Classic, jazz, pop and rock – they’re played around the world on instruments from Braunschweig. We offer a brief overview of these companies.
Sparkling piano tunes, funky, rocking bass grooves or delicate violin melodies: music is in the air in Braunschweig. But this is nothing new, of course: the Lion City is a centre of musical instrument making in Germany. Germany’s largest producer of upright and grand pianos, Schimmel Pianos, is based in Braunschweig along with Grotrian-Steinweg, a renowned manufacturer of keyboard instruments. But wait, there’s more: the basses and electric guitars made by Sandberg Guitars are as powerful as the lion that once gave the city its name, and just as popular and renowned. The string instruments crafted by master violin maker Joseph Boasson, on the other hand, produce somewhat gentler and primarily classic sounds. His master workshop has made a name for itself far beyond the city’s borders since 1988. You’ve probably already heard the sounds of the large and small enterprises that make up Braunschweig’s instrument industry. But here is a piece of trivia few are likely to know: Louis Spohr, the inventor of the baton, was a genuine Braunschweig musical talent as well. Spohr was among the greatest violin players of his day, alongside legendary violinist Paganini. He was also active as a composer, conductor and singing instructor.
Shaping tradition through innovation
How many parts does a Schimmel piano have? Up to 9,000! The finest craftsmanship goes into processing and lacquering premium wood, drawing strings and mounting keyboards. The result is massive, elegant instruments that are coveted by concert halls and artists as well as private customers – since 1885. That was the year that Wilhelm Schimmel founded his own piano workshop in Leipzig after completing his apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker. It later gained special recognition as the preferred purveyor to the courts of the Grand Duke of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach and the King of Romania.
Years of highs and lows followed: the company pursued a successful course for decades, and a realignment in the 1990s allowed Schimmel and other greats in the piano industry to avert a crisis. The company used various lines of pianos to position itself in different price segments. Nevertheless, the business briefly drifted into insolvency in 2009 before taking off again in 2010.
The family company now has 150 employees: master piano builders, master cabinetmakers and designers work in the Schimmel workshop and share the same guiding principle: ‘Shaping tradition through innovation’. Today, Schimmel’s upright and grand pianos can be found at the Leipzig Opera, London’s English National Ballet, as well as famous record companies such as Motown Records and Mercury Records in New York, among other top locations.
88 keys of joy
On Grotrian-Steinweg-Straße in Braunschweig, the name is the game – this is where the internationally renowned pianoforte maker Grotrian-Steinweg has had its company headquarters since 1974. Founded by Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg in 1835, it is among the oldest pianoforte makers in the world today. Clara Schumann and Paul Hindemith, as well as jazz pianist Jacques Loussier and composer Hans Werner Henze, who had close ties to Braunschweig – they all swore and swear by pianos from Grotrian-Steinweg. Back in his day, Wilhelm Grotrian passed a maxim on to his sons Kurt and Willi, who subsequently joined the business – and it continues to apply to this day: ‘Boys, build good pianos, and the rest will follow.’
Today, 60 employees in the Braunschweig workshop produce about 500 premium-grade upright pianos, grand pianos and historic keyed instruments each year, as well as supplier parts and accessories. The German piano maker’s instruments have been in demand around the world for decades, and are currently exported to more than 60 countries. The Grotrian-Steinweg family continues to be represented among the shareholders today by Liebhild Grotrian-Steinweg-Pahl, who lends an important voice for the future to the 180-year-old company’s family tradition. In this way, the German company continues to rely on proven traditions paired with the knowledge and technology of the modern era. However, there are two things that have never changed: the sound and the love of music.
Right at the heart of the bass making business, and velvety-smooth sound on every string
It’s not just bassists in German bands – such as Torsten Scholz of the Beatsteaks, Oliver Riedel of Rammstein or Ines Smentkowski of the Broilers – who swear by the electric basses and guitars from German company Sandberg Guitars. The instruments are in demand around the world. Holger Stonjek and his friend Gerd Gorzelke founded the company in 1986. Sandberg Guitars has been headquartered in Braunschweig since 1990. Seventeen employees and eight freelancers build more than 1,500 instruments a year in a 700-square-metre workshop. Dedication, technology and the right wood are the keys to perfect sound at Sandberg. Nothing is left to chance. Creative minds are behind every instrument and the company’s guiding principle, ‘Always by your side’, has applied even to unusual, special requests for more than 30 years.
It’s precisely this love for details that drives master violin maker Joseph Boasson during the process of fabricating his instruments as well. A native of Jerusalem, Boasson has been building, repairing and renting violins, violas, cellos and bows for more than 52 years. The master violin maker settled in Braunschweig in 1988 and has become known for his instruments far beyond the borders of the Lion City since then. Each of his pieces is unique.