The World's Best PianosWhat is the world's best piano?
The old saying goes, if I only had a nickel...
So many people ask me this question, to which I always respond the same way; there is really no such thing. I have tuned and adjusted German (Hamburg) Steinways that, with the right player, have seemed to possess supernatural powers allowing the listener to be transported into higher and more sublime realms. Conversely, I have worked on other Steinways, some less than a few years old, that I was completely disappointed with and would definitely not have recommended if I was consulted prior to the purchase. I have spent thousands of hours completing final factory preparations on hundreds of Bösendorfers that end up on a dealer's floor somewhere in the world then on to an end user. Each one was unique. Each one was an individual. Some were great; others were extremely good, but always good. I have worked on Faziolis, Shigeru Kawais, Baldwins, Mason & Hamlin's, Sauters, Seilers, Schimmels, Bechsteins, Grotrians, Heintzmans, countless Yamahas and Kawais, Korean pianos, and the latest and greatest flavour of the month from China. It might not be that far off to say, you name it, I've probably worked on it.
For this section, I will only focus on which pianos that can be purchased new and have what I believe the potential to be "the best". I define "best" as a piano that would allow a pianist who has dedicated their entire life to mastering the art of playing the piano and who has reached the pinnacle of success in the music world, to be able to extract every molecule of potential a piano could offer, and ultimately fall in love with the instrument. The best piano would also provide that experience consistently through the days and months and even years with reasonable care and attention. If a piano can meet those requirements, to me it could be considered "the best" piano. Moreover, this piano would be equally comfortable on the stage at Carnegie Hall, a Deutsche Gramophone studio or a world renowned performer’s home. Finally this piano would fit perfectly into the living room of one who may have limited musical skills, but can each day feel a sense of reverence and gratitude for what it really is; a beautiful piece of musical art that graces and enriches their home and family.
There are, in my opinion, only a handful that has the potential to fit this bill (in alphabetical order, not by order of preference):
Some would ask 'what about Grotrian-Steinweg, Bluethner, New York Steinway, Bechstein, Steingraeber, Mason and Hamlin, etc'. For me the list is short for one main reason; these four represent what I really believe to be the top four pianos in the world today. For continuity, I address each factory keeping in mind their history, quality of materials, the inherent technical design, the quality of finishing (workmanship), the artistic characteristics (tone and touch) and finally, the stability of the piano in harsher climates.
Although this, of course, is somewhat subjective, it does however represent a summary of the conclusions that I have come to over many years talking with great pianists and other technicians, and having had a lot of hands-on experience. These conclusions represent my sincere personal opinions and preferences.
Any of the aforementioned pianos have the potential in my opinion to be great pianos. Each one is unique, each one should be judged on its own merits. In talking with many of my other colleagues, I have found that many share these opinions with me. One thing is for sure, that the name on the piano does not necessarily ensure the best, but in my experience, these four are all excellent. If I had to pick a winner, one that I would unequivocally recommend it would definitely have to be the Fazioli. As I have mentioned earlier, for me it has everything that a piano should have and more; an innovative design that produces long beautiful singing sustain, crystalline clarity, majestic projection and superb materials and workmanship.
I hope that this in some way has helped you as seek out the instrument that you feel beckons you, that speaks to you and that connects with your inner soul. Good luck!