HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
One of the oldest and longest-standing of all piano manufacturers, Bosendorfer was formed by Ignaz Bosendorfer in 1828 in Vienna Austria. Bosendorfer pianos would quickly earn a reputation as some of the finest pianos of the time, resulting in Ignaz’s distinction of the official piano maker to the emperor of Austria in 1830. After Ignaz would pass away in 1858, his son Ludwig assumed control of the company, and would ultimately lead Bosendorfer to new levels of prosperity. Ludwig would sell the company in 1909, thus ending any Bosendorfer familial control of the company. After changing hands several times over the past 100 years, Bosendorfer is now entirely owned by the Yamaha Corporation.
Today, Bosendorfer is still regarded as one of the top piano manufacturers in the world, utilizing high-quality materials and extensive hand craftsmanship. Most famous for their grands, Bosendorfer also makes two sizes of uprights, the 47” 120CL (not available in North America) and the 52” 130CL (available worldwide.) The 130CL is one of the most expensive uprights on the market currently available, especially if factoring in one of Bosendorfer’s exotic veneers.
Bosendorfer makes 8 sizes of grand piano, from the 5’1” model 155, all the way up to the 9’6” Imperial 290; one of the largest concert grand pianos in the world (also has 97 keys as opposed to 88, with 9 additional bass register keys.)
Bosendorfer also makes slightly less expensive, slightly lower quality “Conservatory Series” versions of four of their grand models. These are specifically aimed at Universities and Institutions as a less expensive alternative to a normal Bosendorfer.
Differences include simpler cabinetry, satin as opposed polished finishes, and what Bosendorfer refers to as “less time spent in non-critical areas.”
Bosendorfer incorporates a few distinct design features, most notably their approach to rim construction; a process entirely unique to Bosendorfer. Rather than multiple laminations of hardwoods bent around a form, Bosendorfer rims are constructed in solid sections of beech and spruce which are later joined together. This unique approach to rim design likely helps contribute to Bosendorfer’s signature tonal profile, as they argue this process allows the rim to act as an extension of the soundboard, thus resulting in greater resonance throughout the entire structure.
Highly regarded by many great musicians over the past two centuries, Bosendorfers undoubtedly rank among the finest pianos Europe is capable of producing.
Piano Brand Reviews:
BÖSENDORFER VS STEINWAY
One of the most dramatic comparisons amongst high-end pianos would be Bosendorfer vs Steinway – a literal battle of opposites. Where the Steinway’s rim is designed and built for maximum rigidity and projection, the Bosendorfer’s rim is softer, thinner, and creates far greater warmth in the immediate vicinity of the piano. Where the Steinway D can fill a concert hall of 2000 seats adequately with no amplification, rarely will you find a Bosendorfer in the same situation without amplification. Where the Steinway is a wide range of tones from bass to treble, from soft to loud, the Bosendorfer is far more consistent in timbre both in range and dynamic output.
The experience of playing a Bosendorfer, to the pianist’s ear, is akin to using a stereo enhancer with headphones – there’s such a dramatic difference in what reaches the left vs the right ear that you’re left with the impression of wide expanse of sound, but yet with highly clear tones. The lack of harder, denser hardwoods in the structure and rim leave a missing ‘gap’ in harmonics in the lower-midrange, leaving the listener with a sense that while big, the tone isn’t as full or thick as some ears would prefer.
This has led to Bosendorfer’s reputation as being more of a jazz or early classical pianist’s ideal, since both styles of music often feature virtuosic solo lines in the right hand (think Mozart, or Oscar Peterson), with most of the lower density of notes occurring in the 3rd octave and played in the left hand: a style of pianistic orchestration that seems to lend itself well to the Bosendorfer. It also works quite well in many studio settings, where mic placement and post-production can help fill in the ‘gaps’ of the harmonic range while still taking advantage of the rich stereo image and clarity in the treble.
The brand has retained a reputation of one of the very best in the industry for close to 200 years – and while the design hasn’t evolved with the times (some would argue there’s no need), the workmanship still remains extremely high and owners can enjoy the prestige of having a small piece of musical history in their homes.
