C. Bechstein Pianos
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Carl Bechstein was born in 1826. One of his sisters married a piano-builder called Johann Gleitz, this inspired him to take an apprenticeship with Gleitz.
After this, he travelled through France and learnt much of his skills from the French school of piano-building. Carl was amazed by the ferocity of Franz Liszt’s playing, and this inspired him to produce pianos that were capable of withstanding the sort of punishment dished out by pianists of Liszt’s calibre.
Carl Bechstein established his company (C.Bechstein pianos) in 1853 in Berlin. By 1900, production had increased to 3,700 instruments a year, and this was the year that Carl died. He left his sons Edwin, Karl & Johann to continue the business, which continued to prosper, and in 1912 the company produced its 100,000th instrument. Bechstein survived the `great depression’ in 1929-1934, when many piano builders were forced out of business.
The factory was badly damaged during WWII, but by 1950 they were back making pianos, but at only around 100 pianos per year. In 1963 Baldwin of the US bought the company from the family until 1986 when master-technician Karl Schutze repurchased the company back into German hands.
In 1993, however, the company was facing bankruptcy, and nearly collapsed, until German investment saved the company. Bechstein today still prospers, and has bought Zimmermann & W Hoffmann into the Bechstein fold.
C Bechstein Grand Piano Model Guide
Up to around 1902, Bechstein built 5 sizes of grand; these were known as models I to V (Roman 1-5).
- The largest was the Model ‘I’ which was 9ft (275cm) long; Bechstein’s concert grand.
- The Model II was 8ft 4in (254cm) long;
- The Model III was 7ft 8in (234cm) long;
- The Model IV was 7ft 2in (218cm) long;
- The Model V – the shortest and most frequently built – was 6ft 7in (200cm) long.
In most instruments (not the earlier models) the identifying number is cast in the iron frame near the far end underneath the bass strings.
In 1902, C.Bechstein pianos changed the styles and lengths of all grands made, and 5 new models were introduced – E to A.
- The Model E replaced the ‘I’ above – same length but revised style;
- The Model D was 8ft 2in (250cm) long;
- The Model C was 7ft 4in (225cm) long;
- The Model B was 6ft 8in (203cm) long;
- The Model A was 5ft 11in (182cm) long, but had 85 notes (not 88).
Footnote – The models ‘V’ & ‘B’ are often confused as they are the same length, the ‘V’, like all earlier grands always had a ‘fish-tail’ style cabinet, whereas the ‘B’ – built after 1902 – did not.
During the 1920s demand increased for smaller grands, and in common with most other manufacturers, Bechstein introduced 4 more (smaller) sizes, the K, L, M & S. The models B-E continued to be built.
- The Model M was 5ft 10in (178cm) long, and replaced the model A, but with 88 notes;
- The Model L was 5ft 6in (168cm) long, also known as ‘Lilliput’ model;
- The Model K was 5ft 1in (155cm) long;
- The Model S was 4ft 7in (140cm) long.
Footnote – The smaller grands L & M were good sounding, well-built instruments, but the baby grand sizes K & S suffered from the loss of string-length, and are slightly disappointing in terms of tone quality.
Courtney Pianos can supply most of the above mentioned models, in a fully restored condition. The majority are built in Ebonized (black) or Rosewood cabinets, though Burr Walnut is occasionally found. Mahogany is the more standard wood grain found on post-1920s built instruments, though (non-burr) Walnut and Ebonized cabinets are sometimes found.
C Bechstein Upright Piano Model Guide
Briefly, C. Bechstein built five main models of Uprights. Until 1902 (or around serial number 61,600), these were known as Model Nos. I, II, III, IV & V. From 1902 onwards, slight changes were introduced, and these models were re-numbered 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 respectively. It is fair to say, however, that there is virtually no difference in tone or performance between the corresponding C.Bechstein pianos (e.g. a model III looks and sounds similar to its successor, the model 8).
- The Model 6 (or I) is 57½in (145cm) tall with 88 notes and is Bechstein’s tallest upright, usually found in Rosewood or Ebonized.
- The Model 7 (or II) is 54½in (138cm) tall with 88 notes and again is usually available in Rosewood or Ebonized.
- The Model 8 (or III) is 127cm/50in tall, has 88 notes and is available in Rosewood, Walnut, Ebonized and Maple.
- The Model 9 (or IV) is 122cm/48in tall, has 85 notes and is Bechstein’s smaller overstrung model, and available in various woods.
- The Model 10 (or V) is also 127cm/50in tall, 85 notes and is Bechstein’s straight-strung model, usually available in Ebonized or Rosewood, though many have inlaid marquetry. N.B. These are very fine pianos and, tone-wise, exceed many lesser-known overstrung models!
COURTNEY PIANOS wishes to make it clear that all information herein has been compiled at its own discretion, and opinions expressed are those of our researchers, based on our years of experience within the piano trade.