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Clang! Steinway Hall is sold to make homes for bankers

On the day the company was turned over to asset-strippers, the sale of its flagship was completed.

We read that: JDS Development is building a tower o’ condos on 57th Street, and today the developer officially acquired Steinway Hall, a site that will become part of the condo project. The 247,000-square-foot, 16-story building is located at 111 West 57th Street, and it, along with a vacant lot at 105-107 West 57th Street, will be home to a new mixed-use development by 2016.


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  1. PK Miller says:

    I don’t quite know what to0 say. I am profoundly saddened. I toured the Steinway showroom etc., twice. I am an organist & opera singer, fought my teachers when I HAD to take 4 years of piano before anyone would teach me the organ! But there is nothing like a Steinway. Even in today’s super-inflated world, there is still quality at a certain price. If “nothing else is a Pepsi” (if I remember the commercial correctly!) nothing else is a Steinway. My former church stopped using its 4 manual Casevant pipe organ when someone donated a piano. I always threatened to chop up the piano for firewood but even moi wouldn’t do that to a Steinway Concert Grand. And of course, this is not going to be AFFORDABLE housing but more accommodations for the rich. Yet, something else sacrificed for profits. What’s next: mass production of Steinways in Kathie Me’s Philippines sweat shops??? I’m NOT being facetious. So little has the cachet it used to. The Steinway brand now seems to be part of this ever expanding list.

    • Mike C. says:

      I too mourn the prospect of Steinway possibly being disassembled, and dislike the scourge of expanding income disparity. However, I find unintentional humor in one simultaneously lavishing praises on a very expensive piano (“there is still quality at a certain price”) and then grumbling at the prospect of accommodations for the wealthy (who are presumably part of the target market for Steinways). Presumably, a Steinway can be played for many to enjoy, while a private residence remains closed to the public, but still…

    • Al Brendel says:

      Samick had purchased 30% of Steinway years ago….they are already building pianos in Japan and China…possibly Korea. I feel that the “value priced” lines like Essex and Boston were the beginning of the end for Steinway & Sons…..

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        OMG, Hi Al. Luv ur Schubert, especially on the Boston.

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        Bostons carry plaques which rather cutely refer to the fact they were ‘designed by Steinway’. Still, as Lufthansa has Condor, Steinway will have Essex, even if they evoke more Chelmsford than Shakespeare.

      • Ridiculous! This was good marketing by Steinway, to build pianos such as the Boston and Essex in Asia to be competitive to Yamaha and other Asian brands. It did not put the Steinway name on the fall board only stated designed by Steinway, Steinway only appears on the fall board of the finest hand crafted piano made in the world today., made in New York Cit y, Americans should be proud of this institution and standard. I am European.

        • Quality S&S´s are built in Hamburg!

        • David Wilde says:

          Steinways of Hamburg, which I visited many times when I was professor of piano at the Hannover Hochschule fuer Musik und Theater, was [so far as I know] always the European headquarters, Steinways of New York the American. There is a slight but appreciable difference in style between the Hamburg and New York Steinways, but I have been assured that this is only a matter of voicing according to different tastes in Europe and America, and that there is no fundamental difference between the two. After the catastrophe of World War II Steinways was the only one of the great German makes with a head office in New York, and the achievement of the firm in maintaining such a consistently high standard in the face of the huge resultant demand is indeed monumental.

          • “… only a matter of voicing according to different tastes in Europe and America, and that there is no fundamental difference between the two”.
            Isn’t the curved keybed a feature of the NY Steinways while the Hamburg have a flat one?
            In general I find that New Yorks are better able to blend the sound than Hamburgs, yet, the best Hamburgs will match the NYs on that too, with a gorgeous tone. I love my NY D, with its almost wounded, rich sound and seemingly infinite reserve of power. But as another poster suggested, even the best NYs are coming out as raw materials to be moulded to one artist’s desire; they are not some glossy 18kt gold plated piece of furniture.

          • John Perry, my former teacher, once said that NY Steinways were more “forgiving” as far as responsiveness to the player’s technique goes. At the same time, he said that Hamburg Steinways had more potential for color and tonal differentiation. This is probably in line with what you call “blending the sound”.

            Having grown up with the NY Steinway and later spending almost twice as many years of my life in Europe playing on a lot of Hamburg Steinways, I definitely agree with that. Additionally, it has long been a theory of mine that it is harder to achieve a really big sound on a NY Steinway than on a Hamburg Steinway, possibly contributing to cases of tendonitis and related health issues in American concert pianists.

            It also seems to me that a lot of bigger halls in the USA (1,000 and upwards seating capacity) are acoustically much drier than similar European halls. I wonder if there was ever a statistical study of frequency of occurrence of tendonitis carried out amongst pianists relative to the USA vs. other countries?

          • Theodore McGuiver says:

            David Wilde – my first piano hero when I was a teen in the ’70′s thanks to your superb recording of the Liszt B minor sonata. I met you briefly at Diana Kacso’s QEH recital around ’78 or so. Hope all is well with you and thanks fo your artistry.

  2. Well, at least they’re not tearing the building down.

    • Stephen Owades says:

      From the press release, it sounds as though the developer will be “tearing the building down.” In New York, it’s common to assemble several adjacent properties to get a large footprint for a big new tower, although sometimes “air rights” (floor space permitted by zoning above an existing building that the building’s owner can apply to a new building that allows the new structure to be taller or otherwise contain more rentable space) can be transferred to keep the old building intact. But if the Steinway company had planned to sell air rights, they wouldn’t have had to sell the building.

      There are several new residential towers in that neighborhood, and it’s a very valuable location (with Central Park views) for a developer.