Steinway’s blend of harmonics, and it’s high energy conservation in its design, would normally be considered a more lively and dynamic piano than the Bosendorfer, with a wider range of nuance and tone. This comes at a sacrifice of clarity in many situations, and as a result both supporters and detractors of the brand almost unanimously agree that the piano is the most “forgiving” of the high-end brands. To people unhitched from the brands’ romance, this is a downside, particularly when comparing it to Bosendorfer, Bechstein, or Fazioli…the Steinway gives the player training wheels, the effects of which wind up masking and glossing over details and clarity.
In any case, both instruments are living museums of the ingenuity of the 19th century’s industrial boom…not necessarily pianos of the 21st century, but a reminder of how the highest levels of craftsmanship can still deliver an amazing product, as it always has throughout the history of musical instruments.
Piano Brand Reviews:
BÖSENDORFER VS FAZIOLI
Fazioli, along with C. Bechstein’s new Concert Series, Ravenscroft, and Stuart & Sons, represents the top tier of what could be thought of as 21st century acoustic pianos. We view them as such because 1) their designs are sufficiently new and derive many elements from recent technology, or 2) they incorporate materials which weren’t available during the last major design revolution of the 1890’s – 1920’s.
The musical experience, and total essence of playing a Fazioli is markedly different than that of Bosendorfer. Bosendorfer achieves much of its presence through an enlarged soundboard, lower tension, and low-energy cabinet resonance (due to the spruce rim), it’s harmonic profile is simple, and the expansive effect on the ear is more a function if the wide cabinet creating an exaggerated stereo field than anything else. Fazioli on the other hand philosophically has set out to create a maximum harmonic colour and detail without departing from the core character that traditional pianos have always had – or in simpler terms, the best parts of Steinway with none of the drawbacks.
There are strengths and weaknesses in both pianos, none of which manifest as “deal breakers” by any means…more to say that each are so specific in how they deliver the playing experience that few performers or buyers will have mild feelings about either…it’s likely to be a strong preference or aversion on first listen. With Bosendorfer, a highly controllable, wide and clear tone which gives upper melody lines a perfect canvas on which to trace. The bass is brassy, the mid-range responsive, and a beautiful sustain throughout.
In side-by-side comparisons with other top pianos though, the piano sounds hollow and – in what almost amounts to an aural illusion – the piano is notably softer. With Fazioli, they certainly achieve what could be described as maximum colour – upper harmonic upon upper harmonic with a razor-sharp clarity that feels like you’re listening to yourself play the piano through $20,000 speakers. To technical masters of the craft, such as Angela Hewitt, this is a good thing. The full palette to work with, with no training wheels or safety bumpers in place. To many other players…including touring performance artists… this extreme level of exposure to even the tiniest gesture is unnerving and practically requires a re-learning of the piano. What once sounded amazing on their old go-to the NY Steinway now sounds exposed, messy, and hard to control. Or in a more relatable analogy, it’s as though you’re driving a performance hypercar…yes it goes faster, but it’s just as likely to send you crashing into a wall.
Piano Brand Reviews:
BÖSENDORFER VS C. BECHSTEIN
Perhaps no other two pianos in the ultra-high end piano market receive more comparisons than Bosendorfer vs Bechstein. Of course NY Steinway, Fazioli and a few others will invariably enter the fray in such a discussion, but one need not look beyond Bosendorfer’s own promotional material to see who they view as their biggest competitor: none other than C. Bechstein. The King of Pianos and the “Rolls Royce of Pianos” (as the two are often referred), have few similarities, except two notable ones: 1) they both have the longest published construction time of any production piano on earth. Though Bechstein’s is marginally longer, it’s within the margin of variance to say that each takes 15 months to construct on average, and that’s after all the wood and pre-assembly components are ready to be worked; and 2) they both occupied the majority of noble, royal, and cultural halls throughout Europe from the mid 1850’s through to WWII.
The similarities stop there, and the competition has always been fierce…and as of 2019, one that Bechstein appears to be winning. In terms of the share of performance-level pianos sold in Europe, retail statistics for Germany attribute 58% of all high-end combined grand & upright sales to C. Bechstein for that year.
