Blüthner pianos offer a unique singing tone that has garnered a dedicated following of performers and composers. Christian Blüthner-Haessler reveals how the company is building on its rich legacy through new initiatives in Asia
Blüthner has been a family-run company since it began in 1853. How important is this continuity to your success?
The family and the identity of the brand are inextricably linked. If your name is on a piano it stops you from doing silly things! Our work is not driven by financial figures, though of course we have to make a profit and keep the entire company healthy, but that’s not our main motivation. We are maintaining a cultural heritage of which we can be proud.
What have you done to keep the brand distinctive? In the pre-war era all manufacturers had their unique features, but these were unified in the postwar period so they have become more or less the same. Most manufacturers felt they needed to follow one brand that was dominating the market: they tried to follow in that brand’s footsteps in the hope it would make them more competitive. Blüthner went a completely different way, sticking to its own authenticity and maintaining the special qualities that once inspired people of the stature of Brahms, Debussy, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, just to name a few.
Why do you think so many composers have choosen to play Blüthner pianos? Composers have strong musical ideas, but often need a piano to develop them. It’s as if they enter into a dialogue with the instrument, and each time they play something it responds. I have spoken to composers who tell me that whenever they play a piano for the first time, it’s like meeting a new person. If the person you’re talking to has nothing to say and isn’t very interesting or inspiring, the conversation becomes a monologue – there’s no feedback.
Singers famously love being accompanied on a Blüthner Yes, that’s because of its clarity. It’s not just interacting with the human voice, it actually supports it. The celebrated German conductor Furtwängler once said that Blüthner pianos can really sing, which is one of the biggest compliments you can pay to any musical instrument – since most musicians consider the human voice to be the most ‘complete’ instrument.
rim construction, the way in which the soundboard is curved (or ‘crowned’) and our approach to scaling.
Blüthner pianos are built with a tension-free design to ensure that energy is not absorbed by the rim. We use solid wood to provide a strong foundation for the anchor screws that secure the iron frame, ensuring a high degree of rigidity and resistance to climatic change.
Our pianos are very well balanced. You don’t get the ‘register effect’, that shift in colour, which you get in American-designed instruments. This for me is what makes Blüthner the ultimate European-designed instrument. It requires a soundboard that offers clarity without turning the piano into a sharp, aggressive or percussive instrument. Blüthner’s mellow sound is like rich, dark chocolate.
Finally, there is the aliquot system in the top section of the piano. These are the fourth, freely vibrating strings that are not attacked by the hammer, but pick up sympathetic vibrations, amplifying the overtones and adding colours. Human ears are built in such a way that we consider a tone to be more beautiful when it includes a wider range of frequencies. More overtones also allow greater control so players can bring out different colours and characteristics.
What sets Blüthner pianos apart from other brands in terms of design? There are three key elements that define Blüthner pianos:
Are you still developing new designs? Some manufacturers say that the piano has developed to its final possible stage. I don’t agree with that, because
Family dynasty: brothers Knut and Christian Blüthner-
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