With 400 guests and around 370 employees, C. Bechstein Pianoforte AG celebrated its 170th anniversary at its factory in Seifhennersdorf. The company, founded by Carl Bechstein in Berlin on October 1, 1853, is one of the most important piano manufacturers in the world.
At the beginning of his speech, Stefan Freymuth, chairman of the board and main shareholder of the Berlin-based company, asked whether such an anniversary should be celebrated in times of war in Ukraine. Especially since C. Bechstein also has a small site near Kiev, which was directly affected by the war, although fortunately no employees were injured. Stefan Freymuth himself gave the answer: "We decided not to let a Russian aggressor spoil everything for us. During his visit to Ukraine in May of this year, he was able to see that it was the right decision. "In Lviv - that is, the former Lviv - and in Kiev, there was not a night without a bomb alert. But during the day and in the evening, until the curfew, the picture on the streets was completely different: the inhabitants wanted to enjoy life and party on the streets of the city center in the evening. So they didn't bow to Putin's bombing diktat either." Bechstein has supported Ukraine with many donations and will continue to do so in the future - "no matter how good or bad Bechstein is doing".
Freymuth then congratulated the "extraordinarily good and dedicated team, the Bechstein family," and listed some of the highlights of their work, such as the acquisition and restoration of the Ehrbar Hall in Vienna, the opening of several new C. Bechstein Centers, including in Vienna and Manchester, the significant expansion of the Seifhennersdorf and Hradec Králové factories, and the planned opening of the new Bechstein Hall in London's Wigmore Street in the spring of 2024. As Freymuth summarized, "You can see that we are looking forward with confidence and that we want to shape the future with enthusiasm.”
Among the many congratulators from around the world was Michael Kretschmer, Prime Minister of the Free State of Saxony, who emphasized: "Musical instrument manufacturing has a long tradition in Saxony. C. Bechstein Pianofortemanufaktur can also look back on an impressive development. Thanks to the commitment and high motivation of its employees, the company has been able to further develop the knowledge gained from tradition, experience and the latest research over generations. Seifhennersdorf has established itself as a world-class location for the manufacture of musical instruments.”
Prior to the festivity act, the guests from the worlds of music, business and politics were given a tour of the Saxon manufactory, which is already considered the most modern upright and grand piano factory in Europe and will be significantly expanded in the coming years. In economically difficult times, C. Bechstein is investing tens of millions of euros. "We are expanding our space here by more than three quarters of our existing production area," says Stefan Freymuth. "This large new building represents a strong commitment to our employees and to the Seifhennersdorf location here in Saxony.”
At the festivity act, Chinese pianist Haiou Zhang impressively demonstrated the quality of instruments built in Saxony on the C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand and brought the piano-loving audience to its feet with works from the Romantic period. Zhang's program also included two virtuoso arrangements by Franz Liszt, who at the end of his life thanked the now internationally famous Berlin piano manufacturer Carl Bechstein as follows: "An assessment of your instruments can only be a complete commendation. For 28 years I have played your instruments and they have maintained their supremacy". Liszt's student Hans von Bülow was a close friend of Carl Bechstein and also premiered Liszt's famous Piano Sonata in B Minor in Berlin on January 22, 1857 - a triumphant success for both the composer and the young piano maker.
Today, C. Bechstein is probably the last manufacturer of grand and upright pianos of the highest category in Germany, or more precisely in Berlin: More than 700 employees work in the two manufactories in Seifhennersdorf and Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic, in the Berlin headquarters and in the 18 C. Bechstein Centers worldwide.
"I have only had the fabulous good fortune to have God at my work table," Carl Bechstein observed in 1868. And his great legacy continues to delight thousands of pianists worldwide.
The detailed history of C. Bechstein Pianoforte AG can be found here.
We are happy to answer journalists' questions.
Gregor Willmes, Head of Cultural Management
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Photos: © Hans Friedrich / C. Bechstein