Bechstein Pianos are pianos produced by C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik AG, one of Germany’s leading piano manufacturers established in 1853.
Brief history and description
The company was founded by Carl Bechstein, who had previously worked as a piano craftsman in France and England with firms such as Erard before he became an independent piano maker. Bechstein’s aim was to produce a piano that was able to withstand the great demands imposed on the instrument by the virtuosi of the time, which included the great nineteenth century Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt. Liszt’s son-in-law, Hans von Bülow, gave the first ever public performance on a Bechstein grand piano in 1857, when he performed Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor in Berlin.
Such was the quality of Bechstein’s pianos, that before the turn of the century, the company was patronised by the royal families of Denmark, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and the tsars of Russia. In 1881, Bechstein also began providing pianos to Queen Victoria and several British embassies across the world received Bechstein pianos. The list of these royal clients can be found on the soundboard of vintage Bechstein pianos and is in fact part of the first Bechstein trademark logo.
Bechstein pianos were used by some of the most popular bands and artists during the twentieth century, including legends such as Bryan Ferry, Joni Mitchell, Freddie Mercury and Bob Dylan. The Beatles used a Bechstein concert grand piano during recordings of their White Album and Abbey Road albums.
Bechstein pianos are regularly sold at auction houses such as Christie's and Sotheby’s. Bonhams also possesses a good record of selling antique Bechstein pianos and specimens tend to sell between £2,000 and £10,000.
Bechstein is also famous for producing one-of-a-kind art case pianos and these are highly desirable to collectors. Most of these unique pianos were commissioned for royalty and the aristocracy and are decorated with hand-painted art, hard-carved details and gold. Due to the rarity of these pieces, some can fetch prices as high as a £100,000 when they appear on the open market.
Bechstein pianos are also sold at reputable online piano dealers that specialise in antique pianos, such as Courtneypianos.co.uk and Piano-uk.com
In April 2005, a Bechstein grand piano owned by Eurythmics founder Dave Stewart fetched £3,600 when it was sold at Bonhams in London. The piano had attracted a great deal of interest from the music world due to its extraordinary history. The piano had been used by stars including Bob Dylan and Sir Paul McCartney and had recently been used for recording albums by Gwen Stefani and Joss Stone.
A Bechstein black lacquered grand piano was sold at Christie’s, New York, for $132,000 in February 2006. The piano was part of a catalogue featuring a number of items' that had once belonged to the American cabaret singer and pianist, Bobby Short.
At the New York branch of Sotheby’s in October 2007, a Louis XVI bronze and Wedgewood mounted flame figured mahogany grand piano made by Bechstein in 1908-1911 realised a price of $67,000.