Steinway & Sons: Craftwork, Tradition, and Time Build Grand Pianos Steinway & Sons remains one of the best-known producers of concert pianos in the world. Throughout its great history, the company has shown a distinctive talent at innovation, as evidenced by its more than 100 patents, and is known for quality workmanship. In an age of mass production, Steinway continues to manufacture a limited number of handmade pianos in a unique testament to individual craftsmanship. However, some rival piano makers, such as Yamaha, have tried to challenge Steinway’s dominance of the concert piano market. (1) Can Steinway continue its cherished ways, or will it need to adjust to new circumstances?
A Long and Golden History
German immigrant Henry Enghelhart Steinway founded Steinway & Sons in 1853. Henry was a master cabinet maker who built his first piano in the kitchen of his home in Seesen, Germany. Henry had built 482 pianos by the time he established Steinway & Sons. The first piano produced by the company, number 483, was sold to a New York family for $500. It is now displayed at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Steinway’s unique quality became obvious early in the history of the firm as proven by its winning gold medals in several American and European exhibitions in 1855. The company gained international recognition in 1867 at the Paris Exhibition when it was awarded the prestigious “Grand Gold Medal of Honor” for excellence in manufacturing and engineering. (2) Henry Steinway developed his pianos with emerging technical and scientific research, including the acoustical theories of the renowned physicist Herman von Helmhotz. Steinway was owned in the 1970s by CBS, and many concert artists complained that the quality of the pianos had suffered as a result of that ownership. Pianists talked of the “Teflon controversy,” when Steinway replaced some fabric innards with Teflon (it now coats the Teflon with fabric). Steinway was sold by CBS in 1985,...
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