Bechstein Piano History


In 1853 Carl Bechstein, having explored the secrets of French and English piano making, realizes that musicians are searching for a grand piano that will suit both robust virtuoso playing and a more delicate touch. On October 1st, 1853, he opens the C. Bechstein Piano Company in Berlin. His expertise and understanding of the musical trends of the time enable him to develop the C. Bechstein concept of sound and action. Bechstein goes on to win gold medals at the London International Exhibition in 1862. In 1880 a second factory is built in Berlin and a third in 1897.

Patriarch Carl Bechstein’s death in 1900 leaves his sons Edwin, Carl and Johannes to take over the leadership of the company. In 1901, they open Bechstein Hall on Wigmore Street in London, offering 300 concerts per year. The concert hall will be expropriated during the Second World War, and renamed “Wigmore Hall”.

Fifty years after its foundation, Bechstein employs 800 people and manufactures 4,500 instruments annually. A new showroom opens in Paris, on the prestigious rue Saint-Honoré. By 1919, some 1,100 workers produce 5,000 Bechstein pianos annually.

During World War II British and American bombardment destroy the production facilities. Bechstein is located in the American sector and in 1945 the US administration confiscates the company. In 1954 the company builds new production plants in Karlsruhe and Eschelbronn, in southern Germany. Later in 1963 Baldwin Piano Company takes over the Bechstein shares. Under American management, Bechstein ultimately lacks the rigor required to nurture market confidence.

During the 1980’s, in a time of changing values, the market for grand pianos grows tighter in Europe, and in 1986 Baldwin Piano sells its Bechstein shares to German master piano maker and entrepreneur Karl Schulze. In the course of the year, Bechstein opens new production facilities in Berlin-Kreuzberg and takes over Euterpe and W. Hoffmann, two formerly Berlin-based companies. Then in 1992 Bechstein takes over the Sächsische Pianofortefabrik in the small town of Seifhennersdorf, Saxony. In 1996 Bechstein goes public as a joint stock company once again. In 1999 the company opens the first Bechstein Center in Berlin, and by 2006, eight exquisite showrooms have opened throughout Germany.

A partnership in cooperation with the Korean musical instrument manufacturer Samick is launched in 2003. The new partner takes over the marketing for Bechstein instruments in important overseas markets. As a result of the capital increase between November 2004 and July 2005, Samick’s participation in Bechstein is reduced to 39%. Later that year, Bechstein and Samick found a joint venture in Shanghai, China, named “Berlin Bechstein Piano (Shanghai) Co. Ltd”. The new production plant manufactures affordable pianos exclusively for the Chinese market.

Most recently, after years of collaboration Bechstein takes over the partnership interest of Bohemia, the Czech piano manufacturer in 2007.

The New York C. Bechstein Centre is at 207 West 58th Street, between the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall.