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Bösendorfer’s 280VC concert grand has brought new dimensions to the ‘sound of Vienna’ for today’s concert artists

BÖSENDORFER

Meanwhile, there was a perceived need to pull the design of the concert grand piano into a new century, meeting the requirements of today’s international stars, beset as they are by tough travel schedules, extremely varied repertoires and giant halls. New computer-aided design tools were vital in this development, offering enhanced precision for the redesign. None of this might have happened, however, without the commitment of Bösendorfer’s chief designer, Ferdinand Braeu: the 280VC really is his baby.

In many ways, Braeu suggests, the sound of Bösendorfer is the sound of Vienna itself: ‘There is a certain warmth which is inherent in Bösendorfer’s sound, but also in the tonal quality of the orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra,’ he explains. ‘It has a darkness to it, and a wide range of colours that is typical both for Bösendorfer and the Viennese sound character.’

How do you put the sound of Vienna into a piano? First of all, Braeu says, there is an unusually high proportion of solid wood, especially spruce, in Bösendorfer grands generally: ‘Every piano has a spruce soundboard, but on Bösendorfer grand pianos we are using spruce also for parts of the rim construction, as well as soundboard ribs, the key bed and many other elements. We are talking about a resonance case rather than a rim construction; we understand the entire instrument as contributing to the sound creation. To some extent it is similar to a stringed instrument, where you also have a sound body and a sound case. All these components contribute to the sound character.’ A piano is a stringed instrument, after all.

‘The 280VC involves a comprehensive redesign of the instrument, not just a touch-up,’ Braeu emphasises. ‘We did a recalculation of the string scaling, to get a perfect balance of harmonics, tension structure and overall balance, and a uniform spectrum of sound character from the bass to the treble. Also related to the scaling is the placement of the bridges in a way that gives us a perfect, balanced structure to the soundboard. There’s also a new cast-iron plate – naturally if the scale design is altered, the plate design has to be altered.’

One major point, Braeu says, is that Bösendorfer has introduced a new system of acoustical setting: ‘These are the parts that are connected directly to the soundboard. We created a three-dimensional model which we applied to the soundboard, its ribs and also the base, to which the soundboard is connected at its edges. This is a preassembled unit which can be put together very precisely and which is custom-designed just for this instrument.’ This is a very new approach, Braeu suggests: ‘It favours the tuning stability and aural stability of the instrument as well as voicing regulation. It also gives a certain responsiveness to the soundboard and therefore responsiveness of tone. On top of this it offers an extended range of dynamic layers and possibilities and contributes to the piano’s overall sustaining power. Its perfectly working action connects all this together.

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International Piano Guide to Instruments & Accessories 19

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