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Edwin Fischer, Artur Schnabel, Wilhelm Kempff and Dinu Lipatti recorded on Bechstein pianos. Leonard Bernstein, Shura Cherkassky and Sviatoslav Richter were fond of the German company, established in 1853. Rock stars such as Freddie Mercury, Elton John, and Billy Joel also enjoyed playing Bechsteins. Wendt, a prolific author on musical and historical subjects, has produced a breezy, enthused volume which should please readers who need not be Bechstein lovers. The firm’s founder Carl Bechstein was likewise an enthusiast, praised as a Beflügler (one who gave wings to others) by pianist Hans von Bülow. Wendt explains that the elder Bechstein showed the world ‘that a life without music was not only worthless, but pointless’. Less admirably, his daughter-in-law Helene was a fan of Adolf Hitler starting in the 1920s, calling him Wolf and coddling him like an adoptive son at her Berlin salon. She even presented Wolf with a Mercedes; and the company would not be declared de-Nazified until 1948. Wendt includes interviews with pianists Denys Proshayev, Kit Armstrong, Moritz Eggert, Gerrit Zitterbart and Ulrike Haage about their Bechstein loyalties. Eggert, also a composer, speaks nostalgically about his ‘faithful companion’, a 1913 Bechstein whose ‘mechanism was a little too easy, repeatedly tore strings, the dry air affected the soundboard … Bechsteins have always been noted for a very pleasant tone, especially in the middle register’. With less mitigation, the Belarus-born Proshayev concurs that Bechstein are more lyrical than percussive: ‘This can cause various shades, both in terms of momentum as in articulation.’

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing