When researching the pedigree of many pianos currently available on the market you quickly discover remarkable stories stretching back through time to an age when the instrument was in its infancy. In some respects, this lineage brings with it credibility that is reassuring to a point where you feel you can trust the manufacturers to provide you with a high-quality piano every time. This can be true but it is not always the case. Choosing a piano from the lengthy list of possibilities is a complex and detailed decision, and the longevity of a company is not necessarily a guarantee of quality.
Falcone Piano Review
The name Falcone in the world of piano manufacturing may not be a familiar one to pianists in Europe, Asia, and Australasia. They were until around 1995 a US-based piano manufacturer that within a very short time frame established a firm reputation for making pianos of exceptional quality. Santi Falcone (born 1945), was the gentleman who founded the company with the idea of making affordable pianos but without compromising on quality. This is a tough challenge to set but from what I have researched, one that was confidently met by Falcone.
Early in 1978, Santi Falcone toyed with the idea of making exceptional pianos with a price tag that did not break the bank of the buyer. Born in Sicily, Falcone was studying at the Saint Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, learning to tune pianos when his mind turned to the creation of an instrument of his own. His experiments and research lasted until 1982 when Falcone was able to finish his first piano made, according to all reports, entirely by hand.
Falcone’s time spent working alongside the New England Piano and Organ Company significantly contributed to the production of Falcone’s first instrument. This instrument was a six-foot, concert grand, that heralded the start of the Falcone piano company. Falcone began this work in Woburn, Massachusetts, with the manufacturing soon moving into what is now the Mason & Hamlin factory in Haverhill MA.
In 1983 a second hand-made concert grand piano was completed by Falcone. This time it was a splendid nine-foot instrument with all the attributes that one would expect from an instrument of such stature. Between 1983 and 1989, the factory produced 170 pianos that focused on the creation of six-foot and seven-foot, four-inches grand pianos. According to historical records Falcone employed around 40 skilled technicians by 1987 who were completing around 5 pianos every month. The company’s reputation grew and so did its workforce. By the late 1980s, the employees numbered sixty with the output of grand pianos reaching upwards of twelve every month.
Curiously enough the Falcone story now takes an unexpected turn into a direction that would be hard to foresee. As the success and reputation of Falcone pianos developed across the United States, Santi Falcone abandoned his original idea and left the company. He did not go on to start another piano business or even move in a parallel musical direction. Instead, Falcone became a chocolatier and the founder of the Dante Confectionary Company. The last piano to be finished at the Haverhill Factory was in 1995. The Falcone Piano Company, such as it is, then became owned by the Nanjing Moutrie Company based in China who later returned the manufacturing of the Falcone to North America. These pianos are now distributed by Welkin Sound of Ontario in California.
Essentially, in the short time that the Falcone piano range was being manufactured, there were three notable models. These were the Model 60, 74, and 90 each with the following lengths; 6’4″, 7’4″, and 9′. Falcone closely modeled his pianos on the established Steinway & Sons Model A, C, and D grand pianos but with Falcone’s particular touches.
For some commentators, Falcone’s pianos were simply a poor copy of the superior Steinway & Sons grand pianos. For many though, the Falcone was an instrument of quality in its own right. One of the features of the Falcone pianos was an interesting innovation called a ‘soundboard calibrator’. This device effectively regulated the tension in the treble range of the soundboard, bringing a degree of tonal control that Steinway & Sons did not possess. It altered the sustain on the instrument and allowed Falcone to manufacture his pianos to the individual requirements of any pianist’s wishes.
Similar to many pianos of quality the Falcone grand pianos included a 2 ¾” hard rock maple rim that brought rigidity and resonance to the instrument. The soundboard was quarter-sawn white spruce and the action was provided to custom level by Renner. Strings were made with Roslaü West German piano wire that is still an industry standard with a Meehanite, cast-iron plate. All these details and specifications combine to offer any pianist an instrument of remarkable class, elegance, and superiority. From the few owners who I have been able to read comments from, they are passionate about their instruments and find them to be pianos whose characteristics are almost impossible to place into words. Such was the individuality and uniqueness of each Falcone piano the tonal colors and action can only be appreciated by direct experience of playing them. Interestingly, in 1987 the Associated Press described the Falcone pianos as “The Stradivarius of keyboards”.
Today the Falcone piano name is rightly associated with the creation of the premium range of pianos such as Bechstein, Steinway, and Yamaha. There were not a vast number of pianos made during the 1980s but those that did reach completion were unquestionably instruments of prestigious quality and reputation. If you are looking to purchase one of the Falcone grand pianos, you will have a quest in front of and you will need to be prepared to try them and get to know them before you make any decision to buy. The grand pianos from the heyday of Falcone will command high prices. I have found an original Falcone Model 74 (1989) with a price tag of $25,000, and this is not a high value in comparison to some. If you find a Falcone you can afford and whose personality you match, you will have acquired a truly unique instrument with a remarkable history.