1979 Bluthner 6' vs New Estonia 6'3" vs 1974 Sauter 5'1

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PianoShopper
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1979 Bluthner 6' vs New Estonia 6'3" vs 1974 Sauter 5'1

Post by PianoShopper » 30 Mar 2008, 06:10

Hello from Canada! This is a wonderfully informative site!

I'm currently in the market for a grand piano. We have a Yamaha WX7 upright, but my daughter is reaching a high enough level that I find myself looking at the more expensive grand piano's.

Unfortunately in Vancouver, BC, Canada there's not a lot of options for piano's. I'm also trying to steer away from the Yamaha sound to provide some diversity (especially as we're planning on keeping the upright). And in my searches, I've developed an appreciation of the sounds from European piano's. :)

At this point in my search, I've come down to a short list of three piano's that fall within my price range ... actually, none are within, but close enough for consideration (and hopefully further negotiations)

1979 Bluthner 6' grand with aliquot strings (just rebuilt ... new strings, new pins, regulation)
NEW Estonia 6'3 grand
1974 Sauter 6' grand (in good condition, but will need some work)

As all three brands are not common in Canada, there's not a lot of information on the Canadian piano forums. Lots of comments re Steinways but none that I could find for the Bluthner in particular.

The only Steinways I can come close to for price are almost or over 100 years old so I'd be looking at a hefty re-building cost. The newer Steinways available in Canada come from New York as opposed to Europe and my daughter has actually rated the above three piano's over the New York Steinway!

The aliquot strings in the Bluthner certainly seems to add to the tonal quality. However, was wondering on how it would impact on the developing ear of my daughter (and eventually my son who has only just started his music education).

Would be most interested in any recommendations / advice on which of the three to go with.

Thank you for bearing with my long-winded message!

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Post by PianoGuy » 30 Mar 2008, 09:09

The Blüthner will be a Communist-era one from the dark days of the DDR if it's 1979, and these should be regarded very warily. They're labelled on the soundboard as "VEB Blüthner Pianofabrik". It's not that they're all bad, but the build quality was very variable and is likely to be poorer than the other two. That said, neither the Sauter nor the Estonia would really fire my enthusiasm too much.

Back to the Blüthner. If you're lucky it will be fitted with a Renner action, if you're not it will have a Flemming. Dampers on either type will be strange tall blocky affairs which are constantly dropping out of adjustment on their wires, and the keyboard dimensions may be different from standard with narrow sharps. I say "may be" because the sources for piano parts used by Blüthner at that time varied as to where they could buy from and who the local government allowed Mr Blüthner to buy from that week. The DDR was an insular and secretive regime under Russian control, and if locally-made parts for any manufactured item were available, they had to be used. That meant that most Blüthners had the nasty DDR-made Flemming action. If however, these were out of stock, and an export order had to be met, Blüthners were allowed to buy in West German Renners. Export orders were prioritised because they brought in Western currency and an opportunity to show the decadent West what superb quality items the Commies were screwing together behind the Curtain.

The Blüthner that you are looking at has obviously been around for a few years and may well be one of the better ones. If you feel you can trust the dealer selling it, and he's prepared to show you why it's a good one, it may be OK. It should, however be rather cheaper than the others you are considering. At least the strings have a chance of being good quality if they've been replaced. The original DDR ones were rubbish, and contributed much to falseness in tone. I would also hope that the hammers have been changed to something like Abel or Renner items instead of the fluffy and short-lived Commie ones.

The Sauter's just not my cup of tea. A 1974 one will have decent build and componentry but flaky cosmetic design which will look very dated with spindly pedal lyre and a contemporary styling which is too plain and tries a bit too hard to be modern. It's not a bad piano though. It should have the aforementioned Renner action.

The Estonia is highly thought of in Canada and especially the US , but few dealers in the UK have adopted them. Best to take local advice on these. The old ones built in the days when Estonia was in the USSR showed promise, but were blighted by shoddy build quality. I'm sure this has been sorted now. I must admit that I find the Americans' recent love for all things produced in former USSR countries baffling. Maybe they get a little kick out of the "we bashed Communism" thing.

Personally I'd choose a nicely regulated and voiced Yamaha C3 above of any of them. That European Sound that you seek is more to do with voicing and less to do with the piano than you imagine, and reliability will be streets ahead too.

Are these all in Herr Martens' shop in Van?

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Post by Openwood » 30 Mar 2008, 16:22

Personally I'd choose a nicely regulated and voiced Yamaha C3 above of any of them.
I'd second that. We have a Commie Bluthner in the hall where the local music festival takes place and having to play it is (for me anyway) the most joyless, soul-destroying, spirit-sapping, music-suffocating experience there is (next to listening to anything by Einaudi, of course).

I've got a Yamaha C3 at home and I love it. I'll certainly keep it until I've finished tunneling under the local NatWest and have enough money to buy a Steinway B. Or a Yamaha S6. Now there's another dilemma...

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Post by PianoGuy » 30 Mar 2008, 17:32

Openwood wrote:....the most joyless, soul-destroying, spirit-sapping, music-suffocating experience there is (next to listening to anything by Einaudi, of course).
How his sub-GCSE-composition stuff has sold so many copies I'll never understand.

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Post by PianoShopper » 30 Mar 2008, 23:26

Thanks for the quick replies! I am learning lots about the European politics and history in this search for a piano. :) Not to mention an appreciation of all the fine wood craftmanship out there as well!

I have tried the Yamaha and didn't quite like the sound as much as the European makes. I do agree with the reliability of the yamaha's. Living in Vancouver, I only have to tune my piano once a year, and even then, the last time, the piano technician only did a "touch-up". Unfortunately, I'm also a bit wary about the process of voicing ... as I'd first have to purchase the instrument and then have it revoiced ... with no guarantees that I'd like the new sound. Hence my path of finding an instrument for which I like the sound ... then consider the other aspects ... Perhaps I'm going about things in a backwards way!

