The prevalent trend in the ultra-luxury segment is custom everything. From cars and jets to hi-tech gadgets and house couture perfume the made-to-measure customization is what people desire. It is only natural that such an important investment as the grand piano would be treated with the same degree of involvement and passion on the part of the client. To not only have the beautifully sounding instrument but also to make an individual statement with the style and the finish of the grand piano is what ignites a passion for those who love luxury pianos.
Which components make the most expensive piano?
The obvious answer is materials and craftsmanship. The amazing feat of engineering that goes into producing the most expensive pianos in the world is extraordinary. Tens of thousands of moving parts have to work perfectly in unison to allow the action to move with precision and immediacy that enables the pianist to create a truly magnificent performance. All those details are handcrafted, and hand-assembled so that the piano quality is strictly controlled. But that is only the beginning. The actual materials of the luxury piano are very particular and therefore in short supply. For instance, Blüthner, Fazioli, and other legacy manufacturers only use spruce soundboards, rare woods, industrial grade lucite, and carbon fiber to name a few.
Some of the most expensive luxury pianos are gold or silver leafed, inlaid with mother of pearl and rare woods, have custom lighting installed within the elements of the design, and are composite with alloys like chrome and aluminum. All that is done by singularly trained and knowledgeable craftsmen by hand and takes hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours to produce. But before the painstaking work begins the design of the piano has to be conceived, engineered, and calculated so that the final result not only looks stunning but sounds so as well. The propositions, the size/weight/material ratio all affects the sound, acoustical reverberation, and steadiness/durability of the piano. This requires a most skilled designer/engender/piano builder to create each and every one of these amazing instruments on paper first. There are very few such individuals in the world – and their time and ideas are a cost factor in luxury pianos.
Here are the world’s 10 most expensive pianos.
1. Steinway & Sons Pictures at an Exhibition $2.5 million
Currently, the most expensive piano available on the market is Steinway painted by artist Paul Wyse. Its $2.5 million price tag while steep is clearly evident in the opulent details of the artwork. The name of the piano refers to the seminal composition of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky called Pictures at an Exhibition and literally represents the visitor’s experience of going from one picture to the other. This masterpiece piano depicts all of the pictures from the music and the portrait of its composer – Modest Mussorgsky himself. The legs of the piano are magic Russian cuckoo clocks while the custom bench is carved in a Russian medieval folklore style. Everything about this one-of-a-kind museum-quality marvel is sure to drive the Russophile into a frenzy.
2. Steinway & Sons Fibonacci $2.4 million
Steinway Sons have given us the ultimate feast for the eye and mind. The New York-based piano juggernaut conceived this grand piano to be a material representation of the Fibonacci Series – Renaissance‘s divine proportion ratio. Franck Pollaro designed this luxury limited edition Steinway model. At over 2 million dollars this is one of the most expensive and stunning instruments produced by top piano brands. It traces Fibonacci’s spiral as applied to Nautilus which grows without changing its form all over the body of this grand piano. The remarkable case is inlaid with rare woods intarsia cut and placed by hand to create the outer veneer. This is a true work of art worthy of the best artisans of Renaissance – Fibonacci would be proud! Even Mr. Steinway would be very proud of a such grand piano! If 2.4 million is the number though can live with – look no further than the Steinway & Sons Fibonacci piano.
3. C. Bechstein Sphinx $1.2 million
This high-drama marvel is a historical replica of the first such piano built by Bechstein in 1886 for a special exhibit in London. With over 1800 hours of artisanal work and 32 months of build time, this Napoleon Bonaparte Empire-style grand piano will dazzle anyone who glimpses it. Covered in fire-gilded figurines it combines Greek, Egyptian and Roman motifs in the essential Napoleonic Empire style. One can imagine this piano at home at Palee Garnier (the famed Parisian Opera of the same style). Gleaming gold and richness of the wood combined is the symphony of decedent grandeur that will take your breath away. Under the ‘hood’ it’s C. Bechstein 212 concert grand piano. To our knowledge, this is the third most expensive piano in the world available from a legacy manufacturer.
