Bösendorfer pianos are widely considered to be the only other piano in anywhere near the same class as the legendary pianos manufactured by Steinway & Sons.

"On 25 July 1828, Ignaz Bösendorfer was issued the trade license number 225 669, and with it the right to take up residence in Vienna, to manufacture pianos, and to pay taxes. This sober award marks the beginning of a great and glorious history of a piano house that has not only been closely linked with Vienna's musical development throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, but has also been the sole piano maker to continuously uphold the Viennese piano making tradition, continuously developing and refining it to the present day."

Source: www.bosendorfer.com

The world's finest pianos, handcrafted in Vienna, Austria, since 1828.

The Model 290 Imperial Grand has 97 keys - 9 additional bass keys that have inverted colors so that people don't get confused. It is 9'6" in length, 5'6" in width, and weighs 570 kg.

This is not a piece of furniture to put in your home. You must build a concert hall around it so that it can develop its full potential. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 has parts in the first movement where there's a little "8" above some notes. This means: play that note and the note an octave below it. You can only do this on the Bösendorfer with the additional 9 keys, and the walls shake when you do it. It's kind of like Spinal Tap's amp that goes up to 11.

Here's how to get one:

  1. Make it known to the Bösendorfer people that you wish to acquire one of these girls. Don't forget to bring about US $250,000.
  2. A Bösendorfer employee will go out into the company-owned forest and carefully choose a tree. He will cut it down, take it back to the workshop and leave it outside, behind the building, to age in the rain, wind and sunshine for three years.
  3. Your tree is cut into boards for the body of your Imperial Grand. It will take another half year until it is finished. On the workshop walls are paintings of nude women, so that the men incorporate the elegance and flow of the female body into their work. About ten people work here. There is one apprentice, who was chosen at the age of thirteen.
  4. Your Grand Piano is finished. After it is delivered to your desired location, the Tuner arrives. He is the only living person with the required skills for this task. You should tell him which works by which composer you want to play, and he will set up the instrument for this. He can adjust the strings to a thousandth of a note, by ear.
  5. You realize you are not Glenn Gould and have just spent a quarter million to play Für Elise.

Oh, and if I ever happen to have that much money, I'm gonna get one. No Ferrari, thanks.

morven reminds me that, of course, Tori Amos has been playing a Bosie forever, although it is not a 290, but a smaller model more suitable for touring. In fact, the above manufacturing details are largely from an interview with her that I once read.

Probably the finest piano in the world. A hand-crafted instrument with a very distinctive sound that musicians and composers alike recognize immediately. The sound lends itself best to the classical repertoire, and these instruments are cherished by some of the most famous classical players. The reedy, complex sound has been characterized as the "Austrian" sound by fans of the brand.

These instruments are the most expensive pianos available. Depending upon condition, a Bösendorfer will command four times the cost of a Steinway or Yamaha of similar size, and often more.

For years, Tony Bennett's accompanist Ralph Sharon chose Bösendorfer pianos to record on, and to perform on wherever possible. There's a Bösendorfer at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City. The instruments are on-stage at some of the world's finest performance venues, as well. Despite the incredible quality and durability of these instruments, Steinway surpasses Boesendorfer's popularity. This is probably due to Boesendorfer's tremendous cost.

The sound of the instrument is tweedy and very refined. It's a whole different piano sound. Brubeck used one for a while and returned to old reliable Steinway. A jazz player just can't get the singular, cold, clear "bell-like" sound from one of these instruments. And they're awfully difficult to get any truly severe dynamics from.

In the studio, the Bösendorfer thrives on having microphones placed all over the instrument because the sound is so understated and unique. In fact, the Bösendorfer is at its best in a studio setting; where humidity and other environmental hazards are at a minimum, and the instrument can be isolated appropriately. Because of the prohibitive cost of these pianos, they're usually found in public performance venues. The company also has recently introduced the CEUS, a digital recording methodology that can play-back using a combination of electronic and electro-mechanical features, essentially causing the piano to "play itself."

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