News / Arts & Entertainment

    Finest Musicians Turn to Steinway Pianos

    Most concert halls and conservatories in America own Steinways pianos. (Photo courtesy of Steinway & Sons)
    Most concert halls and conservatories in America own Steinways pianos. (Photo courtesy of Steinway & Sons)
    Great pianists need great pianos. Vladimir Horowitz, the famous Russian pianist, used to travel with his own personal Steinway when he played concerts around the world.

    For 160 years, the pianos of Steinway & Sons have been considered the finest in the world thanks to superior craftmanship and performance.  

    Most concert halls and conservatories in America own Steinways, and pianists from Lang Lang to Billy Joel are Steinway artists. This fall, Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein used a Steinway when he appeared with the New York Philharmonic.

    “I think generations of pianists’ muscular/nervous systems have been shaped by how the action feels and how the action and the sound merge into this playing experience," Gerstein said. "And for the listeners, it is this experience of listening to the Steinway sound that has really cultivated what we think piano sound is.”

    Finest Musicians Turn to Steinway Pianos
    Finest Musicians Turn to Steinway Pianos i
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    Steinway pianos have been built, since 1871, in a factory complex in the city. The company was founded by German immigrant Henry Englehard Steinway in 1853, when New York had dozens of piano manufacturers.  

    “In very early days, they sought very much to create the standard piano of the world," said Robert Berger, Steinway director of Customer Satisfaction. "Not the 'average' piano of the world,  the standard, the one by which all others would be judged.”

    And those pianos were built to last. Today, a workforce of 300 craftsmen and women turns out about 1,500 pianos a year in the Astoria factory.

    A craftsman works on a Steinway piano in the company's Astoria, New York, factory. (Photo courtesy of Steinway & Sons)A craftsman works on a Steinway piano in the company's Astoria, New York, factory. (Photo courtesy of Steinway & Sons)
    It takes 11 months to build a Steinway grand, which features 12,000 separate parts. 

    The factory is a beehive of activity. In one area, thin laminates of wood are glued together and put in a press, to create the distinctive form of a grand piano. In another area, so-called belly men put the sound boards into the case. A cast iron plate is added, strings are added, the action - the hammers which hit the strings - is added.  

    Pianos are tuned five times, in all.  Twice, during this process, pianos are taken to a pounding room, where a machine bangs on all eighty-eight keys at once, to help “play in” the instruments.   

    A whole other area of the factory is devoted to restoring vintage Steinways.  

    “July 2nd of this year was my 40th year with the company," said Bill Youse, who runs the department. "I am also a third-generation Steinway employee. And I am third of four generations, my son actually works here, as well.”

    Youse says the pianos are excellent because generations of workers have all been dedicated to the same goal.

    “Aside from some of the materials, like the glues and things which have improved throughout the years, the piano is very, very much the same piano that you would have gotten back in the late 1800s,” he said.

    And one of his co-workers has been with Steinway for more than half a century.
        
    “I am the last one to touch the piano before it leaves the factory," said Wally Boot. "I am the final tone inspector. I have been here 51 years and my job is to listen to the piano and makes sure that it sounds even and that everything works.”

    And few things work like a Steinway. Boot, who grew up two blocks from the factory, says every piano has its own personality.

    “If it were a bright piano, it would be like a jazz piano," he said. "If it is a mellow piano, it is more for the house, or for chamber music...a model B, this would be a concert piano,” he said.  

    This level of care and craftsmanship helps explain why a new Steinway piano can cost anywhere from $55,000 to $145,000, depending on the model. Steinway's Berger says these pianos often become a treasured family heirloom, passed from generation to generation.  

    “A new owner will say something to the effect of, ‘It has been a lifelong dream of mine to own a Steinway piano,’ or ‘I have saved for years, in order to buy this piano and I have finally realized my dream.’”

    Hedge fund billionaire John Paulson recently bought the company, striking fear in the hearts of musicians. Would the famously hand-crafted pianos be changed, for the sake of efficiency?

    Paulson, who owns several Steinways himself, says nothing will change, so that this hand-crafted dream will continue for years to come.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, here's what the history of take-out food tells us about changes in American society

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs