha S model comes close.
In my experience, the biggest problem with "short" piano's is their ability to actually sound the fundemental, not the overtones.

All piano's have weaknesses, I used a nice concert "D" not long ago with a great middle and good top end, however, the bass was lean, My Grotian Steinweg concert grand has a fantastic bottom and decent mid, but the last half octave at the top isn't good. Equally a collegue of mine has a really nice Yamaha 6ft with a great midrange, though the bass obviously suffers.

Quote:
When I was looking for a 7' grand piano, I tested several Steinway Bs and a Steingraeber 205 (meanwhile replaced by Steingraeber C-212). I preferred the Steingraeber. I tested also the Yamaha S6, which I found very close to the C6, whith this distinctive Yamaha sound signature, slightly nasal, rather different from the Steiway one.
didier.brest
My father who was in the trade most of his life, always aid that there wasn't much to compete with a good German piano and I tend to agree with him. I do find most Steinway's pretty consistent, though not as consistent as Yamaha's, it's the good Steinways that set their reputation. I don't know much about teh Steingraeber, however, having listened to a couple of clips on their website, if they are representative, it's a very fine piano, certainly I perfer it to Fazioli's I've heard and worked with.
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5th January 2013
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I have seen Bs with much better action than Ds. Talking about the Hamburg ones here.
There is this tendency in Belgium to have these really BADLY regulated mechanics in Ds. Last month I saw a 1967 D in Amsterdam, which was used as the 'bad' piano for contemporary music involving playing inside the piano...
funny thing is, the sound and mechanics were superb ! The repetition regulation was perfect, about 1000x better than a brand new D

A Steinway D will always sound more like a commercial contemporary recording, even a less good D will do that.

As always, it is a compromise, if the muscian is really satisfied with the B, you could always try one session, and see how it compares to regular releases.

IMO we should get rid of the Steinway D neuroticism - it has become a sort of DX7 sound.
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