08 March 2017
Editor's Day Out: a spectacular launch event of presentations & virtuoso piano playing, hosted by Markson Pianos
A spectacular launch event of the 280VC Concert Grand and the 214VC Grand
By Erica Worth (pictured here with Simon Markson)
It’s Tuesday 7 March, and I’ve arrived at Conway Hall, just off High Holborn, at the launch of the new 280VC (VC meaning ‘Vienna Concert’) and its smaller sister instrument, the 214VC (7ft). Other key members of the music press are here too, as well as piano technicians, piano lovers and basically anyone keen to follow news of top-end piano manufacture.
Both grand pianos are standing side-by-side, facing each other, in front of the stage. They look immaculate, but how will they sound?
Firstly, Simon Markson of Markson Pianos – London stockist of these two new pianos –introduces us to the instruments. And without much ado, Polish pianist Aleksandra Mikulska appears from the back and sits down at the 280VC to play three highly virtuosic works: Chopin’s Andante spianato e Grande Polonaise billante, his Scherzo No 2 in B flat minor and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 11 in A minor.
Watch Mikulska play an excerpt from the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody here:
After her performance, Bösendorfer’s Senior Product Designer, Ferdinand Bräu, asks Mikulska what she loves about this concert grand. She explains: ‘It has a big sound, and it gives the artist the opportunity to play this big sound with less power than you might have to do with other concert grands. And, it gives you many, many colours! There’s the brilliant soprano register and the harmonic voluminous bass. It gives a lot of colours without big work!’
She enthuses, ‘I actually chose to play Chopin’s Antante spianato and Grand Polonaise billante because it gives the audience the opportunity to hear the wonderful mechanics of the piano. The word spianato means soft and equal.’
Watch Aleksandra Mikulska playing part of it here:
Mikulska leaves the stage, leaving Bräu to give an in-depth presentation of the two models.
It’s not easy on page to discuss the intricate details of how a piano is constructed, let alone, ‘upgraded’, but to summarise it has involved the recalculating of string scaling; the incorporation of single, double and triple bass strings (something that’s not so new, but it’s been quite a while since a piano’s included triple bass strings); improvement of the duplex scaling; a responsive soundboard assembly (with cross beam design); the incorporation of traditional spruce/beech elements for the inner rim – a unique set-up that makes for precise and stable wood joint connections; improved rib design; the need for reliability of action – that is, the balance of the interaction of touch and tonal response.
Bräu continues to explain that numerous design measures have been made to improve tuning stability, action stability, voicing, stability when in transportation or when there are changes of temperature or humidity. ‘Our aim is to make the life of a concert pianist as easy as possible’, he says. ‘To stay true to the individual unique design and the unmistakable “Vienese” sound, but meeting all the needs and expectations of the 21st century. We wanted to keep the sound, but cater to the needs of today’s performance venues and artists. Accessibility must be very easy these days – venues don’t have much time to sort things. There’s a demand for a certain spectrum of dynamic range at these big venues.’
The 280VC comprises the standard 88 keys, as does the 214VC (Bösendorfer is unique in that it produces 92- and 97-key models).
‘We wanted to extend the success of this to the popular 214 size’, Bräu continues. ‘A piano that suits teaching classes and smaller concert venues. The construction principles are similar to the 280VC and again, there’s an improvement of the general stability. We’ve done the re-calculation of string scaling in order to improve consistency and balance (just what was done for the 280). And the hammers are made up of natural wool felt.’
Aleksandra Mikulska sat down at the 214VC and played Liszt’s Liebestraum No 3 and his Hungarian Rhapsody No 12 in C sharp minor. Watch a part from the Liebestraum No 3 here:
Bräu tells us that Sir András Schiff has decided to play on the 280VC from now on. On a big video screen, Schiff explains to the audience that ‘I hear more the registers on it, and it’s great for the Viennese classics, which I like to play. There’s a distinction in tonal qualities for the top, middle and bass on this piano. It should not be completely even. You have to have these levels of distinction. It has this wonderful action, which makes it very comfortable to play. But what I am looking for is the sound. I think this is a “singing” instrument’.
We've been told that Daniil Trifonov will be choosing two new 280VC concert grands for Vienna’s spectacular Musikverein when he appears in concert at the hall this May. That should be an event in itself!
But for now, why not try one for yourself at Markson Pianos? (No, we didn’t ask about the price!)
Pianist will write about the launch inside the upcoming issue No 95. You can order your advance copy now!