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The Definitive Piano Buying Guide for

Buying New, Used, and Restored Acoustic Pianos and Digital Pianos

Fall 2016 Edition

Acoustic Piano: Brand & Company Profiles

DONGBEI

The Dongbei Piano Company in China is owned by Baldwin Piano Company, a subsidiary of Gibson Guitar Corporation, and until fairly recently made pianos that were sold in North America by various distributors and under a variety of names, including Baldwin, Everett, and Hallet, Davis & Co. (see listings under those names). Pianos made under the names Nordiska and Weinbach are no longer distributed in the U.S.

Dongbei is Chinese for "northeast." In 1952, Dongbei was formed by splitting off from a government-owned piano factory in Shanghai and establishing a new government-owned factory in the northeastern part of the country. Dongbei began a process of modernization in 1988 when it purchased the designs and manufacturing equipment for a vertical piano model from the Swedish company Nordiska when that company went out of business. The Swedish-designed model 116 vertical was strikingly more advanced than Dongbei's own Prince and Princess lines. (At that time, Dongbei made only vertical pianos.)

In 1991 Dongbei entered into an agreement with Korean piano maker Daewoo whereby Daewoo would assist Dongbei in improving its production of vertical pianos. In 1996 that relationship was extended to the design and production of grands. In 1997, when Daewoo decided to leave the piano business, Dongbei purchased nearly all of Daewoo's grand-piano manufacturing equipment and began making grands. Export to the U.S. began in 1994 under the brand name Sagenhaft, at first only of vertical pianos. When the export of grands began in 1998, other brand names, such as Nordiska, Everett, and Story & Clark, began to become available, and over the next 10 years production for both domestic use and for export grew enormously.

When Daewoo left the piano business in 1997, some of the technicians and designers sent by Daewoo to advise Dongbei stayed on with Dongbei for many years, during which they designed numerous new piano models. Some of these technicians had trained in both Korea and Germany. In the opinion of many technicians who have examined a variety of pianos from China, the Dongbei grand-piano designs are musically among the best and most successful.

In early 2007 Gibson Musical Instruments, parent of Baldwin Piano Company, acquired Dongbei Piano and renamed it Baldwin Dongbei (Yingkou) Piano and Musical Instrument Co., Ltd., thus creating a major piano-manufacturing power in China with two plants. (The other plant, Baldwin [Zhongshan] Piano and Musical Instrument Co., Ltd., is in southern China.) To make the formerly government-owned operation more efficient and profitable, Baldwin had to reduce the size of Dongbei's workforce and production output. Due to a dispute with the Chinese government over these issues, however, piano production at Dongbei was discontinued, and Baldwin is contracting with Parsons Music, another Chinese piano maker, to manufacture Baldwin grand pianos.

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