Pedal Power — Soft and Softer

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Larry Fine, of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer magazine has sent us details of a new video they’ve just uploaded to their You Tube channel. I’ve included a link here.

The video features classical pianist Hugh Sung, discussing and playing the Steingraeber & Sohne E272 concert grand piano.

The video’s main purpose is to demonstrate some of the optional extras Steingraeber & Sohne offer on all five of their grand pianos. Hung explains that these pianos are powerful instruments, and shows how these pianos’ sound can be made more delicate.

The Sordino Pedal

The first of the “extras” Sung demonstrates is the sordino pedal. This replaces the maybe under-used sostenuto pedal (i.e. the middle pedal). Sordino means mute, and this pedal simply introduces a strip of felt between the hammers and the strings.

The sordino pedal first appeared in the late 18th century and was widely adopted for the next 80 years or so. Heinrich E. Steinweg (Henry E. Steinway) actually included this pedal on his prototype grand piano of 1836. Its initial purpose was to give the piano a more ethereal sound quality. As time went by, and pianos became bigger and louder, the pedal facilitated more control over the dynamics of quieter passages.

The Steinway company, developed and patented the sostenuto pedal (initially a French idea) in 1874, and started to fit it to their grand pianos. This slowly killed off the sordino pedal, until its recent minor resurrection.

The Mozart Rail

A second innovation offered here, and ably demonstrated by Hugh Sung, is the Mozart Rail. George Steingraeber developed this technology way back in 1894. The key dip of a modern piano is around 10mm. The Mozart Rail actually lowers the keybed, and shifts the action such that the key dip is 8mm. It also simultaneously reduces the distance of the hammers to the strings. This produces a softer sound, and also facilitates faster repetition of notes. This is a more advanced solution than the half-blow pedal of the upright piano.

Spring 2017 Issue

The video is well worth a watch, and Larry informs us that it is intended as an accompaniment to a written review of the E-272 which will appear in the Spring 2017 issue of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer. This is available from their website very shortly. Essential reading.

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