Steingraeber & Söhne Piano History

Steingraeber & Söhne

The story begins in 1820’s Germany. At that time, Gottlieb Steingraeber had a pianoforte factory in Arnshauck, Thuringia. His nephew, Eduard Steingraeber, apprenticed in the factory, and in 1852 passed his Master Craftsman’s exam. Five months later, on August 17, 1852, he moved the factory to Bayreuth, Bavaria. It was in Bayreuth that Eduard completed his “Opus 1”, a revolutionary masterpiece in which he combined Viennese and English mechanical systems.

Within the span of three decades he built the firm into Bavaria’s largest and most important upright and grand piano maker, at the service of the Bavarian Royal House and the Dukes of Saxe-Coburg. The company has been a regular recipient of international awards since 1867. The legendary model 205 was manufactured in 1873 particularly for composer Franz Liszt. It was in 1875 that Richard Wagner ordered his personal piano from Steingraeber. The following year Steingraeber supplied pianos for the first Bayreuth Festival and the Wagner family. Then in 1881, Wagner commissioned a special piano for the temple scenes in “Parsifal”. The instrument was used at the premiere performance and then intermittently at the Bayreuth Festival until 1974.

The third generation began when Eduard’s sons, Georg and Burkhard, join the company in 1892. Both brothers dedicate themselves to the development of keyboard instrument making. Georg became the creative head of the family. His designs have been preserved in the latest E-272, D-232, C-212 and A-170 models. Burkhard later takes over sole management of the factory (he is memorialized in the model 130 upright piano) and in 1901 receives an Imperial patent for the invention of the “grand piano mechanism with new repetition springs”. World-renowned designers began to fashion Steingraeber piano cabinets in 1906.

In the early part of the 20th century, Burkhard’s daughter Lilly Steingraeber and her husband, the music historian Dr. Heinz Hermann, join forces to lead the firm. Their nephew, Heinrich Schmidt-Steingraeber, joins the company in 1932. Together with his wife Magdalene, they later takes the reins throughout the post-war and reconstruction periods, modernizing the factory in 1960 and producing new models of grand pianos.

Heinrich and Magdalene’s son, Udo Schmidt-Steingraeber, becomes manager of the factory in 1980 – the sixth generation. Since then, Steingraeber has expanded to the worldwide market, attending their first fair in China in 1984 and in the USA in 1985. New construction designs have been conceived and special developments have been formed, including pedals for disabled persons, ecological pianos, and anti-allergy pianos.

One of the most recent advancements was the manufacture of the first “PHOENIX” grand piano in 2006, according to the patent of British inventor Richard Dain. The PHOENIX bridge agraffe system with adjustable hitch pins creates a brighter harmonic spectrum, increasing sustain, volume and clarity. This grand piano design has been enhanced with additional pianissimo function, by reduced hammer blow distance, of the una corda pedal (half-blow pedal). A carbon fiber soundboard improves tuning stability and piano durability.

For the past 20 years, Steingraeber & Söhne has received more awards than any other piano company for excellence, including the prestigious Paris Piano “Best of the Very Best” award. Through the years the family tradition has remained. So have the international awards, the historic residence of the firm and, above all, the goodwill of important artists worldwide. Again and again, Steingraeber & Söhne has led the way in new developments that inspire the construction of world-class instruments.