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Bosendorfer Story

Bösendorfer ranks among the world´s oldest piano manufacturer, rich in tradition and world-famous for its unmistakably inspiring sound as well as the outstanding quality of its instruments. The selection of first-class materials and above all the extremely careful workmanship – most of which is still done by hand – distinguish each individual Bösendorfer. Our product range encompasses grand pianos in seven different sizes, from 170 to 290 cm in length, an upright "with the sound of a grand", as well as the CEUS Reproducing system, with which you can record your playing and play it back like magic. From generation to generation. Yet it is not magic that makes a Bösendorfer so special. Within every Bösendorfer piano lies not only a full year´s work, but also the know-how that has been passed down from one generation to the next since the company´s founding in 1828. Acquiring a Bösendorfer is a lifetime dream for many people. For them, we build something very special, with devotion and professionalism: the "Bösendorfer among the grands"

The History

“Bösendorfer thus gave this city a new voice. To wit, he took the music-making voice of this city, extracted it out of the air, from the hearts of its people, from the depth of his own being and captured it in the ebony shrine of his pianos so that, enclosed within, it could be transported throughout the entire world. Now it resounds everywhere where people live.”

When the above quotation appeared in the Neue musikalische Presse (Vienna) in 1897, Bösendorfer had already become the quintessence of the Viennese style of sound. With its pianos, Bösendorfer had conquered concert podiums and salons everywhere in the Habsburg monarchy.

Many famous musicians and composers have lived or worked in Vienna: Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner, Johann Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler… all of them helped to shape this city’s musical culture, the music-making voice of the city. Only in this cultural environment—precisely in Vienna could so special an instrument as the Bösendorfer be developed.

The Bösendorfer piano company was established on July 25, 1828, when Ignaz Bösendorfer registered his business as a piano maker in Vienna. The imperial city was (already) considered a center for musical culture and a traditional city for piano music. Just under 150 self-employed piano builders made their living by musically catering to broad civil circles.

The Company Founder

Ignaz Bösendorfer was born in Vienna in 1794. The son of a carpentry master, he studied at the Academy of Fine Artsand, due to his great musicality and technical competence was sent to the well-known piano builder Joseph Brodman for an apprenticeship at the age of 19. With a starting capital of 500 gulden, he took over Brodman’s workshops in 1828.

Bösendorfer set about (constantly) improving its handmade pianos. The primary aspiration was to retain the character of the Viennese instrument, which is oriented toward a mellow string sound, while increasing its volume of sound. This necessitated a more stable construction and stronger stringing. Bösendorfer instruments’ full, singing, sustaining sound—even in the powerful bass register—would become the company’s hallmark in the ensuing 180 years.

At this time, the young genius Franz Liszt got to know the songful sound of Viennese pianos of the time. Like many great composers and pianists before and after him, he swore by the extraordinary qualities and subtleties of these instruments. Yet most of these pianos, which still had wooden frames, did not hold up to his powerful playing for long—until Liszt encountered an instrument by Bösendorfer. This prompted him to write, “The perfection of a Bösendorfer exceeds my most ideal expectations…” and the encounter led to a lifelong connection with the up-and-coming family of piano builders.

Imperial and Royal Fortepiano Purveyor to the Court

Word got around about the high quality of Bösendorfer pianos. The company won gold medals at industry exhibitions and in 1839 Emperor Ferdinand I granted Ignaz Bösendorfer the title of “Imperial and Royal Fortepiano Purveyor to the Court”—the first such title for a piano maker. The promotion to the even more highly esteemed title of Chamber Purveyor to the Emperor followed in 1858. Such ennobled quality soon paid off: Bösendorfer exports within Europe and overseas flourished and Bösendorfer eventually achieved first place among Austrian piano companies.

The Ingenious Son

The successful company founder, who was highly esteemed upon his death in 1859, was succeeded by his son Ludwig Bösendorfer. Ludwig carried on business very much on his father’s terms, delivered instruments to wealthy homes, made a name for his company at world exhibitions, cultivated artistic friendships and acted as a generous patron: In 1889, the winner of the Bösendorfer Piano Competition—which continues to this day—was awarded a “premium piano” for the first time.

In 1860, the company moved to a new factory in Neu-Wien (New Vienna), replete with an adjacent concert hall that seated 200 people. This factory also soon became too small; Bösendorfer moved again in 1870, this time to Graf Starhemberg Gasse 14 in Vienna’s Fourth District, where the company was headquartered until March 31, 2010. (Management, sales and marketing have been integrated in the factory in Wiener Neustadt since April 1, 2010.)

Dawn of the 21st century

Bösendorfer was purchased at the end of 2001 by the Austrian banking group BAWAG/PSK and led into the first years of the new millennium through the end of 2007.

In November 2002 the company was accorded a special prize: in recognition of its extraordinary accomplishments, concerning the Austrian economy, Bösendorfer was awarded the Coat of Arms of Austria by the Federal Minister of Economics and Labour.

In January 2008, BAWAG separated from the subsidiary company, which lay outside its industrial sector, and the Japanese corporate group Yamaha took over the well-established piano company. Yamaha values the colorful, personal sound of Bösendorfer pianos and their relation to Viennese music; the new proprietors are also aware of the cultural heritage which they assumed with the Bösendorfer sale.