News Article By Julie Englefield, taken from: The Australian, Friday June 27th, 2003

Dynasties and ivories

It's turning
150, but
grand is
still hitting
the high
notes. Julie


Piano of choice: Admired for their richness of tone Steinways have been in demand since 1853

Whiz: William Steinway and his family

Steinway & Sons today crafts about 5000 pianos each year. The total number of pianos produced since 1853 is slightly more than 560,000. To put this in perspective, a single high-volume manufacturer with a dedicated production line can produce that many units in a few months.

In 1897, J. B. Tiffany (of the family that founded the New York jeweller Tiffany & Co) was employed to create artcase pianos; unique designs for the most illustrious citizens in the US, including Cornelius Vanderbilt and F. W. Woolworth.

In 2003, its 150th anniversary year, Karl Lagerfeld has designed a piano for Steinway & Sons, A small number will be available in Australia.

Growing numbers of non-musician clients are purchasing Steinway pianos -- after all, not only musicians appreciate a good sound.

Inventor Thomas Edison purchased a Steinway in 1890. A handwritten note still in the Steinway archives reads: "I have decided to keep your grand piano. For some reason unknown to me it gives better results than any so far tried. Please send bill with lowest price."

Leading jazz pianists celebrate 150 years of Steinway at the Basement in Sydney on Monday. Details: Theme & Variations Piano Services, (02) 9439 5277. Julie Englefield is product manager for Steinway at Theme & Variations Piano Services in NSW.

"I KNOW a fine way to treat a Steinway," goes Irving Berlin's 1915 song, I Love a Piano. By 1915, Berlin didn't need to explain the name Steinway and today, 150 years after Steinway was founded in a Manhattan loft, the Steinway artists' roster numbers 1300-plus.

More than 97 per cent of the world's concert pianists choose a Steinway, and even jazz and rock legends claim Steinway as their favourite instrument. Harry Connick Jr says that "with a tone so rich, I could never be afraid of the dark" and the piano man, Billy Joel, says "nothing compares to a Steinway piano".

In 1825, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg played the organ for his own wedding in the German village of Seesen, while his new wife, Julianne, worked the bellows. Less than half a century later, his fortunes and the future of the world's piano

virtuosos had changed dramatically.

Steinweg and his family migrated to the US in 1850 and in 1853, he founded Steinway & Sons, The first piano under the Steinway name was sold in the US; No 483. Today, this piano is on display in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Through Steinweg's sons, a combination of engineering skill (C. F. Theodore) and marketing genius (William) ensured that Steinway rapidly became a household name. Gregarious and stylish, William was Mr Music of New York in the mid to late 1800s. In 1866, he built the first Steinway Hall. With a capacity of 2000, this venue became a cornerstone of the city's cultural life, hosting not only concerts but a reading series by Charles Dickens, the first piano concert transmitted by telephone and, oddly enough,

"For some reason unknown to me it gives better results than any so far tried"

Thomas Edison
Steinway owner

the occasional seance.

The emerging middle class in the US believed the piano was the ideal instrument for women to play, as they could sit with their legs together (unlike with the harp or the cello) and converse at the same time. In the 1860s, as Theodore was developing Steinway's upright piano, he claimed "thousands of ladies will buy one for their drawing room".

In 1880, the Steinway family opened a factory in Hamburg, Germany, to service the growing demands of the European market. Overcoming strikes, stock market crashes and two world wars, sales of Steinway pianos continued.

During World War II the New York factory was contracted to make wooden parts for military transport gliders while the Hamburg factory was nearly destroyed by Allied bombing.