We return to our two-part visit of Schimmel Pianos, an extraordinary manufacturer of some of the finest hand made pianos in the world. Christian talks to Schimmel head, Hannes Schimmel-Vogel, about what makes us fall in love with such a complex instrument and how, in this day and age, in the face of sample libraries and electronic pianos, an ‘analogue’ piano maker can survive.
Our trip to Schimmel Pianos was an inspiring one. Not only to see how much work goes into making a piano and how that with some things you just need the natural evolution of human thought and endeavour to slowly perfect an artful craft, but that with some pursuits the key ingredient is time. Nor indeed was it just about finding out how complicated these kings of music are. I was to be pleasantly reminded that in pursuit of brilliance, humans cease to be interchangeable parts within a machine, but instead fundamental vital organs; that the qualifications you require to perform certain artisan pursuits are not learnable in a day, a week or a month, but over 15 years of repetition and training in order to be able to recognise the most subtle of sonic nuances, and to understand just how something should look and feel instinctively.
I was also inspired by one thing that Hannes said when I asked him, ‘in this day and age with sampling, and electronic pianos, how does a traditional piano manufacturer survive (the last piano maker in the UK closed its doors nearly a decade ago)?’. The answer was simple: if you aim for the best level of quality, people will come. Hannes and I agreed that finding the right piano for you is like finding a mate. It should be love at first sight, and a match made in heaven. Pianos aren’t just about the sound - the soft, the loud - despite their name. They are about the feel. There is an intimacy between the instrument and player that cannot be synthesised. The sound of a piano can be sampled, yes, but the experience of playing one can’t until you sample it for yourself in real life.
Finally, in order to contextualise my passionate affair with my own Schimmel, and how I do share Hannes argument that finding a piano is like finding a mate, here’s a little love letter I wrote to my slightly out of tune C116
Christian Henson is taken on an eye opening factory tour of world famous piano makers - Schimmel.