By Regina Connell.
Most of what I hear about pianos nowadays is about the demise of the home piano, a sad casualty to iPad-enabled keyboards, synthesizers, and a preference among parents to have their kids involved in group activities that will prove to colleges that they are socialized team players, not scary solitary introverts who can plink out a few tunes on their old upright.
But the global market for pianos is still robust, thanks to places like China, where newly wealthy parents seem to have a bit more sway over kids.
The grand piano, however, is a completely different creature. It never seemed to go out of style, whether as an instrument or as a piece of sculpture. But as a piece of sculpture, it didn’t really seem to evolve a great deal. Until now.
When I first saw this in Dezeen, my eyes almost swept over it, having dismissed it as some yacht-like object for a Russian oligarch or a concept car out of Italy (for the same guy, no doubt). But then, I looked again.
It was the Bogányi Grand Piano. And it’s not just another piece of CAD-created eye candy. Rather than having been a visual design project, it came out of the desire to improve the quality of the sound of the piano. And it is the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen in a while.
Who on earth would have the guts to take on the grand piano? A grand pianist. Gergely Bogányi is a Hungarian pianist, among the best in the world. He had a simple dream: to have a piano that made a richer, more powerful, more harmonious sound.
The redesign of the piano started with the core of the instrument: the way in which sound is made. In a traditional grand piano, when a player hits one of the 88 keys, it triggers a hammer to hit a corresponding string that vibrates to produce the desired note.
Instead, the piano employs unique composite soundboard—the area that the strings vibrate against—within a modified iron and wood frame. His piano also features a redesigned agraffe system of guides for the strings at the tuning-pin end, which ensure the correct height and determine the length of each string.
Everything was rethought. “The piano features over 18,000 parts, and we looked into every area possible to enhance the quality of sound,” Bogányi said. The soundboard is designed to be more resistant to environmental conditions such as humidity or dryness, so the instrument will hold its tune for longer.
Then there’s the shape, which was optimized to help transmit sounds with higher efficiency and clarity.
“For years, I have played with a sound in my head, different to that which I was playing. It was always in another dimension different from the actual sound coming from the piano. Somehow, it was a more beautiful, harmonious, flowing sound. I understood this might have been the same with J.S. Bach, Beethoven, and Franz Liszt. To the extent that Liszt, for example, worked with the piano manufactures at the time to modify and improve the sound to match the expectations he had in his mind. In those days, these famous composers made a difference and some strides in the traditional piano design. Today, I have taken the same approach. I felt passionately and was intrigued to find out how I could make a difference. How could I bridge the gap between the ‘miraculous’ sound in my head and that of the sound I was hearing?”
He developed the piano in a collaboration between the pianist and a team of Hungarian piano makers and craftsmen. “We experimented through some 8,000 team engineering hours with modern materials, particularly with the soundboard, searching for new technical solutions, constantly analyzing the derived new spectre of sound,” said Bogányi.
All images courtesy of Boganyi Piano.