FoSM film strip header - History copy

Steinways & Music

While at the mansion, the Steinways developed how to make, as well as how to market, the modern piano. One cannot overstate its importance. Many claim it as ‘the heart of an orchestra,’ favored by composers because for no other instrument has its range or versatility. It is equally comfortable in settings from solo through ensemble. For more than a century, the Steinway Piano remains the brand of choice for 98% of recording and concert artists.

Here are some of the ways the Steinways and their legacy have impacted music history:

  1. The performances of the great concert artists, who were brought from Europe to demonstrate the exquisite range and dimension of Steinways, introduced the classical music tradition to mainstream American audiences.
  2. Steinway Hall a concert hall/showroom owned by the Steinways, routinely showcased performances by musical legends. But it also was the setting for ground-breaking scientific experiments as well as lectures by some of the finest minds of the era. This was the nation’s premier cultural venue during the closing decades of the nineteenth century.
  3. The Steinways supported the German physicist Heinrich Helmholz’s pioneering research into the science of acoustics and music theory. Much later, this material gave Alexander Graham Bell critical information needed to develop the telephone.
  4. They convinced the Gemunder family, legendary makers of musical instruments, to cross the Atlantic. Gemunder violins, violas, and cellos, considered by many to be the finest string instruments made outside of Europe, are displayed next to art-case Steinway pianos at the rare instrument collection in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  5. The Steinways brought Professor Ferdinand Dulcken, a former student of Felix Mendelssohn, to New York to help manage Steinway artists and to set new standards of music education within our country. The professor’s house still stands in Astoria, not far from the Mansion.
  6. For decades, countless aspiring artists made their way to the Mansion to audition in the entrance hall. That space, under a three-story dome boasting acoustics that would be the envy of any recital hall, may have been designed by the Steinways after they purchased the house.

All historic images are from the Henry Z Steinway Collection, courtesy of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.  Modern photographs of the mansion are courtesy Gary Vollo.