How To Find And Purchase Fine European Pianos
Typically, I dislike drawing comparisons between acquiring and possessing pianos versus acquiring and possessing an automobile. Nevertheless, on certain occasions, it becomes the sole means of comprehension.
Consider this scenario. You have made the decision to seek out and purchase a new Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes, or similar luxury car. Your preference is to conduct this purchase through a dealership that specializes in the specific car model or something similar. Typically, you would rely on a search engine like Google to find
European Cars. Unfortunately, when you perform this search, you are presented with a list of dealerships that are not specialists in European cars.
I have personal experience with the immense difficulty of finding anything online due to the high level of competition in virtually every product. European pianos are no different.
When Mr. R. Kassman of R. Kassman Piano initially established this company, he consciously decided to deviate from the prevailing trend of prioritizing low prices at the expense of quality. Instead, he opted for a different approach and over the years, he has collaborated with various European piano manufacturers such as Bechstein, Sauter, Seiler, Feurich, and others.
2019 And Some Small Changes
In 2019 when I purchased the company, I, Ric Overton made a deliberate choice of three significant European pianos that perfectly aligned with his former vision and my future vision for the company. The inclusion of Steingraeber piano was an obvious decision due to their willingness to collaborate and our successful partnership has been reciprocated through product placement and support.
Another excellent addition to our inventory was the selection of Grotrian piano. One of the reasons behind this choice is Grotrian’s offering of both their German-made piano called Grotrian and a globally sourced piano named Wilh. Grotrian. This addition has proven to be highly beneficial for our range of pianos.
Estonia is another European piano brand that is entirely manufactured in Europe and collaborating with their team has been an absolute pleasure. Due to my long-standing relationship with them, I had a strong desire to continue working with confidence.
Additionally, we have established a fruitful partnership with another European piano company called Wilh. Steinberg. Hailing from Eisenberg, Germany, the individuals associated with this company have proven to be exceptionally pleasant and kind to work with.
However, upon conducting thorough research, I have come to understand that certain piano dealers may falsely claim to carry a variety of Fine European pianos, only to disappoint customers upon their in-store visit by showcasing predominantly Asian pianos.
Let me be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with Asian pianos; in fact, I personally own Baldwin and Ritmuller pianos, both of which are assembled in China. However, if you are specifically seeking a European piano, this may not be the ideal option.
I would like to suggest visiting the dealer’s website as a first step. Take a moment to explore the features they highlight the most. If their “New” section does not include any European options, it is likely that they do not carry European pianos. However, most dealers do have a few used European pianos available. It is important to note that only a few dealers specialize in European pianos, and even fewer salespeople have extensive knowledge of the different brands.
To truly comprehend the qualities of a European piano, it takes time and effort to learn about them. For instance, the sound of Steingraeber differs significantly from that of Fazioli. Many people describe the Steingraeber sound as robust, while Fazioli has a slightly lighter tone. Fazioli pianos are often considered brighter, while Steingraeber pianos have a mellower sound.
When comparing Schimmel and Estonia pianos, some individuals prefer the unique feel of the Estonia due to its distinct characteristics.
Once you enter this category of pianos, it becomes quite challenging to compare and rank them as superior or inferior. It would be more accurate to say that they are all distinct in their own ways. Each piano possesses a unique sound and touch, as they are individually crafted.
What requires some understanding regarding the various piano brands is the extent of influence the manufacturers have in the production process. Allow me to clarify.
Be Cautious And Informed
Certain European manufacturers have somewhat diluted their premium brand by introducing different brand names or, even worse, labeling pianos under the same brand name despite having significant differences. The responsibility of discerning the price variations largely falls upon you, the consumer, to determine.
For years, Yamaha and Kawai have adopted this practice. Both of these well-regarded brands produce models in Indonesia, China, and other locations, yet their pianos bear the familiar Yamaha or Kawai brand names on the front.
Steinway offers a more affordable brand that is produced in Japan and also has a third brand made in China. While this may not necessarily be a negative aspect, it is concerning when consumers are led to believe that these brands are actually manufactured by Steinway. They are not, plain and simple. The Boston piano is manufactured by Kawai and the Essex is made by Pearl River. Understanding this is quite easy if consumers are willing to comprehend.
