• Jul 7th 2009 at 5:30PM
  • 25
Bosendorfer Audi Design Grand Piano – Click above for high-res image gallery

There are some things you just don't mess with. Like the shape of a grand piano. They've been making them for centuries, and though to a trained ear, one might sound different over another or even feel different to a skilled musician, by and large, they all bear the same shape. Because there are some things you just don't mess with. But then on the other hand, rules are meant to be broken. And after 100 years in business, Audi doesn't appear very eager to follow conventions. So to celebrate its centenary, the German automaker's design studio – and by that we mean their automotive design team, not a merchandising division – has teamed up with renowned Austrian keyboard builders Bosendorfer to produce a uniquely beautiful grand piano.

Of course, the same general shape had to be retained for the sake of acoustics, but one look at Audi's Bosendorfer tells you this is no ordinary grand, and chief designer Wolfgang Egger says the process will help his design team take a fresh look at automotive design as well. The Bosendorfer Audi Design Grand Piano will make its world debut at Audi's 100th anniversary celebration at the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt on July 16, after which it will be available to the public for a princely €100,000 (about $140,000). At that price level, don't expect to see one in the window down at the local music shop, but you can check it out in the high-res gallery below along with the details in the press release after the jump.

[Source: Audi]

Audi Design grand piano: tradition and innovation

* Innovative concert grand piano with perfect Bösendorfer sound
* Respect for history: a sensitive approach by Audi Design
* World premiere at the Audi centenary on July 16
* www.audi-mediaservices.com/epk/grandpiano

A concert grand piano is impressively large, usually black and has three legs to support the body with its typically curved sides. For more than 100 years, the complex internal mechanisms of these instruments have ensured their magnificent sound as well as determining the overall shape. The long tradition that has led to the grand piano has included many baroque versions that are not ideally matched to Audi's design language. Despite this, the Audi Design Studio team in Munich decided to tackle the task of housing a concert grand piano in an Audi "outer skin".

The question was: where to start? How could Audi's design philosophy be interpreted for a grand piano – an instrument with a closely defined form and function? An active process began, during which the designers came up with a surprising number of design approaches. In due course it fell to pianoforte manufacturer Bösendorfer to build the first "Audi Design grand piano". At a price of approximately 100,000 euros, the Vienna-based company will be including this design icon in its high-quality catalogue of instruments from July 16 onwards – the day of its world premiere.

"You can imagine the respect with which we approached the challenge of redesigning a musical instrument" says Wolfgang Egger, Head of Audi Group Design. But he and his team made a virtue out of necessity: "The limitations we faced were necessary as a means of stimulating our creativity. We were obliged to study the instrument in depth, and develop an all-embracing concept from the very start. The project was a useful source of experience for our young designers, and will benefit them later when they work on car design."

The team from Design naturally cooperated closely with the specialists at Bösendorfer, since Audi itself is clearly not in a position to build grand pianos. Bösendorfer, on the other hand, has stood for excellent quality and correspondingly good acoustics since 1828. For Audi, the top priority was not to exert any adverse influence on the instrument's sound. In the piano workshops in Vienna, the highest standards in both materials and workmanship apply. These enormously complex articles, with very delicate mechanical elements, call for precision craft skills, with tolerances down to one five-hundredth of a millimetre. The strings, from treble to bass, can exert a tension of as much as 20 tons on the cast metal frame inside the soundbox. The vibration frequencies and sound quality have to be precisely correct; there is no room for compromises.

In the end, the Audi designers walked this tightrope with success. Although various elements directly associated with the case of the piano were modified, the acoustics were unaffected. But the Audi Design grand piano is certainly "different", even at first glance. "Generous surface areas ensure formal clarity; there are no decorative applications, the edges and lines are sharply drawn, the joints logically positioned. All these are important aspects of the Audi design," says Designer Philip Schlesinger, who implemented the project at the Concept Design Studio in Munich. One of the most striking features is the lid, which extends without a break down to the base – an Audi innovation that yields a large, one-piece surface.

From above, the lid is seen to be recessed into the main case. In the side view, the elegant curve of the treble side is not interrupted by a joint line. The underside of the case is allowed to rise moderately at the rear, away from the performer. This is an optical device: "It draws the observer's attention subtly to the pianist," Schlesinger explains. To reduce the sense of weight on the treble side, a slim aluminium-look leg is used. The same simple style with its hint of the technical world is applied to the pedal lyre.

