I’ve been a little biased for a long time. I grew up playing my parents’ magnificent Steinway B, and there was a bit of a family squabble about who would inherit it. I lost, but I certainly can’t complain about my beloved 1924 mahogany Mason & Hamlin A.
Pianos are like people — uniquely individual, no matter what the label. (And like people, maintenance matters!)
Anne Midgett’s article in the Washington Post, The piano: keys of the future, makes the point. Concerning Steinways, Midgett writes:
In a field so reliant on nuance and subtlety as classical music, it’s striking that a single manufacturer should hold such sway. Especially since the brand may not actually be better than its competitors.
Anne Garee of Florida State University puts it this way:
“When the piano responds on all dynamic levels, from pianissimo to sforzando and fortissimo, and gives the pianist tonal palette, you never want to leave that piano bench,” says Garee. “It’s when that particular instrument went together, when all the stars went together, material science, geometry, engineering, and the resilience of the piano hammer to respond to its soundboard. When all that comes together, it doesn’t matter what brand it is. It’s magic.”