C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik


C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik

C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik AG (FWB|BEP) (also known as Bechstein) is a German manufacturer of pianos, highly regarded for their concert grand pianos [Larry Fine. The Piano Book (4th edition 2001; Jamaica Plain, MA: Brookside Press; ISBN 1-929145-01-2).] as well as upright pianos. [Page 57, The Piano. The New Grove musical instruments series. W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 1988. ISBN 0-393-30518x] Bechstein has been making pianos since 1853. [Oxford music dictionary]

History

Before Bechstein

Young Carl Bechstein studied and worked in France and England as a piano craftsman, before he became an independent piano maker. His first pianos were made for other companies. [Piano. Barnes & Noble, 1995.]

C. Bechstein

C. Bechstein piano factory was founded on 1 October 1853 by Carl Bechstein in Berlin, Germany. [http://www.grovemusic.com/shared/views/article.html?section=music.02460#music.02460 "Bechstein"] , "Grove Music Online", 2007. Accessed June 2 2007.]

Carl Bechstein set out to manufacture a piano able to withstand the great demands imposed on the instrument by the virtuosi of the time, such as Franz Liszt. In 1857, Hans von Bülow (Liszt's son-in-law) gave the first public performance on a Bechstein grand piano by performing Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor in Berlin.

By 1870, with the endorsements by Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow, Bechstein pianos became a staple at many concert halls, as well as in private mansions. By that time three piano makers became established as the industry leaders across the world: Bechstein, Blüthner and Steinway & Sons. [ Page 60, The Piano. The New Grove musical instruments series. W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 1988. ISBN 0-393-30518x] [Encyclopedia of the Piano (Music - Reference) (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities) 521 pages, 1996. ISBN-10: 0815325827]

In 1885 Bechstein first supplied a piano to Queen Victoria.Bechstein. Tradition. Timeline for year 1885 [http://www.bechstein.de/aboutbechstein/tradition/default.aspx] ] A gilded art-case piano was first delivered to the Buckingham Palace, then several more Bechstein pianos were delivered to the Windsor Castle and to other royal residences. [C. Bechstein 1896 trademark [http://books.google.com/books?id=8VUvAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA487&lpg=PA487&dq=bechstein+hoflieferant&source=web&ots=SpPatqT1au&sig=aKB0nGnrzZXc1_aErnuiaMQ6YL0&hl=en] ] Liste von Empfängern Bechsteinscher Flügel finden sich Majestäten und Fürstlichkeiten aus vielen Ländern: insgesamt 62 Persönlichkeiten aus Deutschland (darunter auch der Herzog von Sachsen- Coburg-Gotha, der Heimat Bechsteins), Englang, Rußland und Schweden. In London, Paris und St. Petersburg entstanden Auslieferungszentren, in London gab es -wie in Berlin- sogar einen Bechstein-Konzertsaal ( Bechstein-Hall, heute Wigmore-Hall). Lieferungen erfolgten in insgesamt 153 inner- und außereuropäische Länder und Städte; Bechstein durfte sich Hoflieferant für 16 Herrscherhäuser in Deutschland, England, Italien, Spanien, Rumänien, Schweden und Norwegen nennen. Bernd Rühle: Carl Bechstein (1826-1900) Über Leben und Lebenswerk eines grossen Klavierbauers... [http://www.carl-bechstein-gymnasium.de/hp_neu_05/profil/artikel/geschichte/erkner/erkneranerhefte/heft3.pdf] ] By January 1886 they were among the piano manufacturers holding a Royal Warrant as a supplier to the Queen. [LondonGazette|issue=25546|startpage=66|date=5 January 1886|accessdate=2008-03-11] Several British embassies across the world acquired Bechstein pianos to replace lesser pianos. Also in 1885, Bechstein opened a branch in London, that eventually grew to become the largest showroom and dealership in Europe, and then, a few years later, opened showrooms in Paris, and in Vienna.

By 1890 branches were opened in Paris, Saint Petersburg and London, where the company spent £100,000 to build Bechstein Hall, adjacent to its London showroom at 36-40 Wigmore Street. It opened on 31 May, 1901. Between 1901 and 1914, C. Bechstein was the largest piano dealership in London. At that time, Bechstein was the official piano maker for the tsars of Russia, the royal families of Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Austria and Denmark, and other royalty and aristocracy. The list of royal clients of Bechstein may be found on the soundboard of vintage Bechstein pianos made before the Second World War. The list is part of the original Bechstein trademark logo; it can be seen under the strings in the center of a piano's soundboard. [C. Bechstein 1896 trademark [http://books.google.com/books?id=8VUvAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA487&lpg=PA487&dq=bechstein+hoflieferant&source=web&ots=SpPatqT1au&sig=aKB0nGnrzZXc1_aErnuiaMQ6YL0&hl=en] ] [Liste von Empfängern Bechsteinscher Flügel finden sich Majestäten und Fürstlichkeiten aus vielen Ländern: insgesamt 62 Persönlichkeiten aus Deutschland (darunter auch der Herzog von Sachsen- Coburg-Gotha, der Heimat Bechsteins), Englang, Rußland und Schweden. In London, Paris und St. Petersburg entstanden Auslieferungszentren, in London gab es -wie in Berlin- sogar einen Bechstein-Konzertsaal ( Bechstein-Hall, heute Wigmore-Hall). Lieferungen erfolgten in insgesamt 153 inner- und außereuropäische Länder und Städte; Bechstein durfte sich Hoflieferant für 16 Herrscherhäuser in Deutschland, England, Italien, Spanien, Rumänien, Schweden und Norwegen nennen. Bernd Rühle: Carl Bechstein (1826-1900) Über Leben und Lebenswerk eines grossen Klavierbauers... [http://www.carl-bechstein-gymnasium.de/hp_neu_05/profil/artikel/geschichte/erkner/erkneranerhefte/heft3.pdf] ]

