The History and Development of the Modern Piano
Importance of the Piano Action
Piano Action by Bartolomeo Cristofori:
The piano owes its emancipation to Gottfried Silbermann, a superlative craftsman and genius in both the building of organs and piano-making. By 1730, Silbermann had made two pianofortes, and by the end of the decade had produced instruments regarded as completely successful and supported by the leading musicians and theorists of the day, even to the point that Silbermann was for many years regarded as the inventor of the piano! His instruments finally met with the approval of Bach who tested the Silbermann pianoforte at the Potsdam court of Frederick the Great at the wish of the Monarch in 1747. While composers at the beginning of the 18th century concentrated on the harpsichord and clavichord, it was the Bach sons, Philipp, Emanuel, and Christian, as well as Mozart and Clementi, who learned to exploit and appreciate the advantages of the piano, and contributed to its successful introduction around the world.
Evolution of the Piano
The Beginnings of the Supply Industry
The Beginnings of the Supply Industry
The piano models became more and more uniform as a result of the demands made by industrial production aiming at large piece output. The new models, their production in large quantities and the wide distribution led to a steadily increased specialization in manufacture. Division of labor prevailed and the supply industry began to develop. Companies were set up with the sole purpose of manufacturing individual parts. This was a significant development since all instruments had previously been constructed as a whole, i.e. mechanics, cases and wiring. The suppliers became more and more important. Specialization made it possible to produce large quantities at lower costs, since the production of the mechanism, for example, an expensive and time consuming process, had become too costly and labor-intensive for the individual pianoforte producer, calling for a high standard of skilled workers, materials and instrument-making know-how. Although the piano manufacturers had tried since the beginning of the industrial revolution to incorporate new developing technologies in their production, inevitable limits became apparent and could only be developed and utilized through the emergence of the sub-supply companies.
Specializing in Germany
Louis Renner began on a very modest level with the production of piano mechanism in October of 1882. Hand-crafted production was at the heart of these beginnings. The history of this company is closely related to that of the German piano industry and the demands of industrial production methods of specialization.
When moving into a new factory building in 1902, Renner employed a staff of 35. This total had risen to 100 by 1911, and a new wing had to be added to the works. Renner had been producing hammers as well since 1906. More and more machines found their way into the production process. Skilled craftsmanship was reduced to the important production stages, above all to the comprehensive controls without which superior quality cannot be produced.
The number of employees had risen to 175 by the First World War. Labor-saving methods were developed parallel to the introduction of the newest machinery. Production was switched to separate drive with hundreds of electric-motors and the production program was rounded off by the inclusion of mechanisms for grand pianos as well. All branches of mechanism manufacturing were now brought together under one roof.
The complicated extent of mechanism production is particularly apparent if it is considered that over 8,000 sections and small parts, springs and strips have to be put together for one single piano mechanism. It is scarcely possible to enumerate the number of motions and works stages leading to the end-product. Renner is a typical example of German precision industry as it is acknowledged throughout the world. The most modern machinery ensures the highest possible standard of precision and the reliability of the individual sections.
The factory was almost completed destroyed in 1944, but action mechanisms were already being manufactured again in 1948, initially for the German-speaking area, and later for international use. Piano manufacturers all over the world were relying again on Renner products. To supply this increasing demand, Renner has continued to expand its wood storage and manufacturing operations as demand for their products has warranted. All production continues to be done exclusively in Germany by highly skilled craftsmen employing the finest, state-of-the-art, precision machinery, in their recently expanded production operations located near Stuttgart, where the company was founded, and Leipzig Germany.