Everything else about these two instruments speak to different philosophies, different designs, different building techniques, a different playing experience, and very different companies.
Where Bosendorfer has stuck with its design for over 100 years with little to no variation (something that they would argue is a virtue), C. Bechstein has gone through evolutionary changes that continue today. Bechstein maintains an active R&D division – something rarely found in the piano business today (Kawai certainly comes to mind here as well), and so they’ve benefited from every proven design innovation of the last century and incorporated it into their latest generation of concert pianos.
For those who knew the demure sound of the Bechstein’s of the early-mid 20th century, this is a new piano to get to know. For those looking for a modern European tone, the changes have been welcomed with open arms.
Bosendorfer’s design highlights include the extra-wide construction and resulting enlarged soundboard; the unique high altitude Austrian spruce panels directly connected to the soundboard, in effect, extending the soundboard outward and enhancing the stereo complexity of the instrument; the unmistakable tone of their brassy-sounding bass strings; and of course the addition of extra keys to the bass range on their larger instruments.
Bechstein’s design highlights include the use of a treble bell, something made famous by Steinway and used to increase the projection and longevity of the treble range; multi-capped, vertically-laminated bridges that both collect string energy and transmit full-EQ frequencies to the soundboard in the most efficient manner; scissor-joinery on their Val Di’Fiemme soundboard, increasing strength with fewer glues; and the hallmark design of full-perimeter inner rim to give maximum high-energy cabinet resonance.
The playing experience between the two is easily articulated:
The dynamic output difference between the two is dramatic with the typical match-ups, with size favouring Bosendorfer but volume favouring the Bechstein: 225 (Bos) vs 212 (Bec), 290 (Bos) vs 282 (Bec).
The harmonic complexity of the Bechstein provides a much thicker mid-range, a more complex treble, and a bass range that while less colorful than the Bosendorfer, is more conducive to thicker harmonic layers and nuance
The Bosendorfer creates an orchestral sonic effect through it’s physical width and the ‘speaking rim’, which to the player enhances the sense of space. The Bechstein feels more contained, with more richness filled in the middle, vs a thinner outer spread
Both pianos have a fluid and effortless action, amongst the finest in the industry
And finally, to the companies themselves. With little more than a few hundred pianos produced each year, Bosendorfer’s existing business model reached a point in the early 2010’s where new corporate ownership was the only feasible way forward, and Yamaha came to the rescue. Yamaha as new owners has not sought to expand or change the operation, but instead has injected the Bosendorfer brand throughout its digital piano lineup, and generally benefited from the association with one of the premium European builders. The approach is not unique: just as Ford did with Jaguar in the 90’s, BMW with Rolls Royce, VW with Bently or Lamborghini, the piano world has seen its share of niche premium brands gobbled up by larger more financially stable corporate parents eager to leverage the prestige throughout the rest of their lineup. Examples include Parsons and Grotrian, Pearl River and Schimmel, or Samick and Seiler
C. Bechstein has also changed hands, but under very different circumstances; profitable and growing, Bechstein attracted the attention of a wealthy Berlin-based investor with a personal passion for the arts, who has invested nearly 100 million Euro into the brand with the clear intent of dominance both musically and in the marketplace. Perhaps no other piano company has experienced such a focused acceleration of design and expansion in the last 10 years than C. Bechstein.
C. Bechstein pianos can be enjoyed at Merriam Pianos locations in Oakville, Vaughan, and Toronto. Bosendorfer pianos can be enjoyed at the Yamaha Piano Center in Toronto.
