Any great musician would require a great instrument of their own. This goes the same for pianists as well. A good example would be Vladimir Horowitz, a famous Russian pianist. He used to tour around the world with his own personal Steinway when he was still playing concerts. For the past 160 years, the pianos of Steinway & Sons have been considered to be the finest in the world thanks to the superior craftmanship and performance.
The fact is that majority of concert halls and conservatories in America own Steinways and pianists such as Lang Lang as well as Billy Joel are Steinway artists. More recently this fall, Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein played on 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. And for the listeners, it is this experience of listening to the Steinway sound that has really cultivated what we think piano sound is,” he stated.
Since 1871, Steinway pianos have been built in a factory complex in the city. The company was founded by German immigrant Henry Englehard Steinway back in 1853. During that point of time, New York had dozens of piano manufacturers. “In very early days, they sought very much to create the standard piano of the world. Not the ‘average’ piano of the world, the standard, the one by which all others would be judged,” explained Robert Berger, Steinway director of Customer Satisfaction.
What’s more important is that those pianos were built to last. As of today, there is a workforce of 300 craftsmen and women in charge of turning out about 1,500 pianos a year in the Astoria factory. In all, it takes 11 months to build a Steinway grand, which features a total of 12,000 separate parts. The factory is like a beehive of activity. There is an area dedicated to gluing the thin laminates of wood together and putting them in a press to create the distinctive form of a grand piano. There is also another area for placing the sound boards into the case. After which, a cast iron plate is added, strings are added, the action – the hammers which hit the strings – is added. In all, a piano is tuned five times. During the process, the piano is also taken to a pounding room, where a machine bangs on all eighty-eight keys at once. This is to help “play in” the instruments. For more details, you can check it out here.