When it comes to world class pianos, the C. Bechstein Concert Series ranks among the top. A piano that is almost 100% hand made, with no cost cutting decisions with regard to either design or materials, the C. Bechstein C 234 is uniquely consistent at adhering to the best choices at every step.
At a commanding 7’8”, the C. Bechstein C 234 is the second largest grand piano of the legendary Masterpiece/Concert Series. This is an instrument capable of both the subtlest of nuances, and serious, room filling power. The C 234 sounds very similar to its older sibling, the C. Bechstein D 282 9’ concert grand, and shares all of the same features such as a soundboard of Val Di Fieme Spruce (same wood source as the Stradivarius violins), Dark Walnut Double-felted Hammers, and a treble-bell, designed to create and preserve proper crown in the treble-section of the soundboard, and also adjustment hardware to tweak the overall soundboard tension at the factory.
Built with fanatical precision, it takes over 15 months and close to 700 work hours to build this instrument. Despite high praise of the entire Masterpiece series, Larry Fine singles out the C 234 in the Piano Buyer Guide profile on C. Bechstein, specifically for it’s wide dynamic range, tonal color, and responsive action. For anyone seeking the best of the best when it comes to the Semi-Concert grand size, look no further than the C. Bechstein C 234.
C. Bechstein reserves its finest action for their Masterpiece series uprights and grands. The C 234 features Bechstein’s “Gold Action”, which indicates both the level of regulation and voicing this action receives, the precision of the componentry, and the hammers which are used. These actions are built to extreme tolerances, and undergo many hours of refinement at the factory.
The hours and hours of refinement that go into these actions result in extreme tolerances, and a product that is almost perfect right out of the box. They are fluid, ideally balanced, and allow for incredibly subtle nuances, although not too lightly weighted.
Only the most elite and enduring piano builders have a specific sound associated with their name, and the “C. Bechstein Sound” has long been known for refined clarity and a veritable kaleidoscope of colour. The C 234 perfectly exemplifies the classic Bechstein sound better than any other instrument they build, with the exception of the D 282.
What this clarity of tone actually means is that all harmonics and partials within a note are even, without phase, and consistent from note to note throughout the entire range of the instrument. This is only achieved through precision of construction and design. Even if you took the finest materials possible, if the design is lacking and the construction is not perfectly executed, this level of clarity will simply not be achieved.
This precision is clearly reflected in the bridge design; the bridge is made of high-quality vertically laminated sycamore maple layers using state-of-the-art CNC technology. Precision down to a hundredth of a millimeter guarantees every ounce of subtlety is captured from the strings.
When it comes to a commitment to process, quality and materials, C. Bechstein rises to the top. As the singular European piano manufacturer producing hammerheads in a plant that they built themselves, the control they can maintain is unparalleled. Every piano in their catalogue contains custom tailored hammers made of New Zealand wool covering a dark walnut core. Expert technicians hand voice each hammer before a piano is allowed to be shipped. What do you get with this kind of control and care? A piano that has a broader spectrum of tonal colour, along with a greater range of dynamics.
The heart of any piano is its soundboard. The materials and the design combine together to create a soundboard that not only responds to the slightest vibration, but minimizes the loss of energy and maximizes the resonance. When searching for the best wood to use for the materials part of the equation, Bechstein honed in on the same spruce source that Stradivarius used to make violins, none other than the Italian Red Spruce grown at heights above 1,000 metres in the Val Di Fiemme. Apart from Fazioli, Bechstein is the only other piano manufacturer to use this historic wood.
The next part of the equation is the soundboard design. To get the aforementioned acoustic results, the Bechstein designers tapered the soundboard, fashioning it like a membrane, and adjusted the projection surface to the specific acoustic assembly of the C234.
The ethos of the Bechstein philosophy of design incorporates the concept of complete structural activation. By including both the frame and the cabinet, the loss of energy is brought to a minimum. Triple joinery, highly stable and precision fit long-aged woods, along with a mix of hardwoods, ensures that biasing is eliminated.
Complexity is not a concern for the design team at Bechstein, so long as it serves to aid in the creation of a beautiful instrument. The process of glueing the soundboard, ribs and bridge into the inner rim of massive horizontal mahogany and red beech layers, and then adapting this to support the crown of the soundboard can attest to this.
Moving to the outer rim, optimum solidity is achieved by glueing together horizontal and vertical layers of beech. Carefully selecting this material ensures a highly stable case, and a perfect soundboard frame.
Finally, the C 234 contains one of the most advanced pinblocks in the world. It combines solid beech, maple and mahogany plains in thick and thin layers at alternating angles. By doing this, an amazingly even tension is placed on the pin, allowing it to remain consistent throughout the different climates of the world, and also imbues it with an extreme durability.