The Origin and History of the Steinway Model C Grand Piano
The Steinway Model B measures 6’11” in length while the Model D is 8’11”. But what about the piano that comes in between these two? The Steinway & Sons Model C Semi-Concert Grand Piano is an instrument that is often forgotten about – at least by some of us here in North America. Here is a quick history of the lineage of the Semi-Concert Model C.
The 7’2” Steinway and Sons Model C was first manufactured in 1878 with Steinway #38675 being the first in the series to be completed on 8/24/1878. These seven-octave, 85-note pianos were based upon the earlier Parlor Grands built by Steinway. The Model C, 85-note piano was also known as the Style 3 in catalogs. The scale design featured a 21 note bass section and was redesigned from the earlier parlor grand piano by C.F. Theodore Steinway. The Model C was introduced during a time of advancement for the Steinway Company. The early Model C was first produced with a sectional case design, and in 1880 production of Model Cs with a more modern style bent-rim case began. The 85-note Model C/Style 3 was in production until 1886.
1886 | The 88 Note Model C Grand
In 1886 the Steinway Model C was extensively redesigned. This new 88-note Model C featured a completely new scale design with an overstrung, 20 note bass section once again crafted by C.F. Theodore Steinway. #58952 was completed on 5/19/1886. These new 7’5” grand pianos were then considered to be more comparable to the Model D than the Model B. In a letter to dealers William Steinway said,
“This new Grand piano, the result of years of study and experiment, is 7 feet 5 inches in length, and is the exact counterpart, in a shorter form, of our new [in 1884] Style D Concert Grand, with patent double cupola steel frame. This new Style C, 7 ¼” octaves, is the grandest creation in power, sonority and sympathetic singing quality, ever achieved in a Parlor Concert Grand.”
William Steinway (who was the son who focused on the manufacturing and business management aspects) went on in that letter to point out that the price made it very acceptable for home use; however, the piano was more than capable of being utilized in normally sized concert venues. This move was an attempt to position the Model C in between the Model B and Model D both in function and in size. In fact, these 88-note Model Cs featured a scale design scaled down from the Model D, making them unrelated to the earlier designs.
The ‘New Curve’ Model C | Bringing This Piano Into the Present
The ‘Old Curve’ 88-note Model C lasted until 1892. In 1893 the Model C ‘New Curve’ was introduced with a newly designed rim. The Model C was still also known as the Style 3 until 1896 when the style numbers were dropped and model letters became more standard. New Curve Model Cs were in regular production in both New York and Hamburg until 1906. This is when regular production was ended in New York. Production continued in limited, custom requested quantities until 1936 when production ceased for good. With that said, the Hamburg Steinway & Sons factory continued and the Model C is still in regular production to this day. Out of the seven basic sizes of Steinway grand pianos, the Model C is the second largest with only the Model D reigning above it.
A Unique Instrument | The Conclusion
The Model C and its history have been forgotten to some extent. It occupies a place between the full concert Model D and the 7’ Model B, two legendary and well-loved instruments. However, it would be remiss to ignore the Model C. Contemporary Model Cs measure 7’5” in length and we have found these instruments to be very capable pianos with the larger soundboard area when compared to the Model B to be evident in the piano’s tone. These pianos boast a clear treble and a dark bass section.
The ‘modern’ New York built Model Cs are fine examples of the quality expected of golden era Steinway & Sons grand pianos. With these pianos being crafted during late 19th and early 20th centuries, craftsmanship was high and top-quality woods and other materials were available to be utilized. Hamburg continues that craftsmanship to this day. The rare Model C is a wonderful piano with a well-crafted scale that features a character that is unique and all of its own. Since it is scaled down from the Model D and is larger than a Model B, it has its own unique character of tone. If you are in the market for a larger Steinway grand, perhaps you should consider the 7’5” Model C.
About Us: Chupp’s Piano Service is renowned for its expertise in the restoration of premium Steinway & Sons Grand Pianos. If you are in the market for a Steinway Model C, or you are looking to rebuild the Model C you already own, contact us today for a quote! We encourage you to visit our showroom to play our uncommonly large selection of fully rebuilt Steinway pianos.