A couple of weeks ago I made a trip to a giant music store in Vancouver. I made my way upstairs to the piano floor where I proceeded to play almost every piano in the place.
Most of one room was made up of Yamaha grands, with a couple of Schimmels in there, too, ranging in price from a modest $12,000 to around $70,000. The Yamahas all have that distinct Yamaha sound, a kind of cheery purity to it. If a Yamaha grand were a person, she would be a hopeless optimist, would shrug off any disaster -- house flooded? An indoor pool! -- something like that. This is not very technical.
After my trip around the Yamaha room, I made my way to the Steinway room. If you don't know anything about classical music and are asked who your favourite classical musician is, you're safe saying Mozart. Of course, Mozart. Why not? I think it's the same with Steinway. Do you have trouble hearing the difference between a hundred-year-old upright and a brand new grand, but want to sound like you are a discerning and cultured music patron? Just say Mozart. (Although I don't recommend putting on airs. Life is just more interesting when we're honest.)
Of course, Steinway isn't everyone's favourite, and the quality of sound, I discovered, can really vary from one instrument to the next. In that Steinway room, there were definitely some instruments that had a bite to them, a substantial sound but one articulated with a chomp, while others were really mellow. I found my favourite, a Steinway D, a nearly nine-foot concert grand (with a price tag of $220,000!).
Now if Steinway were a person, he would be an older brother, maybe by about five years, who thinks that he's had to shoulder the job of parenting you, even though he's mostly been something of a bully/nag, and always gets what he wants because he's really smart and skipped a grade and your parents sort of tip-toe around him like he's some kind of genius, and he IS really talented, but still. Please note: I do not have a brother, so this really is about the Steinway.
I played a Petrof recently, a Czech piano that had been purchased in Canada not long after the iron curtain finally lifted. It has a dark, mellow tone, and is more percussive than some pianos -- the sound of the action parts contributing to the quality of sound. It was a serious piano. There is no joking around with this piano. If it were a person, he would insist on being addressed by his full name, probably two or three middle names to boot, and would scorn happy endings. Again, not very technical.
Who is your piano?