Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Steinway & Sons

Music History Monday: An American Success Story

On March 5, 1853 – 165 years ago today – Steinway & Sons was founded in New York City by a German immigrant named Henry Steinway. Born Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, Henry Steinway’s life and accomplishments are a textbook example of the great American success story: of an immigrant and his family who by dint of the hardest work, ambition, sacrifice, artistry, and no small bit of genius created something of true and lasting import. Just as the 27-inch retinal display iMac on which I am writing this post saw its ancestor born in a garage in Cupertino, California, so the magnificent concert grand Steinway D (serial number 587837) that sits in my studio/office roughly five feet away from the computer saw its earliest ancestor built in a kitchen in Seesen, Germany in 1836. For the computer I must thank the Steves Jobs and Wozniak. For the piano, Henry Steinway and his sons. Heinrich Steinweg/Henry Steinway’s life reads like a combination rags-to-riches and disaster novel! He was the youngest of 12 children, born on February 15, 1797 in the village of Wolfshagen, in the Harz Mountains of central Germany. The timing and location of Heinrich’s birth were, well, unfortunate. The Napoleonic […]

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Music History Mondays: Steinway Concert Hall

On October 31, 1866 – 150 years ago today – Steinway Hall opened on East 14th Street, between Fifth Avenue and University Place in New York. (As a native of New York City, I would tell you that when a New Yorker says “New York”, she is referring specifically to the island of Manhattan. You got a problem with that?) Steinway Hall, which cost $90,786 to build there in 1866, served two mutually reinforcing purposes. Purpose one: to provide the city of New York with a state-of-the-art concert hall. To that end, Steinway Hall contained a concert hall with 2500 seats and a stage that could accommodate a 100-piece symphony orchestra. It was – at the time it opened – among the largest and certainly the most opulent and prestigious concert venue in New York City. It was the home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for 25 years: from the day it opened its doors in 1866 until 1891, when the orchestra moved to the newly built Carnegie Hall. Purpose two: to sell pianos! Steinway Hall’s grand showroom was big enough to display over 100 pianos. According to the president of Steinway & Sons, William Steinway (born Wilhelm Steinweg, […]

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