Dropping A Bösendorfer Model 275 Piano
G&R Removals is a family run business established in 1968 making them the longest established piano carriers in the UK. In April 2007 they were hired to transport a Bösendorfer Concert Grand piano for the Two Moors Festival Spring Concert Series 2007, Chamber Recitals. Being nine (9) foot long and weighing in at over a thousand pounds, moving such a hand crafted instrument demands highly skilled movers with specialized equipment and techniques.
The Bösendorfer Model 275 is a Concert Grand piano that when in production sold for about £45,000 ($90,000 US), and was later replaced by the Bösendorfer Model 280. This particular Model 275 had already been the subject of struggle even before setting off from London for the Two Moors Festival in Devon. John and Penny Adie, organizers of the Two Moors Festival, determined to avoid the expenses of renting a piano periodically for their event. And so they and their fellow organizers worked for two years to raise the money needed to buy this piano. The piano was recently acquired at an auction in London and was to have been the centrepiece of the festival that originated in 2001 as an event to boost morale and help the local communities after the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 damaged tourism. But its popularity persuaded organizers to host it as an annual event with a diverse range of concerts staged at venues across Dartmoor and Exmoor, usually in front of packed audiences. The Festival covers a larger area of the UK than any other, with the aim of bringing live classical music to the countryside.
Right: The more typical presentation of a Bösendorfer Model 275 Concert Grand Piano with Artists Bench (25,772 bytes).
For some months after raising the funds the Adies travelled to a specialist piano auctioneer in London with the hope of buying a Bösendorfer Concert Grand Piano. But the tragedy is all the more galling since the Musikmess Frankfurt held on 12-15 March 2007 distracted many resellers away from the London auction. The Musikmess is an international trade fair for musical instruments, music software and computer hardware, sheet music and accessories. By both events coinciding, Musikmess lowered attendance and diminished the pool of potential bidders at the auction thereby moderating the final selling price of the ten year young Bösendorfer Model 275 Concert Grand Piano: the Music Gods smiled on the Two Moors Festival if only briefly. Sean McIlvoy, the auctioneer explained "this was a charity with limited funds and for them it was a great buy."
But as the piano was being unloaded from the lorry fate intervened! Mr. Haigh, the G&R Removals foreman on the scene explained how the accident happened: "I was trying to put the piano on to the tail lift, going through the normal process for pianos, the next thing I know it's in the ditch." He said the usual way to remove a piano is to put it in a transport shoe or shoey, a frame that fits along the length of the piano's body but "As we lowered the tail lift, it must have just clipped what we call the shoey and sent it over to one side. I don't understand why it happened."
The Adies realized "We were very lucky at the auction and bloody unlucky at the unloading" as John and Penny watched in horror when the movers dropped their long awaited Bösendorfer.
Above left: Arriving for the Spring Festival Concerts: rolling the Bösendorfer Model 275 piano on to the Lift (78,336 bytes).
Above right: the Bösendorfer hangs up on the Truck as the liftgate is lowered (62,973 bytes).
Click on the images to see an enlarged views (78,336 and 111,063 bytes)
Mr. Adie commented "The lift on the back of the lorry was not the most stable of platforms and the nine foot instrument was too long to fit on the platform, so the men jolted it around a bit and thought it was free of the vehicle. But it wasn't, and it bounced on the drive, landing on its side. It kept going and because it was a bank with steps it flicked over and landed on its lid. There was one hell of a crash and all its notes went at once. It fell about thirteen feet in all."
Not content with simply smashing into the floor, the instrument bounced off the gravel and hurtled over a bank before clattering onto a set of granite steps.
Brian Haigh recalled observing the piano tip and then relentlessly start its plunge off the liftgate: "I was just gutted, absolutely gobsmacked. I couldn't believe it had gone over. I couldn't talk for five minutes."
Mrs Adie said: "I only took before and after shots because I was too dumbstruck to capture the moment when it fell. A Bösendorfer is to a pianist what a Stradivarius is to a string player, and we are all numb with shock."
