by Alex Davydovich (MGBH)
Once upon a time, a highly-talented musician, Ignaz Bosendorfer (OBM) had the fundamental vision to build a piano that would not only deeply satisfy the performer on a mechanical level, but would also inspire the audience with an exhilarating listening experience.
With this vision he attracted the attention of fiery young composer and artist Franz Liszt. Known for his impulsive playing technique, Liszt (OBM) had wrecked nearly every piano made available to him, and thus required an instrument that could withstand his notoriously passionate virtuoso performances.
At the recommendation of his friends, Liszt decided to select a Bösendorfer grand for his 1838 concert in Vienna. The audience was thrilled, as was Liszt, who was quite taken by the fact that he didn’t have to hold back his artistic energy, in large part due to the instrument’s durability and powerful, inspiring sound.
In 1839, the Emperor of Austria named Ignaz Bösendorfer “Imperial and Royal Piano Purveyor to the Court”—the first piano maker to be granted this honor. Numerous gold medals and first prizes followed.
As a result, Bösendorfer became famous overnight, as well as the instrument of choice for many concerts to follow. In 1839, the Emperor of Austria named Ignaz Bösendorfer “Imperial and Royal Piano Purveyor to the Court”—the first piano maker to be granted this honor. Numerous gold medals and first prizes followed.
Since then Bosendorfer has become one of the leading piano manufacturers in the world wowing the connoisseurs of art with its beautiful collector editions.
Here is the story of one of them – the Bosendorfer Grand Bohemian Piano.
In 2014, an American entrepreneur – owner of the Kessler Luxury Hotels – and an art collector, Richard Kessler (MGBH) who started his endeavor with piano in the second grade, was approached by a representative of a Bosendorfer Company. It was a surprise that he received that day. He had no idea when he came to work that morning that he would be asked to create an artistic piano for the Bosendorfer Collection Edition.
As he began to think about the project being the design of the Grand Bohemian Piano, he thought of three criteria that were important to him. The first one was not to diminish or compromise of the instrument itself in any way. The second criterion was that the design itself needed to be feasible. And the third criterion, which was the fun part, was creating a piece of art that truly was the piece of art of beauty. He wanted the Grand Bohemian Piano to be a complement to the instrument itself and to be truly a collector’s piece of art.
The design for the Grand Bohemian was inspired by pieces from Kessler’s personal collection, including a painting of a peacock and a special collection of bronze sculptures.
The design for the Grand Bohemian was inspired by pieces from Kessler’s personal collection, including a painting of a peacock and a special collection of bronze sculptures. Fascinated by the beauty and elegance of the peacock, and the ideal use of bronze for the base of the piano, Kessler selected these themes and works of art to cultivate inspiration for the design (1).
The next thing he needed to do was to choose the artist he wanted to work with for the design of the piano. The name that immediately came to his mind was Mr. Frank Castellucio (MGBH), an international artist of incredible talent.
Frank Castellucio describes the process:
“You begin with the sketches to come up with the design, and when you find something you like, then you create a scale model. And once you have your scale model, then you go ahead and you build a life size model. And from the life size model, which is in clay, you begin to make molds – you make the silicone molds and you pour wax to get duplicates. Once the duplicates are cleaned, you send them to the foundry. Then you get what you sent them in bronze. From that point, the bronze has to be welded and chased and the whole base is assembled.”
While Frank was doing all that work, and he was certainly intense about that project, Bosendorfer in Vienna were also busy at work. They had to do all the design work on the specialty case itself, and that was done and completed as Frank was completing his work.
The pianos are crafted using an exceptionally high concentration of spruce—more than 80 percent, more than any other manufacturer.
The basis of each Bösendorfer Grand is spruce that is naturally dried by air and has proven to be the ideal tone wood. The pianos are crafted using an exceptionally high concentration of spruce—more than 80 percent, more than any other manufacturer. The four seasons, sun, wind and wide temperature differences gently prepare this wood for its final purpose – to resonate. The Austrian spruce must be grown at a minimum of 800 meters above sea level guaranteeing a very dense and regular grain structure. Harvested in winter, when the sap is at its lowest, it is subsequently quarter sawn for parallel grain. Additionally, all of the bass strings are spun in our unique way. A steel core string is the basis for 1 or 2 layers of copper. The carefully spun strings are a substantial element of the warm and sonorous Bösendorfer bass. Each string is individually attached with a handmade loop. Over time this improves tuning stability and is particularly service friendly. Bösendorfer is the only piano manufacturer that applies a detachable and independent Capo d’Astro in the upper register to assure most precise adjustment in the upper register guaranteeing the original Bösendorfer Sound for generations.
Once Frank was finished, and all the parts were sent to Vienna, they assembled all the parts to make the Bohemian Grand come alive.
“It is certainly exciting to be part of this and to see my part of the project being the base, being incorporated with a box. It’s so unlike any other project that I’ve ever done where I complete a whole sculpture. This sculpture is a combination of different artisans from around the world. It’s amazing,” says Frank.
“Bosendorfer started building pianos in 1828, which makes us the oldest premium piano manufacturer in the world. For such a project, we would never compromise in the acoustical setting of the piano. However, for the exterior, we have almost unlimited possibilities, and the Grand Bohemian piano is a perfect example of traditional craftsmanship and a magnificent design,” says senior product designer Ferdinand Brau (MGBH).
The unveiling ceremony of the Bosendorfer Grand Bohemian piano took place at the Imperial Hotel in Vienna, where both Mr. Richard Kessler and Mr. Frank Castelluccio were invited as the honorary guests.
In the US, you can hear the Grand Bohemian Piano at the Bosendorfer Lounge of Richard Kessler’s Bohemian Hotel in Orlando, FL.
And since there are only nine of these pianos made worldwide, I wonder, where did the other eight find their home?