Design & Decoration S03 ep1 : Bossendorfer, Bossendorfer Pianos, [Vienna]
Interview with Bossendorfer
People from all parts of the world love Vienna for its beauty, its flair and its central position in European culture. Many famous musicians and composers, such as Rubinstein, Brahms, Bartok, Grieg, Mahler, Strauss and many more have lived or worked in Vienna; and all of them also had some connection with Bösendorfer. The lively, mutually inspiring exchange with the artists made Bösendorfer a cherished symbol of Vienna's musical tradition. What makes a Bösendorfer so special is not magic: Each Bösendorfer grand piano is the work of an entire year - and the know-how that has been passed on from generation to generation since 1828, starting with Ignaz Bösendorfer.
Bosendorfer is a world famous piano manufacturer since 1828, it represents traditional Viennese
Ignatz Bosendorfer found the company in 1828. He took over a little workshop of a piano builder
at that time named Oldman and he started to build his own pianos. Very soon after his beginning
he had already his first contacts with Franz Liszt and he managed to build a piano that could
withstand Liszt’s extreme powerful play.
Vienna was basically the centre of music worldwide and Liszt was a rising star and naturally he
came to Vienna to perform and so he got in contact also with the piano builder … those
instruments were the famous ones at that time and Ignatz Bosendorfer more or less was a
newcomer of course but he managed to build pianos in a new way that could really withhold this
new play of Liszt and so this very close friendship from almost the beginning of the company that
was handed over also to his successor, his son Ludwig Bosendorfer, it was basically a lifetime,
very personal friendship between Liszt and Bosendorfer.
Pianos were not at this level as they are today particularly the string scaling was very different
there was no full piano cast iron plate as we have it today but those pianos were mainly made from
wood only, the action parts were also slim and delicate and not as robust as it is on today’s piano
action, which is almost undestroyable.
It’s so much connected to Vienna as a city of music and all those composers and pianists that were
in Vienna at that time it started already with Han Mozart and Beethoven and succeeding with Liszt
and Strauss and so on and so on … the list is never-ending. This was a major influence to the piano
building of this town and Bosendorfer in particular. Besides that, Bosendorfer had this very famous
Bosendorfer Hall until 1913 where also all the major pianists performed and so this connection was
so tight and all those musicians were influencing the piano building process.
Piano building is a quite long process and there are many work steps and many little things that at
the end give some of technology and knowledge which we gathered within 180 years of piano
building with the strong influence of musicians.
I always had been interested in mechanical things and on the other hand I played the piano myself
and so it was natural to go in such a direction as our piano at home was always having some
problems and the piano technician had to come very often so I got interested in his work and so
eventually I thought to myself if there would be a possibility at Bosendorfer I would take it
immediately because this much of my interests and this is a very rare profession which I would
like to do.
At the beginning it’s an apprenticeship and there is partly factory eduction and partly school
education. Starting point is basic woodworking, case constructions things like that and then at the
end of the apprenticeship you become a piano tuner.
Out of seven grand piano models, four are let’s say historical designs, they are at least 100 years
old the basic scaling design and we have three newer models they were designed between 1996
As I’m working with the instruments for such a long time analysing everything back and forth and
know precisely what the particular features are of the Bosendorfer design principals and this is
applied of course also on the newer models, the piano designing you look for some new aspects as
well, new technologies and new approaches always aiming to make some improvement.
We did a lot of material research as well for instance titanium parts, other materials for the strings
instead of the copper instead of the standard steel wire of springs, other materials for action parts,
but after 300 years of piano building it’s very difficult to make actual improvements. There are
always possibilities with other materials to make some improvement in one aspect but at the same
time you have a disadvantage and then you always have to decide what is more important.
It’s not easy to convince musicians to accept big differences. It’s not as extreme as on string
instruments like a violin for instance but still pianists are also used to a certain type of sound and a
certain touch of the action and they do not want to compromise their expectations.
Today’s concert scene is not like it was maybe 50-100 years ago where a pianist two or three days
ahead of the concert was already at the place and getting used to the piano with several rehearsals.
Today sometimes it’s just a few hours before that the musicians arrive and then the concert already
starts so he needs to expect something which he is used to.
Bosendorfer in the history it also models actually with a laminated bent rib system and it worked
also but at Bosendorfer the particular typical sound is created by we call it a resonance case system
and the idea is to have the entire instrument working as a resonance case as a total unit, of course
the sound board is the projecting element but we want to combine it with an entire case like a
violin or a guitar to contribute to the sound spectrum to the sound colours and therefore our
construction basis is quite different to the other manufacturers actually we begin with the inner rim
system which is a combination of soft wood and hard wood, spruce and beech wood and even the
core piece of the outer rim is made of resonance spruce particularly solid wood pieces, no
Ludwig Bosendorfer he was a part of the founders of the music … and as the old famous
Bosendorfer concert hall which was a little bit off this place here next to the emperor’s castle, this
building was demolished and therefore Ludwig Bosendorfer had to find a different place for his
playing the instrument so eventually Bosendorfer got this nice location here in this rooms inside of
the heart of the music scene of Vienna.
There is a very nice story about Billy Joel. He came in, into this place here, was looking around
trying pianos and he was asking what is the price for this, concert grand size and so these people
here at the Music… they didn’t know him, exactly at the same day our representative from USA
Ray Chandler he was here also and came in and saw Billy Joel and said you know who is inside,
that’s Billy Joel, that was fun and eventually he bought this piano, he liked it very much, it was a
… style concert grand and he bought this for his apartment.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Bosendorfer, Bosendorfer Pianos, Vienna