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History of Bechstein

A Brief History of Bechstein.

Carl Bechstein, born 1826, founded the piano factory “ C. Bechstein” in 1853, Berlin. Before then, he worked as an apprentice in many leading firms like Pleyel, Perau, Pape and Kriegelstein. His vision was to build quality upright pianos for the European market but started designing grand pianos when he heard the pianist Liszt often broke pianos on stage during his concerts. The modern way of playing the piano was too strong for the weak grand pianos of the day.

By 1867, his pianos were winning silver and gold awards at the London and Paris exhibitions. Using his knowledge of French actions, English powerful tone and American cross stringing design, his pianos were considered the best on the market. By the time the company was handed down to his three sons, Bechstein was world renowned and this lasted through to the beginning of the 20th century. Branches were opened in London, Paris, St Petersburg and Moscow. There were also concert halls owned by Bechstein. At one point by 1920, 5000 pianos a year were being built.

Unfortunately, like many other firms, the war and the great depression of the 1930s hurt the company and its production. His sons died and his daughter carried on the family piano making tradition but in much smaller numbers. This was in East Germany, which the Soviets controlled. However, Bechstein pianos were supplied to many music concert halls in the Soviet Union. In 1951, the company was back on its feet, making grand pianos. In 1963 the company was sold to Baldwin, an American piano firm, because investment was needed. This allowed Bechstein to carry on making pianos in Berlin. In 1986, Baldwin sold Bechstein to Karl Schulze who was a leading West German piano retailer and piano technician.

Karl re-organized the finances and technical elements of the company. This included modern factory practises along with new piano designs. This was a turning point for the company as before is was limping along in the modern market. With the improvements to both factory and pianos, by the 1990’s, it had acquired the names and German factories of Hoffmann, Zimmermann and Euterpe. The land where the old Berlin factory was sold during the renufication of East and West Germany and a new factory in Seifhennersdorf was started. The company was known as “Bechstein Group”.  In 2006, the company bought the Bohemia company in the Czech Republic and incorporated this under the new title “C. Bechstein Europe Ltd”. The Bechstein pianos are built in the Germany factory and Hoffmann pianos are built or assembled in the Czech factory. Zimmermann pianos cessed manufacturing in Germany in 2011, and is built in Asia for Bechstein who design the pianos and also oversee its production.

For a more detailed history of Bechstein then click here.