While almost half the price of Steinway, this extraordinary piano will set you back $1.2 million which is warranted by the quality and uniqueness of this grand piano.
4. Blüthner Lucid EXO $960,000
A total departure from the first two specimens of luxury pianos is the Lucid EXO. Forget everything you know about the luxury piano as what you are about to see is from the future. Only it is NOW. Utilizing Blüthner’s proprietary 3D printing capability and carbon fiber Lucid EXO is an evolutionary result of the know-how of the world’s leading luxury piano legacy manufacturer. Years of research and invention come before EXO’s birth to inform and enable the concept and manufacturing of this futuristic luxury piano. The exoskeleton holds within it a high-performance mechanism revealed by asymmetrical lucite panels seamlessly integrated into the design of the body. The colorway and further customizations are available from Blüthner Lucid Pianos.
With Lucid EXO you experience the future of piano making today. While it is not the $1.2 million Bechstein asks for their piano nor the hefty price tag of Steinway & Sons Fibonacci masterpiece, this piano is one of the 10 most expensive pianos in the world today.
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5. Bösendorfer Opus 50 $750,000
One of the oldest piano manufacturers in the world has produced its fabled Opus 50 semi-concert grand piano. It was built to commemorate the brand’s 185th birthday and is the 50,000th piano they have ever built. The base is a 225 model which is adorned with French burlwood, maple, pear, and walnut veneers. The 24K gold leaf is applied by hand to many design elements culminating with 2 female caryatids at its front. Realized in neo-classical style this treasure of a luxury piano is indeed majestic and elegant. At once a bow to the tradition of this Viennese legendary piano manufacturer and its most up-to-date action development. This piano features an extension of Bosendorfer’s emblematic sub-contra base notes all the way to F – which add depth to its signature orchestral sonority.
6. Fazioli M Liminal by NYT Line $695,000
This post-modernist luxury piano is a dreamboat. Literally. Its design is inspired but the shape of the luxury yacht the original was commissioned for and the dolphins. Its absolutely unique and recognizable shape is so well proportioned that it gives off the appearance of levitation as the piano sits on its pedestal. With its somewhat triangular lid raised, the piano eerily looks like a romantic sailboat with the sail up. The chrome-finished bottom and pedestal feel at once ultra-luxurious and nautical and the angularity of the body bounces off light as if seaborne in the lazurite waters of the French Riviera.
Inside this architectural gem is Fazioli performance F183 model with its impeccable action and signature singing sound. Fazioli M Liminal is the best piano in the world for those who appreciate Fazioli’s sound and action and conceptual design. While it is one of the world’s most expensive pianos it is not as large as some of its counterparts. Baby grand it may not be but not the concert grand either.
7. Fazioli Gold Leaf $450,000
Speaking of the best pianos in the world, Fazioli Gold Lief needs to be mentioned. Based on the F228 model this jewel of the piano is completely covered in 24K gold leaf. All done by hand. The uniquely formulated polyester coat seals the gold and keeps it protected so this gleaming grand piano will remain safe from surface scratches and dents. This coat also increases gold’s luminosity and iridescence giving the piano an ever-changing appearance. The classic lines of this piano are beautifully proportioned so the gold leaf stands front and center to mesmerize and delight.
8. Blüthner Supreme Edition with 24K Gold inlaid lid $420,000 and up
Blüthner is an iconic piano brand that has been innovating and producing some of the world’s most beautiful pianos for over 160 years. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that Blüthner and Steinway Sons were in close competition for the largest market share of the highest quality performance pianos for over a century. Blüthner created this one-of-a-kind masterpiece with an artwork inlay of 24K on the inside of the lid. The result is stunning – an elegant ebony instrument but when the lid is open it reveals the remarkable tableau in gleaming gold. Needless to say, the lid is the most expensive part of this instrument. For inquiries about purchasing this piano – contact us.