      • another orchestra musician says:

        Manhattan is no longer a stranger to the practice of re-purposing landmark architecture. Steinway Hall’s limestone facade has great aesthetic allure; likely it will be preserved. Very likely some or all of Steinway Hall’s larger interior volumes will be preserved, as well. In a location such as 57th Street, customers aggressively compete for the privilege of surrounding themselves with grandeur, and community associations fight bitterly to prevent the loss of a beloved landmark. The developer will thus have little motivation for tearing the Hall down, and significant motivation for leaving it standing.

  3. Hasbeen says:

    Many concert halls come to an end, Queens Hall, the old Academy Of Music in NY, The original Steinway Hall the old Met etc. It is simply the nature of things.

    • I recently visited the Pantheon in Rome, which pre-dates Christianity and stills sits there solid as the stone and concrete from which it is made. Whether builds continue to stand or are torn down is a decision. A decision was made to keep Carnegie Hall when it was nearly torn down thirty years ago.

      NYC does not have a history of honoring its past, and building codes do not include good taste – almost any visual travesty can be constructed if it is backed up by Big Money. Although NYC has some outstanding deco buildings (Chrysler, Empire, etc) and distinguished business and residential buildings, it has an inexcusable number of seriously ugly building constructed over the past hew years.

      The more salient issue for musicians is whether Kholberg, the new owners of Steinway, intend to honor its tradition of building world class instruments, or exploit its brand name to expand into other markets.

  4. Mike Schachter says:

    Perhaps this may remind people that other manufacturers also make concert-class pianos?

    • Rosalind says:

      Exactly… I’m sure Valentina Lisitsa would agree that Boesendorfers rule!

      We had a Bosie at university and even as an absolutely terrible pianist, I appreciated so much the sound it produced and I have to say I’ve always preferred listening to them rather than Steinways. Very much a matter of personal choice of course and it is sad to see a great company like Steinway being asset-stripped.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Yes, let’s hear more from Bösendorfer, Steingraeber and Fazioli. Grotrians aren’t bad, either…

    • There are plenty of recordings out there made on other brands if you look … Richter played Yamaha almost exclusively during the latter part of his career. Andras Schiff plays both Bösendorfer and Bechstein on occasion in addition to Steinway. Most of Jorge Bolet’s later recordings he made for Decca which he recorded in Europe were on a Bechstein, and in the USA he played Baldwin. The winners of the 2010 Chopin competition in Warsaw played on Yamaha and Fazioli as well as Steinway. The duo pianists Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen recently recorded the complete 4-hand works by Schubert on Fazioli.

      Some of these brands excel in certain styles or areas of repertoire. But just about everything sounds good on a Steinway! Also, master pianists such as those mentioned can usually make every kind of piano sound good, if it is a decent piano to begin with. And a lot of things can be done to the sound in a recording studio to make almost any instrument sound better than it is.

  5. Aros Luxemburg says:

    Very sad, but so much of Manhattan is being torn down and bulldozed to provide aeries for the 1%. A global Tobin tax and top federal marginal tax rates of 70% (lower than under Eisenhower!) would stop this plutocratic greed and destruction, ensure a lot more economic equality, and provide funding for all the infrastructure these billionaires consume at the expense of everyone else.

  6. I recently became the owner of a beautifully restored 1902 Steinway B. I absolutely adore its voice, like none other I played in my long search for “the” piano. I’m a professional pianist and had a fine high-end Kawai RX3 for years, but always wanted that Steinway sound. I tried out many Steinways, dating from 1895 through 2007, but none had this one’s personality. There really is nothing else like a Steinway, a piano that can be customized for each owner in ways that I don’t think any other brand allows. The company says that the newer American pianos are as good as the older instruments, and that may be true if an older piano has not had a good restoration, but from what I’ve experienced with my new friend (some of whose major parts are original,some are new) that’s not necessarily the case. If you want to see how a Steinway is made, the factory in Long Island City/Astoria gives tours once a week. You can follow the creation of a piano from the moment the wood layers are placed on the mold to the final product. Not a lot has changed over the course of the company’s history.
    Kohlberg is a private equity firm. They bought Steinway for 438 million dollars and will take the company private-it has been publicly traded under the symbol LVB-and doesn’t seem to want to liquidate it. In fact,
    “Kohlberg’s long history of collaboration to grow and expand some of the world’s leading consumer brands makes us an ideal partner forSteinway to accelerate its global expansion, while ensuring the artisanal manufacturing processes that make the company’s products unique are preserved, celebrated and treasured,” Kohlberg partner Christopher Anderson said.(quote from the Christian Science Monitor). I don’t know what will happen to Steinway Hall…hopeful they won’t tear it down and will just lease it back to the company.. Btw, re the Boston/Essex piano….did you know that Kawai builds those pianos to Steinway specs? I wonder how that got started. Anyway, I have to go…Miss 1902 is calling my name to practice.

  7. An interesting new development here:

    “SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Pomerantz Law Firm Investigates Claims on Behalf of Investors of Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. – LVB”:—-lvb-20130702-00654#ixzz2YRxz75xi

    • PK Miller says:

      Is this what is comes down to, now: Show me the money? To hell with the Steinway brand, its reputation for quality control, the Gold Standard for pianos. First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers–what a splendid idea….

    • Timon Wapenaar says:

      As I posted below the initial Steinway article: it’s a scam! Steinway management and Kohlberg are in collusion! Watch for the post-sale spike in share prices and then subsequent crash.

    • PK Miller says:

      I should have read these in reverse order…Is this now THREE law firms litigating because mega shareholders of Steinway got their noses out of joint??? I guess what the purchaser does not strip of Steinway’s assets the greedy corporate lawyers & their well-heeled clients will. Farewell, Steinway brand. It’s been a good run. It was fun while it lasted.

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