Henry Engelhard Steinway, a German immigrant, founded Steinway & Sons in 1853, in a loft located at 85 Varick Street in New York City. Within a decade, Steinway pianos were winning major awards and finding themselves in high demand. By 1900, factories in New York and Hamburg, Germany were producing 3,500 hand-crafted pianos per year, roughly the same number being made today. Then, as now, each Steinway grand piano took a year to build, and it involved the work of many skilled craftspeople.
Several decades ago, John H. Steinway (the great-grandson of Henry E. Steinway) narrated an audio tour of the New York factory, where he described the generations-old process of making a Steinway grand piano.
In 2011 Ben Niles, the producer behind the documentary film Note by Note, synced the audio tour with present-day footage of the Steinway factory, giving us a glimpse of what goes into making the piano played by Arthur Rubinstein in the vintage footage below. Here Rubinstein plays an excerpt from “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
And if you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!