In the mid-nineteenth century, Carl Bechstein attended a concert by Franz Liszt and observed how the instrument the pianist was using gradually disintegrated from his vigorous playing style. From that moment on, the young piano-maker vowed to build instruments capable of withstanding even the roughest treatment, regardless whether the pianist played a soft, lyrical work or a dramatic, forceful piece. Within twenty years, the small workshop Carl Bechstein had founded in Berlin blossomed into a major international company, which would eventually be taken over by his sons and even produce a gilded piano for none other than Queen Victoria herself.
Wendt’s book captures the atmosphere of the early days and retraces the Bechstein story up to the present, evoking such great artists as Hans von Bülow, Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt, not to mention the turmoil of two world wars. It also contains interviews with five contemporary musicians (classical pianists Kit Armstrong, Denys Proshayev and Gerrit Zitterbart, jazz pianist Ulrike Haage and the composer Moritz Eggert), who talk about the Bechstein pianos of the past and present, as well as their personal rapport with the C. Bechstein brand. As Kit Armstrong declares, for instance: “A C. Bechstein grand piano is characterized by its rippling touch and singing voice in the treble range. Its brilliant and powerful sound is distinctly superior to what we’ve come to expect from modern pianos. Crispness in the tenor range is also typical of Bechstein grands. For me, these pianos sing.”
With her latest publication, Gunna Wendt offers us far more than a simple family chronicle as the book constantly establishes links with the various eras in the company’s history.
Die Bechsteins – Eine Familiengeschichte, Aufbau Verlag, ISBN 978-3-351-03613-3, EUR 24.95.