I was delighted to have the opportunity to try Casio’s latest addition to their Celviano range of digital pianos. The Celviano Grand Hybrid takes the digital piano to a new level: produced in collaboration with renowned German piano maker C Bechstein, Casio have succeeded in producing a top-of-the-range instrument with an affordable price tag and a compact size.

The demo took place at Metropolis Studios in west London (where both Adele and the late Amy Winehouse recorded albums) and it was a privilege to meet acclaimed young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, who praised the instrument for its superior touch, tone and a host of other features which enable one to practise at all times of the day and night. There was also a chance to chat with Benjamin generally about his busy year of concerts (including performances at the Proms and his debut at Carnegie Hall) and his plans for the forthcoming season. I was then able to try the Celviano Grand Hybrid myself.

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I owned a digital piano when I first started playing again, about 15 years ago. It did the job, at a time when I had neither the space nor the funds to purchase an acoustic piano, but it always felt slightly unsatisfactory, particularly in its limited range of sound and inauthentic touch.

Touch is very important to the pianist and from the moment anyone commences playing, as a child or adult, an awareness of how touch affects the sound we produce is crucial. A keyboard simply cannot reproduce the weighted touch of an acoustic piano. But Casio have achieved something that comes very close to a real piano by combing the same spruce wooden key material used by Bechstein with a hammer action which replicates the action of a grand piano (real hammers inside the instrument follow the same path as the hammers inside a grand piano). This allows the player to fully utilise arm weight in the production of sound, which means that when one goes to play an acoustic piano, the difference in touch is very slight. The player can also adjust the touch to make it heavier or lighter, thus reproducing the differing touches of acoustic pianos.

The other significant feature of this instrument is its sound. Using the Bechstein concert grand as its template, Casio has created deep, nuanced sound, tonal palette and rich resonance. You can also open the lid to increase bass resonance. Settings on the instrument allow one to utilise a Berlin grand sound (Bechstein), Hamburg (Steinway) or Vienna (Bosendorfer), and there are also options to adjust the sound to suit the composer, recreate the reverberation of a concert hall, record oneself playing, playback, and tempo changes.

I was impressed with the quality and range of sound and the touch of this instrument. For the teacher, student or professional pianist, the Grand Hybrid offers superior sound and touch plus a host of other features to enhance the playing experience. In addition, one can practise with headphones, which means you can play any time of the day or night

For more information, please visit www.grand-hybrid.com/uk/

(Photos courtesy of Casio UK)

Key features and technical specification:

  • It is the only piano that has the distinct blend of classical workmanship from world class piano manufacturers C.Bechstein, teamed with the technology that Casio has brought to all of its digital pianos for over 35 years.
  • It is the only piano that combines the world’s most famous piano sounds ­ The Hamburg Grand and the Vienna Grand ­ as well as having The Berlin Grand sound, which was exclusively developed as part of the Casio/C Bechstein collaboration just for this piano.
  • It actually feels like a Grand Piano unlike other hybrids… right down to the weight of the keys under your fingers. It combines spruce wooden key material as used in C. Bechstein grand pianos, and a new unique action mechanism that delivers the right hammer movement, which has a huge impact on the playing response of a grand piano

AiR* Grand Sound Source:

  • Enables beautiful sound and rich reverberation just like a grand piano.
  • It provides the sound profiles of three grand piano styles with a long history: the Berlin Grand, which is known for its elegant clear sound and a reverberation that gives each performance rich melodic color; the Hamburg Grand, which delivers gorgeous power and strength with plenty of string resonance; and the Vienna Grand, which provides a calm and stately sound with rich bass and beautiful tones when the keys are played softly.
  • Of the three, the Berlin Grand sound was developed in collaboration with C. Bechstein, a piano maker with a history of over 160 years. As a result, the new models have moved beyond the realm of conventional digital pianos, demonstrating a commitment to nuanced sound creation.

Grand Acoustic System:

  • Represents the sound of a grand piano as it emanates from above and below the soundboard. The system delivers three­-dimensional sound with tonal elongation, expansion and depth.

Natural Grand Hammer Action Keyboard:

  • Combines spruce wooden key material as used in C. Bechstein grand pianos, and a new unique action mechanism that delivers the right hammer movement, which has a big impact on the playing response of a grand piano.
  • This allows the pianist to produce nuanced sound with a delicate touch that is essential for demonstrating the expressive power of the piano, while also enjoying reliable key response and supple playing comfort.

Scene feature:

  • Consists of 15 preset types for different composers such as Chopin and Liszt, as well as musical genres such as jazz and easy listening. The presets combine the best optimal tones, reverberation, and effects for the type of piece being played.
  • Users can also create and save their own presets.

Concert Play:

  • The spectacular sound of a live orchestra is recorded in a high­-quality digital format. By playing the piano together with the recorded orchestra, users can enjoy the feeling of performing at an orchestral concert.
  • The technology can also be used in practice, as it allows the tempo to be slowed, and also features rewind, fast forward, and repeat playback of A­B sections.

Hall Simulator:

  • Allows the pianist to enjoy the immersive sound found in different types of venues such as an Amsterdam church, or a classical concert hall in Berlin.
  • Also, the GP­500BP and GP­300 models enable users to switch between the Player’s Position, which provides a sense of playing a real grand piano, and three types of Listener’s Positions, which gives the pianist the effect of listening to the performance from the audience.

Benjamin Grosvenor (photo credit: Sussie Ahlberg)

A recent recipient of two Gramophone awards, young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor made his Queen Elizabeth Hall debut in a concert focusing on stylised dances – from the stately Allemandes and Sarabandes of a Bach Partita through Polonaises, Mazurkas, and Waltzes to a foot-tapping Boogie-Woogie for an encore. Read my full review for Bachtrack here

International Piano Series at the Southbank Centre

Another opportunity to see Alan Yentob’s superbly insightful and myth-dispelling programme about the tortures and the triumphs of making it as a concert pianist. With contributions from Benjamin Grosvenor (aged 12), Stephen Hough, Evgeny Kissin, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Joanna Macgregor, Lang Lang, and rare interviews by Arthur Rubenstein. Available via the BBC iPlayer here…….and a taster from YouTube