The apex of piano building, C. Bechstein Concert Series upright and grand pianos are built with cost as a mere afterthought. Hand-made in Germany to the extreme, and with almost every piano building best practice employed, these instruments make a strong case that we are currently in another golden age of piano music, with a comeback of the great grand piano tonality. Numerous artistic directors of festivals agree with this sentiment and look to the magic of the sophisticated voice of a C. Bechstein.
The C. Bechstein L 167 is the entry point to this truly elite series of instruments. Measuring in at the small size of 5’6”, this is an instrument built to take up a small footprint while still offering the finest voice and outstanding sound. With the exception of the treble bell reserved for the three largest Concert Series models, the L167 boasts the exclusive design features of the larger models, including the D 282 Concert Grand piano (featured throughout European music halls), such as a soundboard of Val Di Fieme Spruce (same wood source as the Stradivarius violins), Dark Walnut Double-felted Hammers, duplex scale and a seriously thick rim of of specially selected Beech and Mahogany which is constructed in a fiendishly laborious, time-consuming manner.
Part of a long tradition of excellence, the L167 is a living legend and direct descendant of the original “Model L” (short for “Liliput”) originally built before World War II and enjoyed by generations of great musicians, now evolved with the latest advancements in design and manufacturing. With a stunningly long production time – exceeding 15 months and 420 work hours – this compact, truly elite piano needs to be considered by anyone looking for the finest professional baby grand piano craftsmanship money can buy.
Bechstein uses several different action assemblies throughout their various quality lines, so naturally their top-of-the-line ‘Gold Action’ is featured in the C. Bechstein L167, and the rest of C. Bechstein’s Masterpiece Class. The ‘Gold’ moniker is a reference to not only the extremely strict tolerances these actions are built to, but also the quality of the components and material selection for the hammers. After initial assembly, these actions are refined to a jaw-dropping degree of precision to ensure they meet their full performance potential.
Given the care and attention these actions receive, they are essentially perfect even after the long journey across the Atlantic ocean before arriving in North American showrooms,and ready to meet the requirements of modern pianists.
Only the most celebrated of piano manufacturers 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. Despite the L167’s unimposing 5’6” length, these adjectives for describing the sound more than ring true.
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 laser-like execution of precise design.
The bridge design speaks to this singular level of precision; using cutting-edge CNC machinery acquired in recent years with tolerances down to 1/100 millimeter, the sycamore maple bridge is laminated with several layers to ensure even the most passive of frequencies are captured from the strings.
Where almost every other piano-maker has abandoned the practice of making their own hammers in-house, Bechstein has gone the other way, and in their attempt to maintain their exacting standards across as much of the manufacturing process as possible, are once again building their own hammers.
The L167 uses hammers specifically designed for and used exclusively by the L167, as opposed to the typical practice of using the same hammers across an entire lineup of pianos.
The hammer cores are uber-premium dark walnut, with wool sourced from New Zealand for the hammerheads. Once constructed, the hammers are hand-voiced by Bechstein’s top concert artisans ensuring an incredibly wide range of dynamic and tonal possibilities.
The heart of the L167 is of course the Red Spruce soundboard, sourced from the mythical Val Di Fiemme forest in Italy. This forest is known for high altitude exceeding 1,000 meters, and for the extremely slow growth of its trees. Fazioli is the only other manufacturer to source soundboards from this region. Stradivarius sourced the wood for his violins from this forest, so to be a part of this brilliant tradition is truly special.
Beyond the materials, Bechstein tapers their soundboards and utilizes their unique “Membrane” design which mimics violin design. The result? An extremely active and resonant soundboard.
Philosophically, Bechstein believes activation of the entire structure of the piano results in the best possible tone. The L167’s frame and cabinet aren’t there just for structural reasons, but actually play an integral role in the sound production of the instrument. With 3-way joinery slow-aged woods, inefficiencies are eliminated with almost no energy is lost.
While C. Bechstein’s of the past traditionally used beech rims, the L167 and other Concert Series grands utilize a combination of red beech and mahogany to expand the dynamic range of the instrument. The outer rims uses many vertical and horizontal laminations of beech for maximum strength.
Bechstein’s unique manufacturing concepts are reflected in the redesigned pin-blocks has also been turning heads in the industry. The pin-block in the L167 combines maple, mahogany, and beech woods of various thickness at zig-zagging angles to ensure generational durability, regardless of climate.