Antique Bosendorfer Pianos
Antique Bosendorfer Pianos are musical instruments produced by the Bösendorfer company, an Austrian piano manufacturer established in 1828 by Ignaz Bösendorfer.
Brief history and description
The company was one of the oldest piano manufacturers and was officially named the piano maker to the Emperor of Austria in 1830. Bösendorfer had a well-established history of producing high quality pianos and produced some of the favourite instruments of many classical and contemporary pianists.
Franz Liszt was among one of the earliest artists to be associated with Bösendorfer, along with the twentieth century American composer Leonard Bernstein and renowned jazz songwriter Nina Simone.
Antique Bösendorfer pianos were constructed from spruce jointed together and the company produced one upright piano model and seven variations of grand pianos.
The Imperial Grand is perhaps the best known Bösendorfer piano. Instead of featuring a standard keyboard of eighty-eight keys, the Imperial Grand featured ninety-seven keys and spanned eight octaves. First manufactured in 1900, for the next nine decades, it was the only concert grand piano in the world to feature ninety-seven keys. The additional keys were bass notes which accounted for the piano’s distinct sound.
The following Model 225 consisted of ninety-two keys and spanned seven and a half octaves. The expanded keyboard was produced following a suggestion by the Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni, who wished for a piano that could accommodate his transcription of Johan Sebastian Bach’s “Partita in D minor for solo violin”.
Following numerous take-over bids throughout the twentieth century, all stocks of the company were sold to Yamaha in December 2007.
Antique Bösendorfer pianos are some of the finest pianos ever made and are extremely collectable. However, most old Bösendorfer pianos, particularly the Imperial Concert Grand Piano, are relatively scarce on the open market as they are frequently used by composers and concert pianists. In the U.S., Imperial Concert Grand Pianos typically sell for about $175,000.
Other models of Bösendorfer pianos do appear on the open market from time to time at reputable auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s, but collectors are more likely to find Bösendorfer pianos via respected online dealers, including Allaboutpianos.com and Pianogrands.com. However, always be aware that many of the pieces may have gone through several restorations, which tend to vary in quality.
A Bösendorfer Black Lacquer Grand Piano was sold at the New York branch of Christie’s on December 1st 1995 for $51,750. The piano had once been the centrepiece at Frank Sinatra’s Palm Spring residence, and was used during rehearsals on tours.
On December 11th 1997, a Bösendorfer Ebonized Semi-Concert Grand Piano, autographed by Leonard Bernstein, was auctioned at Sotheby’s in order to raise money for The Bernstein Education Through the Arts Fund, Inc.. Despite a presale estimate of $60,000-80,000, the piano realised $387,500 and was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder. The piano had once sat in Bernstein’s living room in his New York apartment.
Another Bösendorfer Ebonized Grand Piano Model 225 realised a price of $53,776 when it was auctioned by the Los Angeles firm, Bonhams & Butterfields on September 17th 2006.