Friday, September 19, 2008

Last of Steinway piano-making family dies



NEW YORK (AFP) — Henry Ziegler Steinway, the last member of the family to have had a role in running the legendary piano-making business, has died, reports said Friday. He was 93.

His daughter, Susan Steinway, told The New York Times that he had passed away Thursday at his home in New York.

Henry Ziegler Steinway was the great-grandson of Heinrich Engelhard Steinway who emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1850 and founded the firm Steinway & Sons in 1853.

The company went on to make the family a fortune as it introduced innovative techniques to the instrument which were swiftly adopted by piano-makers worldwide.

By the beginning of the 20th century the New York-based company had produced some 6,500 pianos, mostly grand pianos, which were 80 percent handmade, and were highly praised by such composers as Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt.

But the company suffered when the Great Depression hit in 1929, and again after World War II because of its German origins. And it hit further obstacles with competition from Japanese giants such as Yamaha.

Henry Ziegler Steinway joined the family business in 1937 after studying at Harvard. He became chairman of the company in 1955, but was forced to sell the company to the television channel CBS in 1972 for 23 million dollars.

He remained as a consultant though, even after retiring and after the company later changed hands again in 1985, and 1995.

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