9. Boganyi $390,000
As brands of pianos go, Hungarian Boganyi is a newcomer on the scene. Himself a concert pianist he envisioned an ultra-futuristic carbon fiber single-body instrument of the future. And that it certainly is. Designed by Industrial designer Peter Uveges the form is an aluminum/carbon fiber monolith. In one sweeping gesture, this piano evokes a flight. The signature crimson cast iron frame adds a stunning drama to the instruments when opened. There are only a few of these made in the world to date but surely such novel beauty will continue to attract passionate collectors. Every Boganyi soundboard has an unprecedented 100 years warranty.
10. Blüthner Lucid Hive Extravaganza $200,000 and up
Crystal pianos by Blüthner Lucid occupy a special place in the world of expensive pianos. Molded from an industrial-grade lucite their transparency is enhanced by the bee-hive-like skeleton that results in a futuristic spirit of the Lucid Hive Xtravaganza piano. The interplay of light and shadow from the hive produces the most spectacular optical effect and Blüthner offers this design in a number of sizes from a baby grand piano (5’1 feet) to a larger 9‘2. The color can also be customized as well as optional inner lighting. The absolute best artisans in the world for crystal lucite instruments are there for you at Blüthner.
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At the top of the market share of expensive pianos are the 3 undeniable leaders: Blüthner Lucid, Steinway, and Fazioli. Their experience and ingenuity combined with their stellar reputation guarantee that your investment will be worth every dollar spent. Whether building a baby grand piano or one for the concert stage these legacy brands are a safe bet.
But as with the example of a newer brand piano like Boganyi their vision powered by industrial know-how can produce equally beautiful instruments that will surprise, delight, and endure.
These remarkable instruments are off the market since they were already purchased by serious collectors.
In 1999 Mariah Carey bought the white baby grand piano that belonged to Marilyn Monroe for a whopping $662,500. Marilyn’s mother bought it for her when she thought Norma-Jean would be taking piano lessons. It had previously belonged to a movie star Fredric March. Shortly thereafter Marylin’s mother was institutionalized and Marilyn ended up in the orphanage. The piano and other belongings were repossessed. Years later when Marilyn Monroe became famous she tracked it down and bought it. She had it rebuilt and upon her untimely death, it went to her acting coach Lee Strasberg along with her estate. Carey said that she thought it was a shame Marylin’s things were being sold off and that she will make sure this piano will end up in the museum as a tribute to the greatest movie star Marilyn Monroe. A truly sad and remarkable story.
Another great story is that of an ordinary Steinway upright Model Z that John Lennon purchased in London for $1,300. John Lennon went on to compose “Imagine” on it. In 1992 George Michael bought Model Z for $2.37million (the highest price ever paid for a piano to date) as he wanted it to remain in the UK. The pretty unimpressive Model Z has cigarette burns as John Lennon left them smoldering while composing. In the mid-2000s George Michael and his partner created The Imagine Piano Peace Project Tour and brought the piano to the US where it still remains. Currently, it is estimated to be worth $8-12 million.
Steinway & Sons spent 4 years building Sound Of Harmony. The incredible woodwork features a veneer intarsia replica of a Chinese artist Shi Qi’s work. Over 40 types of wood had been used to create this masterpiece. Sound Of Harmony belongs to a Chinese Art Collector.
And perhaps the most astonishing piano sale is the famous Casablanca Piano. Sold for $3.4million this miniature (incomplete keyboard) upright piano is the piano that was used on the set of iconic Hollywood classic Casablanca on which Sam plays ‘As time goes by’. Need we say more? The magic of Tinseltown is such that any object that is part of important Hollywood history becomes a treasure regardless of its nominal value. Thus Casablanca Piano is arguably the most expensive piano sale to date.
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