December 2017 Update
With the dark evenings and increasingly cold weather, what better to do than sit in a warm home and play the piano! Welcome to the latest update, overdue, as ever, but let’s not dwell on that. What an amazing time we have had since my last update. It has possibly been one of the busiest times we’ve ever enjoyed at the showroom with pianos of all shapes and sizes selected by some seriously nice folk who have trekked through the Hampshire countryside to visit the showrooms. The beautiful autumn leaves have now been blown from the trees and there is definitely a wintry look around Ash Park, they are even predicting snow, a good chance to test my four wheel drive Volkswagen perhaps..!
A huge highlight for me since last writing was a trip to Leipzig, Germany to visit the Bluthner factory. What trip. Chris from the London Bluthner centre kindly took me to the factory and showed me around. Travelling by train from Berlin to Leipzig it was very evident that we were moving from the old west to east Germany. Having said that Leipzig is now a major transport hub in Europe and the fastest growing city in Germany. Bluthner have been producing fine quality pianos in Leipzig since 1853 and the company is still owned by the Bluthner family. During the communist years the family were allowed to manage the factory, despite the state ownership, and after unification the family once more took control of their business. Christian and Knut Bluthner are now at the helm, successfully guiding their cherished family business through the modern challenges that face the piano industry. Christian is the charismatic, flamboyant figure head of the company driving sales and Knut the quieter, considered, brother in charge of the technical side and running of the factory. Together they make a formidable team and the pride and passion they share for the business is very obvious. The stories that were told of the family and company history through the challenges of the second world war and latterly communist rule were fascinating and further underlined the determination that is driving the business forward. Chris took me around the factory to see the Bluthner and Haessler pianos being constructed from the timber room through to the finishing rooms. In the wood preparation area there is a very old band saw that has been in the factory since it was first built, it is now powered by electricity rather than steam and is in use to this day. As I have found with other top end piano factories there is a calmness to the work of the craftsman, quality takes precedence over speed at all stages of construction. An inspiring factory tour ended back in the showroom where we overlooked ten large Bluthner grands on display with some designer and historic models alongside. This was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring trip which left me feeling pleased to be a very small part of the Bluthner business, I ordered another replacement Haessler 124 at the factory and will continue to purchase pianos from this esteemed piano manufacturer.
Whilst on the subject of Bluthner I was absolutely delighted to see our restored model 1Va selected recently. This is a beautiful piano, both in aesthetic and tone, and has now departed to the south coast to a customer who was a perfect fit for the piano. Despite arriving with the intention of purchasing an upright piano she fell in love with everything about the Bluthner and decided it was too beautiful not to have! It is so rewarding to see someone with such a connection to a piano and then have them purchase it, a very special life time purchase for her. Since my last update our restored Bechstein upright has also been selected and delivered to Pimlico in London. There was a problem with this delivery though, the customers old piano was too big to get out of the house! After much deliberation Neil and I travelled up on a Sunday morning and literally dismantled the upright piano, took it out onto the pavement and rebuilt it again to the astonishment of the folk in Pimlico. This was actually great fun and a great example of the variety of life in our business, the old piano is now at care home in Bramley while the Bechstein is being enjoyed in London.
New pianos from Grotrian-Steinweg, Haessler, Kawai, Steinberg and Feurich have all been selected recently. I really think we have a great balance of stock at the moment offering choice at all different price points. Neil and I recently delivered a GX1 Kawai grand piano to a fabulous Huf Haus near Andover. The piano looked stunning in the modern, minimalist home and the acoustics of its position really helped the piano to sing. Used uprights have also been popular during this busy spell, some of them have even been reserved for purchase before they have arrived! We have just taken in three Kawai digital ‘pianos’ to give choice to customers who may considering such a thing. Although we are acoustic piano specialists, and always will be, there are occasions where a digital version may be appropriate, particularly as a starter training instrument. Considerations such as budget, space constraints, portability, tech, headphones can be discussed when considering a digital purchase. Having three Kawai digitals in stock allows us to have a sensible discussion about acoustic versus digital with the advantage of actual comparison. It is very common for intermediate pianists to come to us to upgrade to an acoustic piano from a digital one, we are developing an upgrade policy for customers that purchase a digital version from us to support moving onto an acoustic piano. We’ll trial the arrival of these digitals over the coming months with an open mind.
As ever tuning is incredibly busy, with Christmas fast approaching it is always a challenge to fit everyone in for a festive tuning. New year sees us working around the schools and colleges that we look after, getting the pianos ready for the term ahead. Neil is getting booked up fast for piano deliveries before Christmas, the next two Saturdays are fully booked already. Rest assured, we will get pianos to customers in time for Christmas somehow, I quiet enjoy helping with the odd delivery as long as it isn’t too big a piano! The Haessler 124 uprights are so heavy.
That’s it, I’m going to sign off. With December now upon us I must dig out the Christmas repertoire to enjoy on the many pianos that I visit. Since the trip to Leipzig I have found myself drawn to the Bluthner model 6 in the showroom, such a warm, appealing tone that I can’t get enough of at the moment. We have many more appointments booked at the showroom throughout December and look forward to meeting the many visitors.
Enjoy the festivities