A revolutionary carbon-composite material developed from space technology and invented by Hungarian engineers is being introduced into the manufacture of a new concert piano. Leading the project is pianist Gergely Bogányi, an artist who often plays the music of Liszt, and he knows the legendary composer was unsatisfied with the sound made by concert pianos:
“Everybody knows the cartoons about Franz Liszt with four hands. He used to beat the piano very hard when he played, actually he often smashed the piano to the point that his instruments needed to be replaced with a new piano during his concerts,” says Gergely Bogányi.
The inventors wanted to keep the sound perfectly clear for when artists hit the piano keys hard while also allowing for pianists to play as gently as they like:
“For us (the pianists) it is challenging to play as softly as possible to let the piano sing. We (the inventors) wanted to build a piano with ‘singing’ ability, so we carefully created the character of the sound to be perfect for the singing playing style,” Bogányi explains.
The new pianos are made in a small factory near Budapest. In 2010 Bogányi asked the constructors and engineers to open up his old Ibach-piano, and take it apart. The 80-year-old instrument had a beautiful voice, but the artist wanted to try to boost the acoustics with a material used in space technology inside the old piano.
Chief constructor Attila Bolega remembers the first steps:
“We started to take apart the old piano, that means destroying the wooden soundboard (base of the piano, under the strings). We replaced the traditional wooden soundboard panel with a revolutionary carbon-composite soundboard. So we had an old piano with a hi-tech composite soundboard inside, under the strings. It all began there, when the artist Gergely Bogányi started to play and he was very satisfied. The artist told us to develop our new piano.”
There are more than 50 innovations in the Bogányi-piano. Its mechanics are produced by one of the most respected piano-makers, the Louis Renner Company, a 126-year-old German firm.
Piano technician József Cs. Nagy told Euronews about the piano’s two extra lower voices:
“We widened the soundboard panel, so the keyboard has not got the usual 88 keys, but 90 keys. The famous Hungarian composers Bartók and Kodály composed works with ultra lower G and G sharp voices,” says Nagy.
In the neighbouring factory hall a new piano skeleton is being built. The shape of the piano-case is futuristic. The form is very complicated, which is why a soft wood is ideal to carve the piano shape. The next step is to take a negative from the wood. The final step is pouring a special plastic to the negative form. Without legs the piano is open from below to the audience.
The curved shape of the leg creates a supporting effect, thereby conducting the sound from below the piano towards the audience. The designer Attila Péter Üveges wanted to keep the traditional piano form, but he invented the new leg and explains:
“The piano’s voice goes up from the piano-case, but also goes down. Our piano has no bottom, the carbon-composite lets the voice go down, too, so the leg leads the sound out.”
The four-times Grammy-nominated American jazz pianist Gerald Clayton tried the piano in a Budapest concert and he was impressed by the clear voice of the piano:
“I felt great. It’s a very intimate process getting to know a new instrument. And every time you play you discover new things, so that was what happening, I was finding out what different registers sound like, sort of how loud, how soft, and the warmth of the instrument. But I’ve enjoyed the process very much, it’s a very unique sound.”
The new carbon-composite soundboard and the plastic piano-case have practical benefits, too. The Bogányi-piano is more resistant to environmental conditions including heat, humidity, cold, damp and dryness.
The Bogányi-piano is created with over 10 years of pioneering experimentation, engineering and craftmanship. The project was funded with 126 million Hungarian Forints (around 413,000 euros) from the EU, 60 million Forints (196,000 euros) from the Central Bank of Hungary and 100 million Forints (327,000 euros) from the Hungarian Cultural Ministry. (1EUR=305HUF)
There is no final calculation for the price of the piano. The first estimations say the price will be equal to a Steinway D-model concert piano, so around 130,000 euros (40 million HUF).
The March 11, 2015 concert is the first public classical event with the new piano held in the concert hall of the Liszt Academy in Budapest. Gergely Bogányi has chosen to play the piano works of Bach, Schubert and Schumann.