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ARSCLIST  June 2012

ARSCLIST June 2012

Subject:

Josef Hofmann's Steinways

From:

Roger Kulp <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Roger Kulp <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 5 Jun 2012 10:56:05 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (221 lines)

 
For the few who mi
Copied from Yahoo! Pianophiles Group



 
For the few who might be interested, I am cutting
and pasting below some notes I have kept on
Hofmann's pianos. He was constantly
experimenting with pianos and the Steinway firm
indulged him to an extent unimaginable
today. There were most likely many dozens of
Steinways that he used over the decades. We will
probably never know the serial number of every,
or even many, of the Steinways Hofmann played in
public - he used the them from 1898 to 1945, and
the company's records dating before 1928 (when
Alexander "Sascha" Greiner became artist manager)
were haphazard, and hardly complete after that
date. Then there is the problem presented by the
fact that concert pianos were referred to by a
separate numbering system by the company ("CD 40"
etc.), not by serial number, and so far we know
the serial numbers only two of his pianos - his
favorite piano at the time of his retirement, "CD
42," which was serial number 279244 and made in
1935, and 2353410, made in 1925, which he had been using in 1930.

The last item below, the 1954 inter-office memo
from Greiner, is poignant, for the company
quietly and deliberately destroyed the special
Hofmann action Greiner was pleading to preserve,
after Greiner's death in 1958 (he died, by the
way, at his desk at the company).

Gregor Benko

====================================================================


The man who regulated his pianos for Steinway and
Sons was Mr. Vaupel. His traveling tuner was
Maurice Gatsch until Dec. 1943, when Hofmann
requested a younger tuner, and from then it was William Hupfer

In 1930 he was playing Steinway concert grand 1-235410

1937 he had two favorite concert grands, CD 40
and CD 41 (could be short for 140 and 141)

In Poland in 1938 he played on 173JJ, No. 307070,
now in the possession of German pianist Tobias Koch (9/2011)

By April 1938 JH had decided he preferred CD 41

March 1938 – JH wants to use concert grand No. 58 (158) for all his April dates

March 1939 – CD 41 and CD 158

Dec. 1941 Greiner writes to JH – they have a
piano in the factory that had been in JH’s
Merion, Pa. home, a "B" mahogany No. 237488, with
JH’s special keyboard – should they recondition
and sell it, or will he want it in the
future? JH answers to sell it, he had enough pianos

Fall 1943 – CD 40, 41 and 42 – 42 his preferred
piano, also using CD 30, and on the west coast CD 158

1938 – JH selected grand number 9-2436 to give to Ignace Hilsberg

1956 – JH’s “A” grand in California was 279293

Dec. 21, 1954 – Sascha Greiner of Steinways to
Harold Mitchell of the Thayer Piano Company in
Honolulu: “…The white keys in Josef Hofmann’s
concert grands were slightly narrower. Each key
was less than 1/32 of an inch narrower, and the
overall length of the keyboard was less than an
inch shorter than the regular keyboard. There
was no change whatever in the general
construction of the piano and other measurements
of the case. In fact the width of the keys was
hardly noticeable, and Hofmann himself
occasionally got fooled. He liked all sorts of
mechanical things, and this was just one of his
mechanical weaknesses. Incidentally, although
Hofmann has retired from the concert stage, we
still have his two concert grands and they are still beautiful instruments…”

On Dec. 2, 1955 Sascha Greiner sent Roman de
Majewski an inter-office Steinway memo concerning
Hofmann’s favorite piano. Majewski had decided to
rebuild the two concert grands that had been set
aside for Hofmann’s use and been sitting there
inactive for almost a decade. “…I would very
much like to preserve for Steinway & Sons the
keyboard and possibly the action of his number
279244. This used to be Hofmann’s CD 42 which
was his favorite piano and which he used at his
Golden Jubilee Concert at the Metropolitan Opera
House. Because of the various features which we
had incorporated in the Hofmann pianos, I think
it worthwhile to preserve these keys and the
action; so that eventually we can place it along
side other relics and this would entail no
expense to Steinway & Sons because you could not
use Hofmann’s narrower keyboard anyway. I hope
that you will comply with my request and keep the
keyboard which I would like you to send over here
to Steinway Hall. I will have it tagged and put
aside. I hope this meets with the approval of
Mr. Henry Z. Steinway to whom I am sending a copy of this memorandum.