Above left: Just after the fall: Mr.Haigh's expression sum it all up well enough. The Bösendorfer piano upside down on stone wall and grass embankment (84,755 bytes).
Above right: Rigging the Bösendorfer to be lifted by Renault Front End Loader wheeled tractor (72,520 bytes).
Click on the images to see an enlarged views (78,336 and 111,063 bytes)
Right: Mr. Brian Haigh of G & R Removals regaining some sense of humor after the accident (42,345 bytes).
The piano was loaded onto the G & R lorry with the help of a local farmer with his Front End Loader, and returned to London for safekeeping and inspection while the matter is sorted out. Meanwhile the event was simply so uncommonly tragic and well illustrated to be overlooked by the news media, and in slow news week the comic tragedy played itself out to the world readers by means of numerous publications, web based news sites and bloggers.
A company spokesman for G & R played down the amount of damage sustained to the Bosendorfer. The spokesman said: "The company has been in business for 40 years. We move 300 pianos a year and it was the most unfortunate accident. The piano is still playable, and can be fixed. It is totally repairable, and had a small amount of damage."
The Adies made themselves available for interviews with the British press. Mrs. Penny Adie explained to the press how the Bosendorfer "a favourite of top pianists worldwide, the Rolls Royce of pianos" and likened the brand to violins created by Italian maestro Antonio Stradivari. She also explained how "We had been raising money for over two years to get this piano, it was the most ghastly moment, seeing all one's hopes and dreams being smashed down the stone steps."
Mr. Adie added: 'The lid was smashed and there was cosmetic damage, but a half a ton of piano landing like that must have had a catastrophic effect on its workings' and "I don't think there's any way we can trust it now. It's not the cosmetic damage that you can see, it's what the hell it's done to it inside."
The Adies said the piano was only insured for £26,000 (about $52,000 US), this was the bargain price they had scored at auction rather than the piano's estimated new value of £45,000 ($89,600 US).
The moving company management had no comment about the incident citing insurance officials are evaluating the case.
With the matter of the Model 275 being sorted out by the experts and insurers, fate took a more positive turn when the Steinway & Sons company generously offered the use of a Concert Grand to solve the immediate problem of what to use for the Spring Concert Series commencing 25 April. The replacement is being brought down on Thursday 19 April by Piano Logistics who have also kindly donated their time.
The festival web site posted a message:
"Messages of sympathy and commiseration have been pouring in and the Festival would like to thank all those who felt compelled to express their support and regret at the loss of such a magnificent instrument. If anyone wishes to make a donation towards the Festival's cause as a result of reading about this classical calamity, please click on the contact section of the website."
Bösendorfer Model 275 Piano Specifications*
Postscript: The world wide attention must have persuaded the Music Gods to smile upon the music festival because in an unprecedented act of kind generosity L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH facilitated replacing the damaged piano of the organization with a new Model 290 Imperial Concert Grand piano. Described as "the world's most elite piano", and one of only about 400 pianos of all sizes made at the factory, this £85,000 ($170,000 US) instrument was sold at a notable discount to the organizers of the Two Moors Festival and was delivered in time for their 7th annual festival scheduled to begin on 12 October 2007. The instrument was delivered by truck from the factory in Austria to the United Kingdom by staff from Bösendorfer - and this time the delivery went uneventfully.
As explained by the "www.twomoorsfestival.com" Website:
The Two Moors Festival is managed by "Two Moors Festival Limited", an organization with a charitable status (comparable to non-profit organizations in the USA).
So What Can Be Learned From This? Consider this incident as a well documented reminder that accidents do happen, so:
When Moving A Piano:
When Things Do Go Wrong:
Above: Laurel and Hardy in The Music Box (44,448 bytes).
Contact the host of this site who is not the owner of the piano in the above article.
Contents © 2007-2008 Martin Cohen, John and Penny Adie, All Rights Reserved