The keyboard has no wings at the ends. In the same spirit of purist design, the designers have concealed the hinges in the lid above the keyboard. The lid itself can be opened at an unobtrusively integrated handle. Another Audi idea is to be found directly beneath the keyboard – one that does away with the risk of bruised or scratched knees: "The lower front edge of the keyboard housing and the beam used to make it more rigid have been rounded off. This new outline is distinctly better from an ergonomic point of view: it protects the pianist's knees," says Schlesinger.

When the main lid has been raised and secured with the two-position metal prop, the interior catches the eye immediately. Whereas the classic piano black finish predominates on the outside, the designers have chosen typical Audi colours for the interior. The cast frame is in grey instead of the usual bronze colour, and the felt damper strips in natural white instead of wine red. The Audi Design signet has been greatly reduced in emphasis to harmonise with the instrument's overall appearance: it appears on the right front edge of the keyboard lid as a precisely formed, polished stainless steel inlay. As on all pianos from this Vienna manufacturer, the Bösendorfer name is displayed above the centre of the keyboard.

The decision to design an Audi concert grand piano is a logical consequence of many years of cultural involvement by the brand with the four-ring emblem. This includes the high-quality jazz meetings at the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt where the Audi Design grand piano will in future be seen and heard.

The Audi Design grand piano will have its world premiere at a major ceremony held on July 16, 2009 in the Audi Forum Ingolstadt to celebrate Audi's centenary. The new instrument can be ordered via the Internet at audi@bosendorfer.com.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Beautiful, but expensive.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Bosendorfers already cost over $130,000. Why get an ugly Audi designed one when you can have the regular one instead?
        • 6 Years Ago

        Taking a beautiful and legendary piano and letting Audi uglify it? As a musician, car enthusiast and designer it breaks my heart to see such a ridiculous secretary piano.

        Absolutely classless.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yeah, I don't like messing with a grand piano's shape, but you write as if grand piano shapes have never been modified before. But they in fact have for some time now.

      Anyways, the best manufacturer of grand pianos isn't German, anymore. It is an Italian company that has been building up a name over the last 3 decades: Fazioli.

      Check them out. Oh, and Fazioli does indeed change the shape of the grand piano.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Yep, that's the one. They make traditional looking pianos too.

        I think it actually looks better than this Audi / Bosendorfer version. Anyways, Fazioli pianos are amazing. I've tried them all. They are the "Pagani's" of the piano world.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Are you talking about this ?


        Because I won't criticize the quality of the product, but it sure is ugly as hell.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I wonder about the left side panel cutting off the sound underneath from resonating off the back of the stage, reducing the ambience. It just might project more sound directly into the hall at floor audience ear level. What a choice. where the audience sits has quite a bit to do with their perception of a performance. At the hall I've ushered at for 35 years, the music critic's seat was downstairs, center left aisle, half way back. It gave a consistent comparison of one performance versus another, but the best sound is upstairs in the mezzanine, where the sound bounces off the ceiling and rear of the hall at the top of the balcony. That's where the new critic sits. I've sat all over the hall and have experienced some pretty weird echoes at times, one being mezzanine next to the side wall, where I swear I can hear the piano's action working. If I turn my head to the left, I can hear the sound of the orchestra in my right ear followed by the bounce off the back wall returning to my left ear. Now, that's ambience!
      • 6 Years Ago
      It is kind of beautiful but I am a purist and I think a Grand Piano should look like a Grand Piano.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Well that's nice, but how about they celebrate their centenary with a new car, not with pianos and monuments at Goodwoon.
      • 6 Years Ago
      as beautiful as it is, i'd rather buy an R8 =)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Nah. I'd rather have a Steinway, Bosendorfer, or a Fazioli.

        Long after the R8 lost it's novelty, it's new tech, and it's satisfaction, a proper grand piano will keep rewarding you for a lifetime. And, will appreciate in value.

        Get the house, the grand piano, then the Audi R8. In that order. :)

      • 6 Years Ago
      as any VW/Audi from vwvvortex would say

      "Lower It"
      • 6 Years Ago
      I was hoping to see some nice burl walnut and alcantara trims here and there... along with a MMI knob and an electrically adjustable seat with memory... come on Audi... go back to the drawing board.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I would have expected the keyboard to droop down in the middle.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You'd think they'd powder coated/painted the hinge to hide it or at least have it blend in better. Beautiful piano nonetheless.
      Derrick Hwang
      • 3 Years Ago
      really nice design but its kinda overpriced as Bössendorfers play like Yamahas it would be better just getting a Yamaha grand and saving a ton of money or just getting a Steinway & Sons piano will provide much better experience. But nonetheless Bössendorfers are really easy to play and I like the crisp sound their pianos produce :)
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