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pianos of note

charlottesville piano restores historic steinway at james madison’s montpelier

January 31, 2014

In 1893, Steinway & Sons of New York built what may have been their tallest upright piano at 77 inches in height. With a cabinet design by Herts Bros. of New York, this exquisite instrument, replete with veneered columns and brass capitals, claw feet, and burled mahogany finish, was sold to William duPont and shipped first to his estate, Bellvue, and later to his historic farm Montpelier, the presidential home of James Madison, in Orange, Virginia.

Tom Shaw (right) of Charlottesville Piano and Mark Perry (left) of Perry Pianos teamed up to restore this very important piano. Mark is an expert in 19th century piano finishes, and he and his employees hand-polished the burled mahogany veneer with real beetle resin and denatured alcohol using the same methods as Herts Bros used when the case was first manufactured.

We are proud to have been selected by The National Trust for Historic Preservation and The Montpelier Foundation to restore this unique Steinway. This piano is currently housed at Montpelier in the duPont museum. To see more about James Madison’s Montpelier, see:

To read more about this restoration and to view more photographs, read the article about this piano’s restoration from Piedmont Virginia Magazine here: Piedmont Virginian Article Jan 2010

Photo credit: James Madison’s Montpelier

charles r. walter grand piano, heritage model, mark perry design – compare to steinway m

march 15, 2016

Commissioned by Charlottesville Piano Company on the advent of our 100th Anniversary (1907 – 2007) with the case designed by Mark Perry of Perry’s Pianos, this instrument was inspired by the vintage pianos of the turn of the Twentieth Century. The piano is raised on three carved cabriole supports magnificently carved of solid Honduran mahogany terminating in scrolled feet supported by hand-wrought brass casters imported from England . The case features mahogany veneer and solid mahogany lyre, music rack and ornamentation. The piano has been autographed by Charles R. Walter, first of three generations of the Walter family manufacturing hand-crafted pianos of the highest quality. This particular instrument is the prototype Heritage model; the first of its kind.


5’9” in length
Longest bass string speaking length of 49¼ inches
Soundboard area of 1,854 square inches
Brown mahogany finish with matching artist’s bench


The Story

Year after year, our valued clients have entered our piano shop to browse our new and restored instruments. While many come to acquire a new or late model pre-owned grand piano, they invariably gush over the restored grand pianos, especially those with vintage case designs, well-turned legs and classic carvings. Our customers almost always have the same comment, “No matter what piano store we visit, all the pianos seem to look the same” adding various observations about how most pianos are black and shiny, or even if finished in mahogany or walnut, are basically the same square-legged design.

There were two such grand pianos in our shop that gained exceptional accolades on their architecture. Both were early 1900s grand pianos finished in mahogany with cabriole legs and intricately carved lyres. We could have sold dozens of these vintage instruments if only we had the inventory. We decided to address our customers’ needs for a historically fashioned grand piano and commissioned the accomplished piano designer Mark Perry to create this instrument. Mr. Perry patterned the legs, lyre, and music rack after these turn-of-the-century piano cases and then hand-carved them from solid wood!


The Manufacturer

Finding the right manufacturer to create this piano was easy. We required a hand-crafted instrument with the highest level of engineering and of course, beautiful hand-rubbed case finishes. We needed the correct size grand piano to harmonize the length of the piano with the carved case parts. Most importantly, we wanted to have a piano that was as lovely a musical instrument as it was a piece of furniture. So we chose the Walter Piano Company.

Our Story about Walter Pianos

Walter Piano Company has their own story to tell, but we have a better Walter story, one they won’t tell because they are simply too
modest. The three generations of the Charles R. Walter family have perfected the art of piano making. They are in 2007, after 32 years of building pianos, in the same place where Steinway & Sons were in 1885: one of the best piano manufacturers in the world. Like Steinway in 1885, Walter has three generations of the same family working at their plant. Like Steinway in 1885, Walter is still lovingly handcrafting each of their instruments; not allowing a single one to be shipped before it is ready. They are, in fact, like Steinway & Sons during the vintage years when Steinway was still controlled by the Steinway family.


It is our humble opinion, after 100 years and 3 generations in our own family playing, tuning, repairing and restoring vintage Steinway grand pianos, that Charles R Walter, his children and grandchildren, are currently fashioning some of the finest pianos built in America, certainly equal to Steinway & Sons!


Learn more about the Walter Piano Company.


More about The Heritage Grand

This piano is the Charles R. Walter W175 grand piano. It has been
manufactured using Renner Action parts, Abel hammers, and the Soundboard is manufactured from Sitka spruce from Washington state. There are a couple of new technological advances that make this piano superior to other pianos of similar size.

The Floating Bass

When a soundboard is installed into the piano, it is attached to the
inner rim all the way around the edge of the soundboard. The Walter Piano Company discovered a unique method of installing the soundboard so that the bass section of the soundboard “floats”, as it is unattached to the inner rim of the piano. This allows the soundboard to resonate more freely at the bass section enhancing those rich lower tones. In this way, the 5’ 9” Walter grand piano has the depth and volume of a piano much larger in size; the rule being, “the bigger the piano, the bigger the bass.”

Individually Shaped Ribs

A soundboard is not flat, although it certainly looks like it is.
Actually, a soundboard is manufactured using a soundboard press which results in the soundboard having a convex or contact-lens shape called crown. This shape causes the board to have a drum-like resonance when struck. A flat board has little or no resonant quality. The soundboard is attached to the wooden ribs (which actually look like ribs when observed from the bottom of the piano). These ribs are shaped to accommodate the convex shape of the soundboard, and in most pianos the curved shape of the attachment side of the ribs is the same for each rib. But on the Walter grand piano, each rib is individually shaped, and those ribs at the treble section of the piano (the higher notes) are carved in such a manner as to increase the crown of the soundboard in that area, thus enhancing the treble notes of the piano.

Hearing Is Believing

Our shop is a magnet for piano enthusiasts and professional musicians. They come to see what we have in stock on a regular basis; to play a newly restored concert grand, or to see what unique piano has come our way this week. The inspiring comment we hear consistently though is, “This piano is so much better than a Steinway M” meaning the 5’ 7” Model M. And it should be. It is two inches longer, has the floating bass and increased crown in the treble section, and quality construction and engineering throughout, creating a bigger sound, richer bass, and a sense of depth and warmth not found in pianos of similar size.

The good news is that this piano is priced $15,000 below the mahogany Steinway M, and $20,000 less than the Steinway M with the comparable Louis XV case design. We invite you to come play, hear, and see the Charles R. Walter Heritage Grand Piano.

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