The years from the 1870s through 1914 brought Bechstein their most dramatic increase in sales. In 1880 a second Bechstein factory was opened in Berlin, and the third factory was opened in 1897 in Berlin Kreuzberg. By 1900 - 1910 production reached five thousand pianos per year, so Bechstein was the largest maker of high-end pianos in the world. At that time about three quarters of production went to international markets, especially Britain and the Commonwealth, and in Russia.

Carl Bechstein died in 1900, and the Bechstein company continued operations under the management of his sons.

Between 1900 and 1914 C. Bechstein was one of the leading piano makers in the world with 1100 craftsmen and workers, making five thousand pianos per year.

First World War

C. Bechstein suffered huge property losses in London, Paris, and St. Petersburg during World War I. The largest loss was in London. Although the company's position in the United Kingdom was initially unaffected, with the company still listed as holding a Royal Warrant in January 1915, [LondonGazette|issue=29026|startpage=29|date=1 January 1915|accessdate=2008-03-14] Warrants to both King George V, and his wife Queen Mary were cancelled on 13 April 1915. [LondonGazette|issue=29127|startpage=3577|date=13 April 1915|accessdate=2008-03-14] Bechstein was not the only musical concern to be affected by the growing anti-German sentiment, there were early attempts, lead by William Boosey, to boycott German music altogether, and later in 1915, despite previously being made a Baronet and Privy Counsellor, Sir Edgar Speyer, who was then funding the Proms was forced to leave the country. ["The Proms: A new history", Chapter 2, Leanne Langley, edited Jenny Doctor, David Wright and Nicholas Kenyon, pp.62 and 67, published 2007, ISBN 0-500-51352-X] Following the passing of the Trading with the Enemy Amendment Act 1916 the British arm of the company was wound-up on 5 June 1916, [LondonGazette|issue=29613|startpage=5631|date=6 June 1916|accessdate=2008-03-14] all Bechstein property, including the concert hall and showrooms full of pianos, were seized as "enemy property" and closed. In 1916 the hall was sold as alien property at auction to Debenhams for £56,500. It was renamed Wigmore Hall, and then re-opened under the new name in 1917. All 137 Bechstein pianos at the Bechstein showrooms were confiscated too, and became property of the new owner of the Hall. [ [http://www.wigmore-hall.org.uk/about/history.cfm "Wigmore Hall - A Short History"] , "Wigmore Hall Official Website", 2007. Accessed June 1 2007.]

Between the wars

Eventually the Bechstein factory resumed full-scale production during the 1920s. At that time, technical innovations and inventions of new materials and tools, as well as improvements in piano design and construction, had allowed Bechstein to become one of the leading piano makers again.

The most successful models were the updated "A"-185 and "B"-208 grand pianos. The upright pianos became more popular after the war, and C. Bechstein were successful with its upright pianos Model-8 and Model-9, both of which have been considered the finest upright pianos. [Page 57, The Piano. The New Grove musical instruments series. W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 1988. ISBN 0-393-30518x] [Oxford music dictionary]

In 1930 the company collaborated with German electrical goods manufacturer Siemens under Nobel laureate Walther Nernst to produce one of the first electric pianos, the "Neo-Bechstein" or "Siemens-Bechstein" electric grand, using electromagnetic pickups.

econd World War

In 1945, allied bombing raids destroyed the Bechstein piano factory in Berlin, along with the firm's stores of valuable wood, including the precious Alpine spruce used to make soundboards. The war also cost the company many of its experienced craftsmen. For several years after the war, Bechstein could not resume full-scale production of pianos and made only a few pianos per year. [Encyclopedia of the Piano (Music - Reference) (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities) 521 pages, 1996. ISBN-10: 0815325827]

After WWII

C. Bechstein eventually increased piano production to about a thousand pianos per year during the 1950s and '60s. However, the new economic situation in the post-war world was hard for the piano business. In 1961 the Bechstein piano factory was affected by the construction of the Berlin Wall. The ownership of C. Bechstein had changed several times. Up until the reunification of Germany, the company was making fewer pianos, although the quality of craftsmanship remained high.

