At Steinway & Sons, Tradition is the Key

Audio: The Art of Modern Piano Making

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Steinway & Sons "bible" takes up a large wall outside Andy Horbachevsky's office. Multiple shelves hold the blue binders that keep the Steinway process. It's there to make sure, as Horbachevsky says, they don't drift too far from "the original recipe."

Steinway & Sons is a 159-year-old company with deep roots in New York City. Many of the piano-making processes used nearly eight decades ago are still employed today.

"It's really a craft operation in every sense of that word," said Horbachevsky, vice president of manufacturing at Steinway & Sons. "The thing we kind of have working against us is we don't produce tens-of-thousands or hundreds-of-thousands of instruments a year. That's really the challenge that we have. How do we balance the craftsmanship but, at the end of the day, we have to produce a profitable instrument so we're here for another 159 years."

In the video below, Horbachevsky, along with journalist James Barron, who wrote the 2006 book, Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand, take us on a tour of the Steinway "craft operation" in Astoria, Queens.

Contributors:

Jeff Spurgeon

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Comments [1]

Harry from Brooklyn, NY

Steinway organizes tours on request for interested groups, and I went on one a few years ago. I realize you can only cover so much ground in a short video, but I wish you had shown more of the hand-crafting that still goes into the pianos; pointed out that most employees (over the company's entire history) have been immigrants, since Americans rarely learn the necessary skills; shown at least a glimpse of the "pounding room," where mechanical hammers take the stiffness out of new pianos. (A colleague asked if they had commissioned the score from John Cage.) Other details stick in the mind -- the vaporizers all over the plant to control the rate wood loses or absorbs moisture, the elaborate system to collect sawdust (a fire hazard), the dominance of women in the Action department (they have smaller hands), and the occasional special order, whether exotic veneers or, in our case, a lime-green piano with orange keys, destined for Las Vegas.

Jun. 01 2012 11:40 PM

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