STEINWAY AND SONS by Richard K. Lieberman


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If D.W. Fostle produced a lush Mahler symphony in recounting the rise and fall of the first family of pianos (The Steinway Saga, p. 356), Lieberman, using the same theme of an American dynasty's seasons in the sun, has created a more compact and disciplined concerto for piano and orchestra. Director of CUNY's LaGuardia-Wagner Archives, which house a considerable collection of Steinway papers, the author draws on a variety of sources, including many tapped by Fostle. Like Fostle, too, he makes a fine job of detailing how a close-knit German clan (known in the Old World as Steinweg) came to America in 1850 and was able for many years to combine commerce with culture. With comparatively few digressions, however, Lieberman offers an accessible, straightforward chronological narrative that puts the family firm and its stewards clearly in the context of their times. While Steinway's prize-winning instruments sold at a profitable pace well into the 20th century, adversarial labor relations, two global wars, economic slumps, imports (mainly from Japan), shifts in consumer tastes, and technological innovations helped erode the one-product company's market. Dispirited Steinway heirs sold out to CBS, Inc. in 1971. During the 1980s, the network bailed out as well, dealing Steinway to a Boston-based group that has yet to realize much of a return on its investment. A tidy package for those who want the facts, plus a bit more, on merchant music makers overtaken by events and their own inability to adapt.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0300068506
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.