The Karsten Collection of Historical Keyboards for Pianoteq

Modartt has released a new instrument pack — The Karsten Collection — for their Pianoteq piano modelling software. The pack features five historical keyboard instruments from the collection of Peter Karsten. All were built between 1600 and 1858.

photos of the five historical keyboards used to produce the Karsten Collection instrument pack
Instruments from the Karsten Collection

Pianoteq is a virtual core instrument for MacOS, Windows and Linux. It physically models acoustic pianos, harpsichords, harps, vibraphones, celestas, and more. Various different instrument packs are available. And it can be used as stand-alone software or as a plug-in for VST, AAX, and AudioUnits.

All Pianoteq models are authorised by the relevant manufacturers including Steinway & Sons, Bechstein, Petrof, Blüthner, Steingraeber & Söhne, Grotrian, and Hohner.

Dipl.-Ing. Peter Karsten is an engineer and academic specialising in acoustics. He has been collecting instruments for many years, and is based in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Lower Saxony, Germany. The town has strong connections to the piano industry. Grotrian-Steinweg and Wilhelm Schimmel are both based in Braunschweig.

Karsten himself was involved in the process of modelling his instruments, including the initial recordings and the audio analysis. During the final stages, an additional team of musicians with knowledge of historical keyboards provided additional expertise.

Historical Keyboards

The more astute amongst you will have realised from the above dates and the composite image, that some of Karsten’s instruments aren’t pianos. The piano didn’t exist before 1700. The Karsten Collection instrument pack, therefore, features the following:

  • An Italian polygonal virginal attributed to Joseph Salodiensis (Venice, c1600)
  • A harpsichord by Giovanni Giusti (Lucca, c1680)
  • A square piano by Phillipus Schmidt (London, 1780)
  • A fortepiano by Jakob Weimes (Prague,1808)
  • A square piano by Steinway (New York, 1858)

A virginal is a small delicate pure-sounding instrument (virgin-like sound), with the strings running parallel to the keyboard. The strings are plucked by plectrum mounted on wooden jacks. The mechanism is similar to that of the harpsichord, however, the latter has a more powerful and harmonically richer sound.

Square pianos were popular from the 1760s through to the late 1890s. Originally they were delicate instruments, like the Schmidt, but as pianists demanded a louder and more powerful sound, and as technologies advance, square pianos became much bigger and stronger.

image of two historical keyboards - two square pianos. One a delicate 1777 Beyer, the other a sturdy 1871 Steinway.
A 1777 Beyer and an 1871 Steinway (square pianos), similar to those modelled for the Karsten Collection

In simplistic terms, greater string tension generates more sound. So a piano needs to be far sturdier to handle the considerable forces involved. This can be seen by comparing the Schmidt (1780) to the Steinway (1858).

The Weimes is an early form of grand piano, evolved from the original designs of Cristofori and Stein. It uses a Prellmechanik (or Viennese) action, which is lighter and more subtle than the English actions of the time. Nevertheless, it is double-strung in the bass and triple-strung in the treble, delivering a smooth warm sound.

three screens from the Pianoteq software running the Karsten Collection
Screenshots from the Karsten Collection instrument pack running on the Pianoteq software (click to expand)

Modartt’s modelling process has been discussed on this site in a previous article. But one aspect worth mentioning with respect to these historical instruments is their condition. Some of these keyboards are over 400 years old, and obviously time has taken its toll.

Modartt has modelled the instruments as they sound and perform today. However, by adjusting the model, Modartt can render a version of the instrument (an “Original”) that sounds as it would have when brand new. This is not possible if using sample technology rather than physical modelling.

As with all Pianoteq instruments, the sound can be infinitely fine-tuned utilising a large number of physical parameters.

Modartt’s Karsten Collection of historical keyboards is now available as an instrument pack for existing Pianoteq users. It is also included, for evaluation purposes, in the latest Pianoteq 6.7 update. And it also features in the free trial version of Pianoteq 6.7 (with some performance limitations).

Pianoteq 6 Stage
Price: $149 / €129
Includes: 2 instrument packs

Pianoteq 6 Standard
Price: $299 /€249
Includes: 3 instrument packs

Pianoteq 6 Pro
Price: ¢449 / €369
Includes: 4 instrument packs

Instrument Pack:
The Karsten Collection
Price: $59.00 / €49.00
20 other instrument packs are available.

More information: Modartt / Pianoteq


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