Welcome to LivingPianos.com. I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about what piano concert pianists play at home. The first thing to think about is, what piano concert pianists play when concertizing. What piano do you usually find on stage in classical concerts? Most of the time, it’s a Steinway model D concert grand, which is just under 9 feet long. Sometimes, in smaller halls, it could be a 7-foot or just under 7-foot Steinway model B, but usually it’s the 9-foot piano. Touring artists may encounter other great pianos from time to time, but usually they play on Steinways because they are the last company servicing the concert market globally. So, you might think they would want to have that piano at home, so they’re familiar with the pianos they play in concerts. That would provide a seamless adjustment.
A concert grand is oftentimes impractical for homes.
Let’s say someone is performing a Rachmaninoff concerto with an orchestra. That pianist can fill the hall all the way to the back row of the balcony balancing with the full orchestra! There’s a tremendous amount of volume these instruments can produce. So, in somebody’s home, an instrument like this can be overwhelming. You have to have the right room to be able to handle the volume an instrument like this can produce. So the instrument that many concert pianists have at home is the Model B semi-concert grand Steinway, which is just under 7-feet.
The challenge is, a new Steinway B costs around $125,000!
Pianists like Lang Lang and other famous pianists can afford it. But there are many budding young artists who can’t afford a new Steinway B. So, people look in the used market for good Steinway model B’s. The challenge there is that even a late-model Steinway can be very expensive. With the older ones, the challenge is that although Steinway has been making the Model B since 1878, the design has changed. The specifications keep evolving over the years. So When rebuilding an older Steinway, the choice of parts is very difficult, because the design may have different geometry from current Steinway parts. Some parts aren’t even available from Steinway, like soundboards. So, you have to count on somebody being able to craft a great soundboard, and there is no assurance that they’re going to be able to build the kind of soundboard that was on the piano originally.
What is so different about concert grand and semi-concert grand pianos?
Obviously, the bass is far greater on larger pianos. But the tone throughout the instruments have more depth because of the larger soundboard, and the sympathetic vibrations of longer strings. Also, with larger pianos, the actions feel different. This is because the keys are longer on these pianos. Of course, not the part of the keys you see, but behind the fallboard the keys are longer. The difference is particularly noticeable when playing black keys and between black keys close to the fallboard. There is greater key travel, so you can control the sound far better.
If you want to compare the sound of a Steinway B to a Steinway D, you can listen to almost any recording of a concert pianist, and in most cases, you will be hearing a 9-foot concert grand Steinway model D since the vast majority of concert pianists record on Steinway D’s.
If you’d like to compare the sound of a 9-foot to a 7-foot Steinway, you can listen to the accompanying video
The video contains performances of the Mozart D minor Fantasy, and Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk performed on a 1981 Steinway B in concert condition. I hope you’ve enjoyed this! Any comments or questions you have can be addressed here at LivingPianos.com or on YouTube. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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