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Today, I attended a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. I noticed that the piano was mostly inaudible in the beginning of the first movement, the climax (before the March section), and some of the third movement as well.

The piano was a model D Steinway, supposedly one of the best pianos available in the market, and even it was inaudible in the first theme of the concerto. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice the power of the orchestra for audibility for the piano, but it would be nice to have a more powerful piano.

Q: are there pianos that are louder or bigger or just generally beefier than the Steinway Model D? Perhaps by other lesser known manufacturers? Would such a piano even be a good and profitable product? For example the Bösendorfer Imperial is about half a foot longer than the Steinway. Would it be louder? And why don’t piano manufacturers make, say, 10 foot or 11 foot long pianos?

  • There’s a limit to how loud a piano can be, and there’s much less of a limit to how quiet the orchestra can be. It’s definitely possible for an orchestra to play quietly enough that any grand piano can be heard over it. I suggest the problem in the performance you saw had nothing to do with the wrong piano being chosen. – Todd Wilcox Dec 8 '18 at 6:45
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    Plus, it's definitely possible for a 60-piece orchestra to play too loudly for any grand piano to be heard. The brass section alone will do the trick. This is a matter of competent interpretation, not of instrument selection. – Kilian Foth Dec 8 '18 at 8:48
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    It’s also possible we have a skewed idea of what the piece should sound like from listening to recordings, which have the benefits of close mics and mixers. – MarkM Dec 8 '18 at 9:00
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There are many factors that affect the sound of the piano. In particular, there are different kinds of hammers, and a technician can voice them to make the piano louder or softer and change the tone. If you go to the Steinway showroom and try the different Model D's you will notice a difference.

I once played piano for a flute recital at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. We did not get a chance to pick the piano, but the hall manager must have looked at the program because the Steinway D was relatively soft, and it was easy to control the sound and play at a level that blended well with the flute. I don't think that piano would have been good for a Rachmaninoff concerto on the main stage at Carnegie Hall.

Carnegie Hall works directly with Steinway and gets to pick the best of the pianos. If you have a chance to hear a piano concerto in the main hall, I think you'll like the sound.

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There are several other makers in the beefier-piano market. I've had the opportunity to play on a big Rubenstein. It was beefier than a D. http://www.pianosrubenstein.com/r371.html The USD value there is well into the six figures, so that's quite a rare, artistic instrument. But there are some common refined instrument makers out there with power-capable designs: Bösey as you mentioned, Schimmel, Yamaha...

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