If you ask any pianist which company is undoubtably the top-of-the-market when it comes to quality pianos, nine out of ten times you will be answered with a single word – Steinway (or, if they really know their stuff they will give you the full name of this brand – Steinway & Sons)
Steinway pianos have been an important part of the history of this musical instrument since 1853 – that’s over a hundred and fifty years of craftsmanship! Originally based in New York City, Henry E Steinway (an immigrant to the United States from Germany) started this company by building pianos in his home, as he had done in his home country.
The first piano Steinway sold in America was the 483rd piano he had crafted in his lifetime. After all of this experience, it should be no surprise that he was truly an expert! Steinway’s fame grew quickly, and soon he was selling thousands of pianos made in his factory each year. These pianos have even received a royal warrant from Queen Victoria – an honour that indicates that a craftsman’s products have been supplied to the royal family.
The Steinway brand is now much larger than a single-family business. In 1988 Steinway & Sons put the finishing touches on their 500,000th piano! There have been many special editions created over the years, including ones with carved legs, special inlays or gold leaf covering the wooden surfaces.
Steinway does make two other brands – the “Boston” line (a mid-level piano) and the “Essex” line (an introductory-level piano). These two kinds of piano are definitely less expensive than an original Steinway, but this is because they are made in a factory in Asia (instead of New York or Germany) and use building materials of a lower quality. That being said, for being mid- or introductory- level instruments, they are of exceptional quality and craftsmanship.
Today Steinways are still in great demand – the United States’ factory produces 1500 pianos a year, and the German factory produces about the same number. There are also over one-hundred and thirty-five music schools (such as the famous arts school Julliard) that only use Steinway Pianos in their conservatory programs.
The most expensive piano that Steinway has ever produced was crafted in 2008 at the German Steinway factory. It took over four years to build, and is truly a work of art. It sold for $1.2 million!
While it can be fun to learn about incredible instruments like Steinway pianos, it is important to remember that a musician will be able to create beautiful music out of any instrument – whether a million dollar Steinway grand, or an old church upright.