BOSENDORFER PIANO MODELS & PRICE
|130||52||Satin and Polished Ebony||$76,999|
|130||52||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$91,999|
|130||52||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$98,999|
|130||52||Polished , Satin, Open-pore: Pyramid Mahogany, Burl Walnut, Birdseye Maple, Macassar, Madronna, Vavona, Wenge||$103,999|
|155||5||1||Satin and Polished Ebony||$121,999|
|155||5||1||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$136,999|
|155||5||1||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$146,999|
|155||5||1||Polished , Satin, Open-pore: Pyramid Mahogany, Burl Walnut, Birdseye Maple, Macassar, Madronna, Vavona, Wenge||$159,999|
|155||5||1||Chrome: Satin and Polished Ebony||$138,999|
|170VC||5||7||Satin and Polished Ebony||$126,999|
|170VC||5||7||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$142,999|
|170VC||5||7||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$153,999|
|170VC||5||7||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Bubinga, Pyramid Mahogany, Santos Rosewood, Burl Walnut, Birdseye Maple, Macassar, Madronna, Vavona, Wenge||$164,999|
|170VC||5||7||Chrome: Satin and Polished Ebony||$142,999|
|170VC||5||7||Johann Strauss: Satin and Polished Ebony w/Maple||$152,999|
|170VC||5||7||Johann Strauss: Any finish and veneer||$178,999|
|170VC||5||7||Liszt: Polished Vavona||$182,999|
|170VC||5||7||Chopin, Louis XVI: Satin Pommele||$207,999|
|170VC||5||7||Baroque: Light Satin Ivory; Vienna: Polished Amboyna||$232,999|
|170VC||5||7||Artisan Satin and Polished||$297,999|
|185VC CS||6||1||Conservatory Satin Ebony||$116,999|
|185VC||6||1||Satin and Polished Ebony||$133,999|
|185VC||6||1||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$149,999|
|185VC||6||1||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$157,999|
|185VC||6||1||Polished , Satin, Open-pore: Pyramid Mahogany, Burl Walnut, Birdseye Maple, Macassar, Madronna, Vavona, Wenge||$169,999|
|185VC||6||1||Chrome: Satin and Polished Ebony||$149,999|
|185VC||6||1||Johann Strauss: Satin and Polished Ebony w/Maple||$159,999|
|185VC||6||1||Johann Strauss: Any finish and veneer||$185,000|
|185VC||6||1||Liszt: Polished Vavona||$189,999|
|185VC||6||1||Edge: Satin and Polished Ebony||$212,999|
|185VC||6||1||Chopin, Louis XVI: Satin Pommele||$215,999|
|185VC||6||1||Baroque: Satin Light Ivory; Vienna: Polished Amboyna||$236,999|
|185VC||6||1||Porsche Design: Diamond Black Metallic Gloss||$248,999|
|185VC||6||1||Artisan Satin and Polished||$306,999|
|200CS||6||7||Conservatory Satin Ebony||$122,999|
|200||6||7||Satin and Polished Ebony||$144,999|
|200||6||7||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$161,999|
|200||6||7||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$172,999|
|200||6||7||Chrome Satin and Polished Ebony||$145,596|
|200||6||7||Chrome: Satin and Polished Ebony||$159,999|
|200||6||7||Johann Strauss: Satin and Polished Ebony w/Maple||$170,999|
|200||6||7||Johann Strauss: Any finish and veneer||$201,999|
|200||6||7||Dragonfly: Maple and Polished Ebony||$206,999|
|200||6||7||Liszt: Polished Vavona||$206,999|
|200||6||7||Beethoven Polished Ebony, Klimt “Woman in Gold”||$176,999|
|200||6||7||Beethoven: Chrome; Cocteau: White||$204,999|
|200||6||7||Edge: Satin and Polished Ebony||$233,999|
|200||6||7||Chopin, Louis XVI: Satin Pommele||$236,999|
|200||6||7||Baroque: Satin Light Ivory; Vienna: Polished Amboyna||$259,999|
|200||6||7||Artisan Satin and Polished||$325,999|
|214VC CS||7||0||Conservatory Satin Ebony||$132,999|
|214VC||7||0||Satin and Polished Ebony||$158,999|
|214VC||7||0||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$181,999|