As for the Bluthner, those are excellent points. (Thank you!) I will have a closer look for the VEB. I did ask specifically regarding the action, and was told it was Renner.

Dampers didn't appear overly strange (tall) compared with other grand piano dampers (to my un-educated eyes). And the keyboard dimensions felt similar to other pianos. I'll bring a measuring tape next time with me though.

The strings (bass ones anyways) are actually still in pretty good condition ... and they look pretty new as well ... previous owner didn't play it very much). However, the piano technician rebuilding it is still going to change them since he's already changed the treble strings. So I may be getting lucky?

Only the Estonia is from Herr Martens' shop. And his is really the only source in Vancouver so many of the comments seem to arise from his shop or customers. I'm told the newer Estonia's are better quality.

Can't speak for the rest of Canada and the US, but I suspect that the rise of interest in former USSR country instruments are likely because of the lack of choice in the piano market. In Vancouver, there are now less than a hand-full of piano dealers. And when wedged in by budgets, it almost forces the consumer down that pathway. (atleast that is my personal experience). When I first bought my Yamaha almost 20 years ago, I recall going to atleast a dozen piano dealers. Choices were more overwhelming, but I certainly felt I had more options to choose from than today. Hence my journey into used piano's to broaden my choices and education. However, I'm finding that even that is limited.

Im interested in your comment that the Bluthner should "be rather cheaper than the others". I had actually placed the Sauter as the one that should have been cheaper just because it has no work done on it as yet. At least the Bluthner has already had a number of things done to it?

Assuming the Bluthner checks out technically ... what do you think of that 4th aliquot string? Is it a marketing "gimmick" or does it really add to the tonal quality of the music? Or will it just confuse the developing ears of my children? Particularly as they would be playing a much wider range in styles of music. I tend to stick to the romantic / classical pieces.

On an ongoing note ... how hard is that 4th aliquot string to tune? and maintain? Other maintenance issues I could be looking at?

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Post by PianoGuy » 30 Mar 2008, 23:37

PianoShopper wrote: Im interested in your comment that the Bluthner should "be rather cheaper than the others". I had actually placed the Sauter as the one that should have been cheaper just because it has no work done on it as yet.

Ah!
Good point.

The fact that it's a DDR model makes it less sought after in my opinion, but I forgot to factor in the cost of the work in my comments.
PianoShopper wrote:Assuming the Bluthner checks out technically ... what do you think of that 4th aliquot string? Is it a marketing "gimmick" or does it really add to the tonal quality of the music? Or will it just confuse the developing ears of my children? Particularly as they would be playing a much wider range in styles of music. I tend to stick to the romantic / classical pieces.

On an ongoing note ... how hard is that 4th aliquot string to tune? and maintain? Other maintenance issues I could be looking at?
The Aliquot string presents no problems in tuning (although it's an approximate process!) but then again I can see no real benefit of it either. Some Blüthners had the Aliquot string as an option, and those without seem not to be lacking.

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Post by joseph » 09 Apr 2008, 00:06

Personally, I'd go for the new estonia. I've played loads of Bluthners and the new ones are absolutely beautiful, they rank among the best that money can buy. The old GDR pianos tho, are a bit naff. IF the price is right tho and you like the Bluthner then go for it.

I have a new brodmann 187 which is beautiful and a bluthner style 8 from 1913, with the patent action and the aliquot stringing. For a while I did the bulk of my practise on this piano with no problems going onto a standard action piano. If you can find one of these beauties in good condition and a good price, I'd seriously consider it. Unrestored bluthners can be very nice indeed and are usually very cheap. Also, you have a piano with the potential to be rebuilt to the highest possible standard so when the time and money come to upgrade, you can just have your bluthner rebuilt.

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Post by Craigster » 22 Jul 2008, 05:05

PianoShopper wrote:"]
what do you think of that 4th aliquot string? Is it a marketing "gimmick" or does it really add to the tonal quality of the music?
The Aliquot string presents no problems in tuning (although it's an approximate process!) but then again I can see no real benefit of it either. Some Blüthners had the Aliquot string as an option, and those without seem not to be lacking.
I happened to play a 70's Blüthner today. Actually, I would say the aliquot (extra 4th string for sympathetic vibration) system makes a significant difference in brilliance. I have never before heard a piano have so much strength, volume, and resonance up to the final treble octave. Now, whether someone desires that much sound in the treble or not is a matter of taste - but it absolutely makes a striking difference.

I played the Model 4 (6'10") next to an Estonia 190 (6'3") and a Petrof 7'9". Though there were aspects of the Estonia I preferred (silky smooth top 3/4 of the piano an remarkably even) and the Petrof (gorgeous bass), neither compared in terms of sheer power of the Bluthner, partly due to the extra string.

However, I found this particular Bluthner to be too uneven for my tastes, needing more voicing.

-- Craig, Los Angeles

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Post by genaa » 22 Jul 2008, 09:19

For my money the new Estonia would win hands down if you are unable to pick a clear winner in terms of tone and touch from the three. You have a warranty, no immediate concerns about any further work required on the piano, and the new Estonia's are truly beautiful instruments by all accounts - the few samples I have heard have been extremely 'easy on the ears!'.

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Post by hammer man » 23 Jul 2008, 00:29

I would take your family to play all of the instruments and let them make the deceision. I would also have a tuner inspect the instruments before purchase as well. Without looking and if I had to take a gamble, it would be the Bluthner. Hope this helps.

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