Friedrich Grotrian was born in 1803 in Schöningen, Germany, and as a young man lived in Moscow, where he ran a music business and was associated with piano manufacturing. Later in his life he teamed up with C.F. Theodor Steinweg, son of Heinrich Steinweg, to build pianos. Heinrich had emigrated to the U.S. about 1850, soon to establish the firm of Steinway & Sons. Theodor followed in 1865, selling his share in the partnership to Wilhelm Grotrian, son of Friedrich, who had died in 1860. Thereafter, the firm became known as Grotrian-Steinweg. (In a legal settlement with Steinway & Sons, Grotrian-Steinweg agreed to use only the name Grotrian on pianos sold in North America.) Even as early as the 1860s, Grotrian pianos were well known and highly respected throughout Europe. Each successive generation of the Grotrian family maintained the company’s high standards and furthered the technical development of the instrument.
In 2015, a majority interest in the Grotrian Piano Co. was purchased by Parsons Music Group, a Hong Kong–based piano manufacturer. Grotrian says that all pianos bearing its name will continue to be made in Braunschweig, Germany, and that the Parsons investment will be used to expand manufacturing capacity to better serve the burgeoning Asian piano market. A member of the sixth generation of the Grotrian family is also a shareholder, and will continue to participate in managing the company, as will the current CEO, who has been in that position for 18 years.
Grotrian grands have beech rims, solid spruce sound-boards, laminated beech pinblocks, Renner actions, and are single-strung. Grotrian prides itself on what it calls its “homogeneous soundboard,” in which each piece of wood is specially chosen for its contribution to the tone of the soundboard. The cast-iron plate is attached with screws along the outer edges of the rim, instead of on top of the rim, which the company says allows the soundboard to vibrate more freely. The vertical pianos have a unique star-shaped wooden back structure and a full-perimeter plate. Grotrian makes five sizes of grand and six sizes of vertical piano. New “studio” versions of grand models 192 (6' 3") and 208 (6' 10"), made for institutions, have scratch-resistant cabinet finishes, wider music desks, and more impervious soundboard finishes.
Grotrian also makes a lower-cost line, called Friedrich Grotrian, with a beech back frame but no back posts, and a simpler cabinet. It’s available in a 43½" model in polished ebony with legs, and in 43½" and 45" models for institutional use, with satin finishes but without legs. The Friedrich Grotrian models are also completely made at the Grotrian factory in Braunschweig, Germany.
In the near future, the Friedrich Grotrian models described above, like all the other models that are entirely made in the Braunschweig factory, will be included under the Grotrian brand. A new, lower-cost Friedrich Grotrian line, to be introduced in 2017, will have the rim and finished cabinet, with cast-iron plate, soundboard, and pinblock installed, constructed by Parsons Music in China, then shipped to the Grotrian factory in Braunschweig, where German strings, keys, hammers, and Renner action parts will be installed, and the pianos tuned, regulated, and voiced. The amount of value added by German parts and labor will qualify these models for “Made in Germany” status under German law. At press time, prices for these models were not yet available.
TThe treble of Grotrian pianos has extraordinary sustaining characteristics. It also has a pronounced sound of attack, subtle and delicate. The tenor is darker than many other brands. The bass can be powerful, but without stridency. Overall, Grotrian pianos have a unique, expressive sound and are a pleasure to play. Over the years, many well-known pianists have endorsed or expressed appreciation for Grotrian pianos.
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners.