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Description - Steinway & Sons by Richard K. Lieberman

The Steinway-once called the "instrument of the immortals"-is more than the preeminent American piano. It is also a symbol of Old World craftsmanship combined with American capitalism, of technological innovation, and of remarkable family management. This authoritative and entertaining book tells the story of the Steinway piano company and the people behind it. The first book based on the rich archive of Steinway business and family papers at LaGuardia Community College in New York, as well as on interviews with family members and company employees in the United States, Germany, and England, Steinway & Sons describes the making and marketing of an American cultural icon. Founded in New York in 1853 by a German immigrant, the Steinway company quickly rose to prominence on the strength of the distinctive "Steinway sound." For five generations Steinways steered their company in the face of vigorous domestic and foreign competition, bitter labor disputes, temperamental musicians, a fluctuating economy, and wars. Members of the Gilded Age elite, the family also contended with adultery, alcoholism, emotional depression, and long court battles over money. Lieberman discusses the company town the Steinways built in Queens in the 1870s to "escape the machinations of the anarchists and socialists" in the city; the decision to manufacture in both New York and Hamburg, which led to Steinway factories supplying both sides in World War II; the improvements in piano technology that made the Steinway the envy of other piano makers; the company's creative marketing techniques, such as booking celebrated European pianists into American concert halls; the competition from the Japanese-owned Yamaha company; and the sale of the financially troubled company to CBS in 1972. Weaving together themes from social, music, business, labor, and immigrant history, and lavishly illustrated with pictures from the Steinway archive, Steinway & Sons is a rich narrative that casts new light on American cultural history and on a unique family enterprise.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780300068504
ISBN-10: 0300068506
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 155mm x 24mm)
Pages: 382
Imprint: Yale University Press
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publish Date: 17-Nov-1997
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Steinway & Sons by Richard K. Lieberman

Book Reviews - Steinway & Sons by Richard K. Lieberman

US Kirkus Review » 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. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Richard K. Lieberman

Richard K. Lieberman is professor of history at LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York and director of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, which house the Steinway collection.