In 1953, the centennial of Bechstein was celebrated by the Berlin Philharmonic under Wilhelm Furtwangler and Wilhelm Backhaus. Many entertainers and concert pianists, such as Leonard Bernstein, Jorge Bolet, and Wilhelm Kempff, favored Bechstein pianos. The State Ministry of Culture of the Soviet Union made a contract to supply major state philharmonic orchestras and concert halls across the USSR with three brands of pianos - Steinway, Bluthner, and Bechstein. Bluthner and Bechstein were also made the staple practice pianos at the Leningrad Conservatory and Moscow Conservatory, while most other music schools of the USSR were limited mainly to the Soviet-made pianos. Concert pianists, such as Dinu Lipatti, Shura Cherkassky, Tatiana Nikolaeva, Vladimir Sofronitsky, and Sviatoslav Richter, among others, often chose Bechstein pianos for their studio recordings.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall

Due to reunification of Germany and elimination of the Berlin Wall, the land formerly belonging to the Bechstein factory was used for new construction in the capital. However, Karl Schulze, a piano enthusiast and co-owner of Bechstein, had continued the legacy of fine pianomaking. The new Bechstein factories began production of several brand names under the Bechstein group. Hoffmann was the mid-level brand while C. Bechstein remained the flagship brand.

In 1992 Bechstein started a new factory in Saxony with investment of 15 million Euros. In 1996 C. Bechstein went public. By 2006 the company opened eight upscale showrooms, increasing the number of Bechstein dealerships in major cities across Europe, North America and Asia. Since 2003, Bechstein formed partnership with Samick with the samick's participation in Bechstein limited to 39%. In 2005 the Bechstein/Samick joint venture opened their new piano factory in Shanghai, China. In 2006 a new Bechstein/Hoffman joint factory was opened in Bohemia, Czech Republic, and a new Bechstein center with a showroom and a concert hall is planned to be built in Moscow, Russia. [http://www.bechstein.de/aboutbechstein/tradition/default.aspx]

Artcase pianos

Bechstein has been known as a maker of one-of-a-kind artcase pianos since the 19th century. Artcase pianos were commissioned by interior designers for royal palaces and fancy mansions. Artists and craftsmen were hired by C. Bechstein to make special pianos decorated with gold, hand-carved details, and hand-painted art on the piano case. Some of the artcase Bechsteins are now museum pieces, while others are sometimes traded at musical-instrument auctions, mainly in London and New York.

Performers

Students and followers of Hans von Bülow and Franz Liszt also developed loyalty to Bechstein pianos.

Alexander Scriabin owned a concert-size Bechstein at his Moscow home, which is now a national museum, and Scriabin's piano is still played at scheduled recitals. Tatiana Nikolaeva preferred the Bechstein for her acclaimed recordings of the music of Bach. Sviatoslav Richter grew up studying piano on a Bechstein and remembered his experience with that piano as stimulating and rewarding.

For his studio recording of the music of Chopin and Beethoven, Dinu Lipatti used a Bechstein piano.

Edwin Fischer chose a Bechstein piano for his pioneering recording of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, as did Artur Schnabel for his cycle of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. Both artists were very fond of Bechstein's pianos, as were many of last century's leading pianists, such as Wilhelm Kempff and Wilhelm Backhaus.Fact|date=June 2007

Freddie Mercury of the British pop band Queen played a Bechstein piano on the best-selling album "A Night at the Opera".

The Beatles used a Bechstein concert grand piano for recording Hey Jude and the "White Album" tracks "Dear Prudence, Honey Pie, Savoy Truffle and Martha My Dear, I Want You (She's So Heavy) for the album Abbey Road", all at the Trident Studios.

Elton John recorded "Your Song" and many other tracks on a handmade Bechstein concert-sized instrument that was over one hundred years old at the Trident Studios in London. Its classic sound was much sought after.

Awards

*In 1862, C. Bechstein received the Gold Award at the London International Exhibition.
*In 2007, C. Bechstein was awarded the iF Gold Award for C. Bechstein Piano Model Millennium.

Competition

Bechstein was always in competition with Steinway & Sons, although the Bechstein sound is very different from Steinway's. Today, Bechstein's upright pianos are especially revered — and are considered by some aficionados to sound better than many mid-range grand pianos.Who|date=June 2007

Today

Bechstein is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Major shareholders are Karl Schulze and Samick (19.5%) [ [http://www.bechstein.de/investorrelations/reports/default.aspx Bechstein Website Company Reports] ] of South Korea. In addition, Bechstein and Samick have a joint venture factory in Shanghai, China.

References

Further reading

*Hagen W. Lippe-Weißenfeld: "Das Klavier als Mittel politischer Distinktion im Zusammenhang mit der Entwicklung des Klavierbaus in London und Berlin an den Beispielen Broadwood und Bechstein. The piano as medium for political distinction in connection with the development of piano manufacturing in London and Berlin based on the examples of Broadwood and Bechstein". Dissertation Berlin 2006. [http://www.diss.fu-berlin.de/2006/457/index.html Online-Version]

External links

* [http://www.bechstein.com Bechstein Website, in English]
* [http://www.bechstein-centren.de/america Bechstein America]
* [http://www.bechstein.de/investorrelations/press/default.aspx Bechstein company reports]


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