A quantum leap in terms of the expressive palette of the modern grand piano, both in terms of dynamics and the entire colour spectrum
In the first third of the nineteenth century, the “sordino” was a standard feature on all grands made by the Graf (Vienna) and Erard (Paris) piano companies. Thanks to a
suggestion from the pianist Jura Margulis, Steingraeber has now reintroduced this feature as pedal* or knee lever. A very fine piece of felt goes horizontally between the hammers and strings,
allowing for tone colouration/modification such as that required by Franz Schubert’s “fp” marking.
* optional 4th pedal or by switch interchanging with the sostenuto function.
Diverse handling options give choices, and pianists are divided as to which they prefer:
Jura Margulis, a German-American pianist of Russian extraction, was the catalyst who inspired Steingraeber & Söhne to seize upon this late eighteenth century concept and install it in a modern D-232 grand piano. Margulis: "The Margulis-Steingraeber Sordino Pedal (MSSP) represents a quantum leap in terms of the expressive palette of the modern grand piano, both in terms of dynamics and the entire colour spectrum."He used this sound enhancer on his new Schubert CD which was presented by Steingraeber and Margulis at Musikmesse Frankfurt 2014.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the ability to colour the tone of the piano had mostly disappeared from the canon of various pedal functions. But they held onto the practice in Vienna until the early twentieth century. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Conrad Graf was held in such high regard. In the first half of the nineteenth century, he fitted all of his grand pianos with a horizontally movable rack made of felt. He called the device a muffler. Erard used a buckskin rack in his grands for similar purposes and called the sound effect a "celeste". It is hardly necessary to point out that the abovementioned celeste pedal has nothing to do with modern devices for soft playing, such as neighbor "protection" devices, also called "mufflers", that are often installed in pianos nowadays.
Technically speaking, the sordino sound effect is produced by means of a very thin piece of felt that is inserted between the hammers and strings. Its distance from the strings is negligible, so the let-off remains in its short distance. The sordino guides are inserted on the left and right near the mountings and in the plate nose. The path of the horizontal shift has to be fitted into the treble region of the plate. The Steingraeber piano technician Alexander Reul was charged with working out the technical aspects of what turns out to be a rather complicated innovation.
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Thanks to thin felt, the hammers let off normally.
Sordino in operation
Knee lever for Sordino activation. In this image you can see 3 adapters for individual adjustment of the knee lever to size and sitting position
Several optional adapters enable adjustment of the knee lever to size and sitting position.
Operator Sordino-Sostenuto for the middle pedal. Depending on this device the middle pedal activates Sordino or Sostenuto.
Activation of Sordino in the middle pedal