At 04:17 AM 6/4/2012, Win Hall wrote:

>I recently had an opportunity to play a Steinway
>D from 1915 (serial number D-171958) that
>purportedly originally belonged to Josef
>Hofmann. While I have no reason to doubt the
>veracity of this claim, the piano has clearly
>been rebuilt in recent years and thus probably
>bears little resemblance to its original
>condition. Certainly it has none of the
>innovations that Hofmann's pianos were famous
>for, such as the second soundboard in the lid or
>the narrow keyboard. But then these features
>would have been removed from the piano by the
>Steinway company after Hofmann's death anyway
>(see Gregor Benko's comments below from a 2008
>thread on this subject). Moreover, since the
>thing plays like a Mack truck, the action
>obviously is not Hofmann's, and Hofmann's
>fingers never touched these modern plastic
>keytops. Nonetheless the sound of this
>instrument is quite gorgeous, colorful and big, which I suppose lends some
> credence to the Hofmann claim, however slight.
> In the absence of a list of the pianos Hofmann
> once owned with their respective serial
> numbers, such as we have for Horowitz, it would
> be difficult to verify whether this or that old
> Steinway once belonged to him, or to
> Rachmaninov or Godowsky for that matter.
> Steinway may well have this information in its
> archives but I have found them to be grudging
> with information about my own pianos, much less anyone else's.
>
>Win Hall
>
>From: Gregor Benko <gregorbenko@...>
>Subject: [Pianophiles] Hofmann's Steinways
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Date: Friday, November 28, 2008, 5:43 AM
>
>
>During the last three decades that Hofmann was playing in public, critics
>and audiences became accustomed to his appearing with ever-evolving pianos,
>and he was constantly tinkering with his own instruments - while his
>interest in mechanics and invention was often remarked upon, I don't
>remember ever seeing even one review that treated any of the specific
>improvements. The general public's avid interest in technology seems to
>have been awakened and intensified after Hofmann's time.
>
>For many years Steinway had a man on
> their payroll whose job it was to work
>on Hofmann's piano ideas, and they spent tens of thousands of dollars
>yearly on catering to Hofmann. Just before WW2 the company had signed an
>agreement to incorporate one of his action improvements in all future
>Steinway grands, pay him a royalty and even put a sticker on the fallboards
>with the logo "With the Improved Hofmann Action." The war came and put an
>end to the manufacture of pianos for some years, as well as effectively
>marked the end of the pianist's career. The company in the end did not
>honor their commitment, and the decades-long relationship between them was
>strained. Hofmann refused to come to NY to appear at the Steinway
>Centennial celebration, although his close friend Sasha Greiner (Steinway's
>artist rep) did persuade him to allow his name to be used as "honorary
>chairman." After his death the company quietly and efficiently went to
>some
> trouble to have all existing pianos incorporating his changes and
>inventions rebuilt, stripping them of the Hofmann improvements. Only one
>Hofmann action remains, to my knowledge, in the "B" he had at the time he
>died. I witnessed William Santaella play on it in the 1970s, and he said
>it was "like a dream. It sounded heavenly.
>
>Occasionally one hears of this or that artist claiming to have a Hofmann
>piano - during his career the company did keep four model "D"'s with his
>improvements in constant motion around the USA that he used on his tours.
>They paid the salary of a tuner to travel with Hofmann - before the
>depression they had paid both the salary and travel expenses of the poor
>man, who had a thankless job. There were also several smaller grands that
>they supplied for Hofmann's use at his various residences. All these
>belonged to the company and were recalled after his retirement, and after
>his
> death, completely stripped of Hofmann's improvements, the sound board
>and bridges replaced, new single lids installed, etc. So these artists do
>NOT have anything special. Steinway keeps records of the serial numbers,
>and we could track Hofmann's grands, but to what purpose?
>
>The recent "lid in the sound board invention" you refer to was featured in
>an article in the New York Times. I suspect two things:
>1) the idea was not original with the recent "inventor," and 2) Steinway is
>not interested in "perfecting" their pianos any further, and haven't been
>for many years, probably since the introduction of the Accelerated
>Action. It's probably a wise decision, for what pianists have there been
>since who could benefit from a piano that was even more sensitive, and
>played more quietly with a fuller array of colors? Horowitz's influence on
>playing has carried over to piano building, in my opinion. Existing
>
>Steinway pianos are greater than today's pianists. Why improve them?
>
>Imprecations should be addressed to Pianophiles, rather than me personally.
>
>Gregor Benko

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