We visited Steinway & Sons in Hamburg

Everyone had a unique experience who participated on the professional trip organized by Opera Zongoraterem for its partners, visiting the firm and the showroom of Steinway & Sons piano factory in Hamburg. The walk took place on Monday, 14th October 2019, from our school Balázs Juhász piano teacher, Beáta Juhász-Bibók coordinator, and one of our students, Ádám Bodolai took part. The significance of the event was increased by János Balázs concert pianist awarded with Kossuth Prize, who received the most prestigious international award for young pianists on the spot.

The principle of the piano factory founded in 1853: “to build the best piano possible” (Henry E. Steinway). We witnessed this in the factory in Hamburg, where we could get a glimpse of almost every phase of production. In the yard, visitors are greeted with the national flag.

First, we looked at the lumber yard for storing high-quality wood raw materials from different parts of the world, where the wood is dried for years under free air flow, with regular monitoring of the moisture content. After that, we could observe the construction of the body of a model D-274, the 20 layers being glued together and bent into shape, where the wood is under pressure for more than 3 months and then rests for a month. We were also able to witness the selection of the wood used for the soundboard, for which only wood with a dense grain and without pattern defects is used. We were able to observe the precise fitting of the bridge and the casting to the soundboard, we also had a look at the installation of the tuning pegs and strings. Controlling the mechanics and intoning the hammer heads require the most patience, as this is all done without instruments, relying only on the human ear. The body of the piano gets its shiny finish in the last phase.

The tour ended in the selection room, where a few A, A/S, C, and many B and D models are lined up. Artists who want to choose a new piano for themselves or institutions are also invited here. The corridor and office walls are covered with portrait photos and testimonials of Steinway Artist pianists.

We were not allowed to take photographs in the working area of the factory, so only the pictures above were taken at the beginning and end of the tour. The production process can be seen in the video below, on the YouTube channel of Steinway & Sons.

The showroom is located almost opposite the factory, where, in addition to Steinway & Sons basic models and Boston, Essex pianos, Steinway & Sons pianos with limited editions and special designs are also on display.

On the south side of the store is the Horowitz Hall, where concerts are also held, and a Lang Lang Black Diamond B-211 model is currently available. A total of only 88 of this type were built. We also had the opportunity to try this wonderful instrument.

Gerrit Glaner, the artistic director of Steinway & Sons, gave a short greeting and then invited János Balázs concert pianist awarded with Kossuth Prize to perform a small recital of Hungarian piano works.

Liszt: The fountains of the Villa d'Este, followed by the 6th Hungarian Rhapsody, and the Blue Danube waltz, transcribed by György Cziffra.

After the recital, a ceremony took place, Gerrit Glaner read and then handed over to János Balázs the letter that in most cases he only has the opportunity to send to artists by post: an invitation to be one of the ambassadors of Steinway & Sons, that is, the Young Steinway Artist title, which is given to young artists under the age of 35. With the title, the excellent artists undertake to choose a Steinway piano for their concerts (where possible), to own a Steinway piano themselves (or possibly a Boston piano for young people), and to write a short recommendation.

“Steinway is able to make the sound of my dreams come true, the sound I hear in my soul.”

János Balázs

Spirio Lounge opened at the port, right next to Elbphilharmonie. A black B-211 model equipped with a Spirio system is currently on display.

Spirio is the first high-definition self-play system that offers an experience that rivals a live performance. With the help of the accompanying iPad, a huge music library opens up and conjures recordings of many artists into the living room. Without activating the function, these pianos can of course be used for practice and live concerts in the same way as basic models.

In the store, we had the opportunity to get to know both sides of the model on display, to the delight of those who were watching from the street and those who came into the store.