|214VC||7||0||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$193,999|
|214VC||7||0||Chrome: Satin and Polished Ebony||$180,999|
|214VC||7||0||Johann Strauss: Satin and Polished Ebony w/Maple||$189,999|
|214VC||7||0||Johann Strauss: Any finish and veneer||$227,999|
|214VC||7||0||Liszt: Polished Vavona||$233,999|
|214VC||7||0||Beethoven: Polished Ebony, Klimt “Woman in Gold”||$191,999|
|214VC||7||0||Beethoven: Chrome; Cocteau: White||$225,999|
|214VC||7||0||Edge: Satin and Polished Ebony||$258,999|
|214VC||7||0||Chopin, Louis XVI: Satin Pommele||$266,999|
|214VC||7||0||Baroque: Satin Light Ivory; Vienna: Polished Amboyna||$292,999|
|214VC||7||0||Porsche Design: Diamond Black Metallic Gloss||$308,999|
|214VC||7||0||Audi Design Polished Ebony||$372,999|
|214VC||7||0||Artisan Satin and Polished||$372,999|
|225||7||4||Satin and Polished Ebony||$178,999|
|225||7||4||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$197,999|
|225||7||4||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$212,999|
|225||7||4||Chrome: Satin and Polished Ebony||$193,999|
|225||7||4||Johann Strauss: Satin and Polished Ebony w/Maple||$204,999|
|225||7||4||Johann Strauss: Any finish and veneer||$248,999|
|225||7||4||Liszt: Polished Vavona||$255,999|
|225||7||4||Chopin, Louis XVI: Satin Pommele||$291,999|
|225||7||4||Baroque: Satin Light Ivory; Vienna: Polished Amboyna||$319,999|
|225||7||4||Artisan Satin and Polished||$398,999|
|225||7||4||Grand Bohemian: Polished Ebony||$420,000|
|280VC||9||2||Satin and Polished Ebony||$229,999|
|280VC||9||2||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$254,999|
|280VC||9||2||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$274,999|
|280VC||9||2||Johann Strauss: Satin and Polished Ebony w/Maple||$270,999|
|280VC||9||2||Johann Strauss: Any finish and veneer||$323,999|
|280VC||9||2||Liszt: Polished Vavona||$331,999|
|280VC||9||2||Chopin, Louis XVI: Satin Pommele||$379,999|
|280VC||9||2||Baroque: Satin Light Ivory; Vienna: Polished Amboyna||$412,999|
|280VC||9||2||Porsche Design: Diamond Black Metallic Gloss||$437,999|
|280VC||9||2||Artisan Satin and Polished||$472,999|
|290||9||6||Satin and Polished Ebony||$262,999|
|290||9||6||Satin and Polished White, other colors||$288,999|
|290||9||6||Polished, Satin, Open-pore: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Pomele||$312,999|
|290||9||6||Johann Strauss: Satin and Polished Ebony w/Maple||$302,999|
|290||9||6||Johann Strauss: Any finish and veneer||$369,999|
|290||9||6||Liszt: Polished Vavona||$377,999|
|290||9||6||Chopin, Louis XVI: Satin Pommele||$429,999|
|290||9||6||Baroque: Satin Light Ivory; Vienna: Polished Amboyna||$472,999|
|290||9||6||Artisan Satin and Polished||$536,999|
BOSENDORFER PIANO SERIAL NUMBERS
|DATE OF MANUFACTURE||SERIAL NUMBER|
|1828 – 1830||4 – 200|
|1831 – 1840||201 – 490|
|1841 – 1850||491 – 3000|
|1851 – 1860||3001 – 5000|
|1861 – 1870||5001 – 6400|
|1871 – 1880||6401 – 9300|
|1881 – 1890||9301 – 12200|
|1891 – 1900||12201 – 15640|
|1901 – 1910||15641 – 19640|
|1911 – 1920||19641 – 22530|
|1921 – 1930||22531 – 25350|
|1931 – 1940||25351 – 26290|
|1941 – 1950||26291 – 26960|
|1951 – 1960||26961 – 28017|
|1961 – 1970||28018 – 29109|
|1971 – 1980||29110 – 33444|
|1981 – 1990||33445 – 41062|
|1990 – 1999||41063 – 44660|
Frequently Asked Questions
*Disclaimer: Merriam Pianos offers the following information for the educational benefit of customers world-wide, and does not constitute an endorsement by – or imply representation of – the various manufacturers. For a full selection of the brands Merriam Pianos proudly represents, please click here.
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