Dropping A Bösendorfer Model 275 Piano

Bosendorfer Gold Logo

    Bosendorfer Model 280
    Mr. Brian Haigh of G & R Removals of Chiswick, United Kingdom is probably a really nice fellow. But even if he develops a cure for Cancer, he will unfortunately most likely be remembered as being among the most unfortunate movers of a Bösendorfer 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).
    Click on image to see enlarged view (46,993 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.

Unloading Bosendorfer 275 1 Unloading Bosendorfer 275 2
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)

    The members of the community must have imagined the grand prize of pianos was within their grasp, as the G & R lorry containing their Bösendorfer rolled up outside the concert hall at the Adies' home at Barkham, near South Molton. To the author of this article, who has observed several moves of the even larger "Bösendorfer Imperial" piano, the G&R movers rolled the piano out of the truck bed and onto the hydraulic elevating liftgate and then either 1. the liftgate failed or was lowered prematurely, or 2. the G&R movers failed to rotate the piano ninety (90) degrees so that the piano would be orthogonal to the truck and thereby not overhand the truck bed. As the piano was lowered it is obvious (in the image above right) the piano has been maneuvered into an unmanageable orientation.

    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."

    Unloading Bosendorfer 275 3 Unloading Bosendorfer 275 3
    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)

    Brian Haigh offered a public apology to the Adies and explained to the media how the experience left him lost for words: "In all my life I have never felt the way that I felt when it hit the ground. I was really disappointed. I haven't got words for it. I've been doing this job a long, long time. It's the worst thing that's ever happened to me." He also commented "I've had better days but nobody was hurt and I do like to look on the bright side. If someone had been hurt I'd be absolutely gutted." "At the end of the day it's an occupational hazard."

    Right: Mr. Brian Haigh of G & R Removals regaining some sense of humor after the accident (42,345 bytes).
    Click on image to see enlarged view (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."

      As an editorial aside, the author of this web site would tend to agree with the G & R spokesman that the damage can most likely be repaired. That said however, such impacts can strain and produce stresses that may now be microscopic but that may later grow to change the appearance and sound of the instrument. In the author's experience comprehensive diagnosing and repair work of these pianos can only be properly conducted by the L. Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH factory in Wein, Austria. And this effort will most likely come at some notable expense of time and money. In advance of the repairs, a settlement may entail the negotiation of some bonded guarantee on the order of years that anticipates a remedy for damage that may appear in time as a result of the original insult.

    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*

      Length Overall 275 cm | 9 ft
      Number Of Keys Ninety-two (92)
      Action Renner

    * The Model 275 is a discontinued piano, replaced by the Model 280.

    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 Festival has recently become known as the one with the Bösendorfer. As the whole world now knows, Bösendorfer has presented the 2MF with a new Imperial Concert Grand piano. This generosity is colossal and the audience hearing the sounds made by this magnificent instrument were left in no doubt as to why a Bösendorfer Imperial is regarded as probably the finest piano in the world. Its mellow tones lend themselves to chamber music which is what the festival focuses on. There are plans for the future involving key international artists and 2008 is already destined to be "The Year of the Piano".

    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:

      Plan Accordingly In Advance:

        1. When one acquires a fine piano ascertain in writing the actual replacement costs with taxes, delivery and related services.
          Scan this into a .pdf file for ready distribution, and keep the original document in a safe place (fire Safe, etc.).
        2. Insure the instrument accordingly in its routine environment.
        3. Determine if the insurance policy covers the instrument when it is not in your care (in transit, elsewhere).
        4. Develop and nurture a relationship with an expert Registered Piano Technician. Ideally one who specializes in your make and class of piano, who will come to know your piano in and out and its individual character.
        5. Know who to contact for service and repair or appraisal support; this may include the Sales and Service Departments at the piano factory.
        6. Negotiate liability in advance of any movement of the piano with those who will have it in custody. If this is not on hand and in writing then it did not happen!
        7. If transporting the piano to an event where its presence is critical, have a "Plan B" in case the instrument is delayed or lost.
        8. Attend the move event of your piano and document it with images too: before, during and after the move.
        9. Periodically revisit your appraisal and insurance policies to adapt to changing rates, instrument availability, etc.

      When Moving A Piano:

        1. Communicate any concerns in advance of the move in telephone or E-Mail discussions with the piano mover Foreman.
        2. Walk through the delivery routes through where the piano is to be wheeled paying particular attention to: steps, elevators, sharp turns, sensitive flooring or carpets, floor load capacities.
        3. Prevent anyone from getting themselves into a position whereby they may be injured during a move. Leave the work to the insured experts, sit back and watch from a safe spot.
        4. If you see the piano starting to come over do not think a mere mortal will be able to stop a large unsteadied piano from tipping over.
        5. When transporting a piano to another site for an event allow time for the piano to acclimate and then be visited by a Piano Technician for tuning and voicing as needed.
        6. Budgeting some extra days in advance will provide one with time to react if a problem develops before an event.

      When Things Do Go Wrong:

        1. Prevent further damage occurring to the piano if possible: rig it into place with line or straps, brace it until proper equipment and help arrive.
        2. Make note of the date, time and who were involved in the event.
        3. Take photographs. Keep a back up set of the images in a safe place and be ready to E-Mail or print yet another set for the the insurance company.
        4. Whether the damage is to be covered by you or the moving company, it may be wise to consult with your Insurance Agent too.
        5. Contact your Registered Piano Technician, he/she may facilitate the evaluation, estimating and repair process.
        6. In cases of serious damage then consult with the Manager of the Service Department at the piano factory.
        7. It will be in the best interest of the piano owner, the insurers and the movers reputation too if a highly qualified party is brought in to assess the damage and the costs of a remedy.

        Laurel and Hardy Piano Movers
        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