including Ritmüller and Kayserburg
GW Distribution, LLC
135 Fisher Road
Mahwah, New Jersey 07430
Pianos made by: Guangzhou Pearl River Piano Group Ltd., Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China
Established in 1954 through the consolidation of several piano-making facilities, Pearl River is now the largest piano manufacturer in the world, with a production of over 125,000 pianos annually by more than 4,000 workers. The formerly government-owned company says the average length of service of its workers is 17 years. Pianos are made under the Pearl River, Ritmüller, and Kayserburg names, and under a few other names for OEM contracts with distributors, such as Cristofori (with Jordan Kitt's), Henry F. Miller (with Sherman Clay) and Essex (with Steinway). (See separate listings under those names.) Pearl River is the best-selling piano brand in China, and is exported to more than 100 countries.
Over the past couple of years, Pearl River has revised and streamlined its model lineup with the assistance of Lothar Thomma, a well-respected German scale designer. Some new models have been introduced, and older models have been reviewed and modified. Currently, Pearl River verticals begin with the 42½" console model 108 in continental style (no legs) and a style with legs and toe blocks, and with the 43" model 110 in a variety of American furniture styles. They continue with a series of studio models, including the 45" model 115 in a traditional institutional style (legs with toe blocks), and the 45" model 115E in a school-friendly institutional style. Finally, there are the upright models, including the newly designed 48" model EU122 and the 51½" model 130, both in institutional style.
Pearl River grands come in six sizes, from 4' 11" to 9', including three new models: GP160 (5' 3"), GP170 (5' 7"), and GP188A (6' 2").
Prior to 2008, Pearl River's Ritmüller line used the same strung back (structural and acoustical components) as the Pearl River line, but with different cabinets. Lothar Thomma, mentioned above, was hired in 2006 to design, from the ground up, a line of higher-end pianos that would be distinct from the Pearl River line. These instruments were introduced in North America in 2009 under the Ritmüller name. In most other parts of the world, the pianos are branded Kayserburg. All the new UH and GH models, now known as the Ritmüller Premium series, feature solid spruce soundboards, Renner hammers, hornbeam wood actions, and real ebony sharps, among other higher-quality features. Piano Buyer's reviewers have tried out several of the new grand models and have been very impressed (see reviews in the Fall 2009, Fall 2010, and Fall 2011 issues). In 2013, the company began introducing a new class of Ritmüller Premium vertical pianos with the 49" model RB.
A new line of lower-cost Ritmüller pianos, the Ritmüller Classic series, introduced in 2011, consists of vertical models 43½" UP-110RB in several furniture styles, 47" UP-120RE (educator studio), and 47½" UP-121RB, and new grand models R-8 (4' 11") and R-9 (5' 3").
These models, also designed by Lothar Thomma, feature an all-spruce veneered and tapered soundboard, and Röslau strings; the grands use Abel hammers.
In 2013, Pearl River brought to North America the upper-level Kayserburg Artist series, currently only verticals, with grands to follow next year. These instruments are made by two dozen of Pearl River's most experienced workers, managed by Lothar Thomma protégé Stephen Mohler, in what can be described only as a small "German" piano workshop inside a large Chinese piano factory. The pianos contain such high-end features as soundboards of tight-grained, solid European spruce, Renner hammers, Laoureux (French) damper felt, German Röslau strings, vertically laminated maple bridges with rosewood core and solid beech caps, German IvoryLeit natural keytops, and genuine ebony sharps.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Piano Empire, Inc.
3035 E. La Mesa Street
Anaheim, California 92806
Pianos made by: Yantai-Perzina Piano Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Yantai, Shandong Province, China
The Gebr. Perzina (Perzina Brothers) piano company was established in the German town of Schwerin in 1871, and was a prominent piano maker until World War I, after which its fortunes declined. In more recent times, the factory was moved to the nearby city of Lenzen and the company became known as Pianofabrik Lenzen GmbH. In the early 1990s the company was purchased by Music Brokers International B.V. in the Netherlands. Eventually it was decided that making pianos in Germany was not economically viable, so manufacturing was moved to Yantai, China, where both verticals and grands were made for a number of years by the Yantai Longfeng Piano Co. under the Perzina name. In 2003 Music Brokers International established its own factory in Yantai, called Yantai-Perzina, where it now builds Perzina pianos. The Carl Ebel and Gerh. Steinberg brands made at this factory are no longer distributed in the U.S.
Perzina verticals have several interesting features rarely found in other pianos, including a "floating" soundboard that is unattached to the back at certain points for freer vibration, and a reverse, or concave soundboard crown. (There may be something to this; the Perzina verticals sound very good, their bass being particularly notable.) Soundboards are of solid Austrian white spruce. A premium series of verticals (model numbers ending in A) come with Renner AA or Abel Deluxe hammers.
A new line of Perzina grand pianos was introduced in 2011, designed and manufactured by Perzina in cooperation with a major European manufacturer. All contain solid Austrian white spruce soundboards, duplex scaling, and Renner AA or Abel hammers, among other high-quality components. A Perzina action is standard, with Detoa and Renner actions optionally available at additional cost. All models come with a slow-close fallboard, and most come with an adjustable artist bench.
The company's European headquarters says it ships many European materials to Yantai, including Degen copper-wound strings, Röslau strings, Delignit pinblocks, Renner hammers, English felts, European veneers, and Austrian white spruce soundboards. New machinery is from Germany, Japan, and Italy. According to the company, all the piano designs are the original German scales. The Renner actions used by Perzina are ordered complete from Germany, not assembled from parts.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.