In a similar manner, various European manufacturers follow a similar practice in their sales process. Bechstein, for instance, has different lines where one is claimed to be made in Germany, the second line is made in Poland or surrounding European countries, another brand is “partially” made in Asia, and there is yet another brand that is entirely made in Asia. This should not be confusing as long as consumers have a clear understanding of exactly what they are purchasing.
Some European Manufacturing and Some NOT
Steingraeber pianos are manufactured in Germany exclusively, with no secondary production lines elsewhere in the world. Estonia follows the same approach. Grotrian pianos, on the other hand, are made in Germany, but they also offer a secondary line called Wilh. Grotrian, which incorporates some European components but is finally assembled in China.
I personally have no objections when a manufacturer has to seek alternative sources or use more affordable alternatives to bring their brand or product to the market. In today’s world, it has become almost necessary for survival. If there is transparency and a clear understanding of the processes involved, then it is acceptable. Sometimes, it is simply what needs to be done.
However, I strongly disagree when a salesperson intentionally deceives the consumer by providing them with false information about the way a piano is manufactured. Honesty and accuracy are essential in ensuring that customers are well-informed.
Are You Being Misled
I recently had an encounter with a customer who mentioned that they owned a Steinway piano. When I inquired about the specific model, they promptly stated it was an Essex. When I asked if the word “Essex” was visibly displayed on the front of the piano, they took a moment to think and then confirmed that it was.
However, they also mentioned that their particular model was manufactured by Steinway in the United States. It is baffling how this customer could be so convinced about the origin of their piano if they hadn’t been provided with misleading information.
Let’s delve into this topic further. According to Piano Buyer, there are a total of 53 different companies listed on their website. Out of these 53 names, only around 20 manufacturers actually exist behind those brand names. Additionally, out of the original 53 names, there are only approximately 34 companies, with 11 of them having a very limited distribution as they are carried by only one or two retail stores in the United States.
Is it confusing?Certainly. Is it fair to the consumer? As long as the consumer is provided with a clear explanation of what they are purchasing, then yes, it is fair. However, there are far too many customers who come to me with completely false stories that they were told by the salesperson at the retail store they just left.
It cannot be a misunderstanding on the part of the salesperson because there is an abundance of information available to determine the actual truth.
It’s not so much that it is challenging, but once you enter this price range, I believe it is essential to have at least a slightly better understanding of what you are doing compared to if you were in a much lower price range. Most individuals who are in search of a High-quality European piano are not fully prepared when they begin their shopping journey.
As you embark on your shopping journey, you can now equip yourself with some additional knowledge. Having a well-informed understanding should provide you with a sense of reassurance. You will now remember to inquire about the manufacturing process and origin of the piano, and be able to proficiently compare that with the information provided on the manufacturer’s website.
If any discrepancies arise, it is important to ask the relevant questions.
Feel Empowered To Walk Away
While browsing through the various stores’ websites, you can determine which European brands they carry. A simple phone call to the store will allow you to inquire about their inventory in the specific category you are interested in. Subsequently, you can plan a visit to the store.
During your visit, pay close attention to the shop’s condition and assess how comfortable you feel about establishing a business relationship with this company.
As you are doing your shopping, looking, playing and listening you will begin to understand the differences. Because Fine European pianos are generally a little more difficult to find, they are also worth the reward of being able to play the world’s finest instruments.
I have much respect for the various countries that produce pianos. However, there is s a difference and its a difference that you will easily understand once you start your journey.
R. Kassman Piano and Ric Overton
In 1979 as R. Kassman Piano was in the infancy of their business, Mr. Kassman realized that he wanted to set himself apart from the other dealers. He wanted to specialize in something that the other dealers didn’t. Fine European Pianos. And he did it successfully for 40 years. When I bought the company he explained what he felt would keep us up and running and that was to specialize in Fine European Pianos.
This was fine for me because I loved European piano for my entire career. I, Ric Overton, am very proud to do what I do and represent the companies that I represent. I know beyond any doubt in my mind that they are the best of the best. I feel that R. Kassman is the best piano store in the Bay Area.
I look forward to sharing my passion with you. Please feel free to drop by at any time.