Reference Entry

Neo-Bechstein-Flügel

Hugh Davies

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print December 2014 |
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.L2291276

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(Ger.: ‘Neo-Bechstein grand piano’) [Bechstein-Nernst-Siemens-Flügel]

Electric piano designed about 1928–30 at the university institute of the German physicist (Hermann) Walther Nernst (1864–1941) with the assistance of H. Driescher and Oskar Vierling. The basic idea was patented by S. Francó in 1927. About 150 were manufactured from 1931 to the end of the decade by Bechstein in Berlin in collaboration with the electrical company Siemens & Halske (later Telefunken) and under licence by Petrof in Hradec Králové. This 88-note grand piano cost slightly less than Bechstein’s least expensive conventional piano.

The strings of the Neo-Bechstein are struck by lightweight ‘microhammers’ operated by an adaptation of the normal mechanism, so that while the action is gentler the touch is identical with that of a conventional piano. There is a single string for each note in the treble and bass ranges, and two strings each for the middle-range notes from e♭ to f♯‴. The microhammers produce less than normal energy in the strings, which are shorter, thinner, and less highly tensioned than conventional piano strings. The sound quality is purer, and the strings are damped less quickly, because there is no soundboard to absorb their vibrational energy. Each group of five single or double strings is amplified by means of an electromagnetic pickup. Using an additional set of small dampers operated by a left-hand lever, the instrument was said to produce a harpsichord- or spinet-like quality. Without these dampers, the instrument gives a long-lasting sound somewhat like that of an organ. Volume is controlled by the left pedal, which can produce a crescendo by changing the input signal of the amplifier. The sustaining pedal operates in the normal way by lifting the dampers from the strings, but the notes resonate about three times longer than normal. Most models of the Neo-Bechstein had a built-in radio and a record turntable in the loudspeaker cabinet. The instrument was used in several film scores during the 1930s and was intended to be suitable for both early and contemporary music; but it failed to achieve lasting success, perhaps because it was less appropriate for the usual piano repertory from Bach to Debussy....

Reference Entry.  390 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Contemporary Music

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