Thought Provoking #1 - The Piano Store

I learned some things while window shopping at a piano store.
This being my first entry for the Thought Provoking series, I figured I'd give a quick introduction. Like all of us, I experience interesting things from time to time and enjoy sharing them with others. More importantly also making sure I don't forget them. A blog seems like a sure-fire way to satisfy both of those points! Cue the stream of consciousness blogging.

This week I had an opportunity to drop into a wonderful piano store by the name of Robert Lowrey Piano Experts at Eglinton Ave E and Brentcliffe Rd in Toronto. Now I am by no stretch of the imagination an amazing piano player but I do really enjoy playing and try not to pass up the chance to hop on one even for a few minutes.

This store is huge - 2 levels of beautiful absurdly unaffordable (by my standards) grand pianos. The first floor had a significant range of pricing, upright and grand pianos for $5,000, $25,000, $50,000 and so on. After fiddling with one of these pristine looking instruments, a salesman by the name of Don wanders over to chat and see what I'm in the market for. I have no business buying a piano from here at this stage in my life but it seemed like Don had a wealth of piano knowledge to share, so I followed him around and listened.

Don showed me some pianos that had humidifiers built in for the purpose of keeping the wood moist - perfect solution for folks living in dry apartments and condos, super cool. Then he mentioned the different brands of pianos; Steinway, Heintzman, Yamaha, but I stopped him at Bösendorfer. I recognized the name from digital instruments I had used before and remembered really digging the sound of it - but I had never actually seen one in a shop. He can tell I'm getting giddy and offers to take me upstairs to the Bösendorfers. Of course Don decides to show me the most immaculate Bösendorfer (it's such a fun word to say) in the building.

He proceeds to give me some insight on the brand, how their pianos are made and why the one I'm looking at costs $150,000. Bösendorfer takes 6 years to develop each piano. They are constructed from wood harvested from the alps and the reason for this is that because of the thin mountain air, trees take much longer to grow and their rings are much tighter in formation - ultimately leading to a much denser wood. After harvesting the wood, it sits in open air to cure for 4-5 years. The piano is then built over the span of another year. The dude who started it all was Ignaz Bösendorfer, and started his shop around 1828, the year after Beethoven died. Beethoven had been complaining for ages about how fragile pianos are (this guy broke 7 pianos in his lifetime) and when Franz Liszt came along (a classical piano rockstar after Beethoven) he too was looking for something to withstand his passionate playing. After recommendations by his friends to try a Bösendorfer for his 1838 concert in Vienna, they become quite famous for their durability and incredible sound.

This particular piano Don was showing me was a Beethoven commemoration, with only 32 made - of which this store had already sold 3. It was a beautiful looking piano to say the least with accents of dark chrome throughout the frame. And as a nice touch, the opening script to Moonlight Sonata inscribed on the inside of the lid. And I can't overstate how this beast sounded when I sat down and played it. Never before had I heard such a rich sound with incredible bass and soft but powerful treble, it sounded and looked like $150,000. One suggested reason for the sound being so impressive is that Bösendorfer is the only brand to build the piano case out of solid wood (Bavarian Spruce), while others use stressed plywood. The type of wood and the way it's constructed arguably transmit better sound.

Thus concludes my trip to the Piano Experts and my interaction with Don the piano salesman. It was a really interesting and enlightening 20 minutes and I'm glad I can share it. (Bösendorfer count = 8)

~ Brendan