Grotrian-Steinweg (known only as Gotrian in the United States) is a German manufacturer of supreme quality upright pianos and premium grand pianos.
The history of the company history dates back to 1835, they year when Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg built the very first Steinweg piano. He later emigrated from Europe to the United States where he founded a new piano manufacturing company; the famous Steinway & Sons. Both Grotrian-Steinweg and Steinway & Sons are known for making very high-end pianos sought after by pianists and piano aficionados, and they are typically deemed to be on the same level as Bösendorfers and Faziolis. According to renowned piano technician Larry Fine, modern Grotrian-Steinweg pianos are on par with Hamburg-built Steinways, and one step up from New York-built Steinways.
Ever since the 19th century, Grotrian-Steinweg has been based in the German city Braunschweig, commonly known as Brunswick in English. True to its roots, the company is still very much a family business. The major shareholders are the daughters of Erwin Grotrian-Steinweg and the son of Knut Grotrian-Steinweg.
Roughly 500 upright Grotrian-Steinweg pianos are produced in a year, available in six different sizes. The production of grand pianos is much smaller, with around one hundred created per annum. These coveted Grotrian-Steinweg grand pianos come in five different sizes. Approximately 20 concert grands are made in a year, with each concert grand taking eight months to manufacture.
The special 175-year Grotrian-Steinweg anniversary piano
To celebrate their 175 anniversary in 2010, Grotrian-Steinweg issued a special limited-edition anniversary upright piano model named Composé Exclusif. This model, of which only 50 were produced, measures 118 cm.
Through it all – surviving as a piano manufacturer in 20th century Europe
The first Steinweg piano was built by Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg in 1835. In 1856, Friedrich Grotrian became a partner and the name of the company was changed to Grotrian-Steinweg. Together with two associates, his son Wilhelm Grotrian bought the factory in 1865 and obtained the rights to market their pianos as successors to the original Steinweg brand. This solidified the brand´s strong ties with the Grotrian family, whose members worked tirelessly to ensure Grotrian-Steinweg´s long-lasting position as one of the top piano manufacturers in Germany. The Grotrian-Steinweg pianos received a lot of praise from leading 19th century European pianists, and the 1893 Chicago World´s Fair helped raise awareness of the brand among musicians in North America.
The roaring 1920s
By 1920, Grotrian-Steinweg was operating an orchestra and a concert hall in Germany, had sales rooms in half a dozen major German cities, and ran a piano sales room in London. Boosted by the economic boom, the 1920s were a great decade for company. Towards the end of the 1920s, before the stock market crash, Grotrian-Steinweg made 3,000 pianos a year and employed roughly one thousand people.
Getting back after war and depression
The economic depression of the 1930s and the ensuing World War II had a devastating impact on the Grotrian-Steinweg operations and the factory was completely lost. Determined not to give up, the family rebuilt the company in Braunschweig after the war and started creating the same supreme quality pianos as before. In the 1950s, they founded an annual piano-playing contest to identify and encourage promising young piano players.
In the 1960s, Grotrian-Steinweg attempted to enter the United States market, but ran into legal difficulties since Steinway & Sons sued them to keep them from using the Steinweg name. This is why Grotrian-Steinweg pianos are marketed and sold as Grotrian pianos in the United States. It also resulted in the Grotrian family changing their surname to Grotrian-Steinweg.
A new factory and new generation in charge
In the 1970s, Grotrian-Steinweg built a new factory in north-western Braunschweig. This was the final major project for Helmut and Erwin Grotrian-Steinweg, before they handed the reins over to Helmut´s son Knut Grotrian-Steinweg. He remained at the helm until 1999, when industrial manager and piano builder Burkhard Stein assumed responsibility of the company´s day-to-day operations.
As mentioned above, the Grotrian-Steinweg company is still very much a family business. The main shareholders are the daughters of Erwin Grotrian-Steinweg, and Jobst Grotrian – the son of Knut – also retains a notable ownership. Born in 1969, Jobst Grotrian represents the sixth generation of Grotrian piano manufacturers.