Ignaz Bösendorfer – 160th Anniversary of the Death of a Unique Entrepreneur

With a great understanding of music, exceptionally good technical aptitude and uncompromising attention to quality, Ignaz Bösendorfer created something very special: He built grand pianos that not only stood up to the new, powerful playing of pianists such as Liszt, they also inspired composers and audiences alike with their sound.

Ignaz Bösendorfer became an apprentice to the piano maker Joseph Brodmann at the age of 19. Brodmann, himself a student of the famous organ and instrument maker Hoffmann, was one of the best and most famous piano makers in Vienna at the time. Upon his death, Ignaz took over the company in 1828 and immediately concentrated on studying French instruments. He sought to lend his instruments a more powerful tone. His meticulous work paid off with a gold medal at the Vienna Industrial Exhibition. That same year, Emperor Franz Ferdinand I granted him the title of ‘Royal and Imperial Court Piano Manufacturer’, a title that had never before been awarded to an Austrian piano maker.

His sometimes very close friendships with artists and composers were an additional key to success. In 1842, Ignaz thus succeeded in breaking onto the concert podium: Anton Rubinstein played the first concert of his concert series in the old Musikverein hall located on Tuchlauben in Vienna on a grand piano that received a negative review in the press. Rubinstein subsequently switched to a Bösendorfer and reaped great praise from the newspaper critic for the piano’s “evenness of tone quality and the powerful bass”.

The second gold medal of the Vienna Industrial Exhibition followed in 1845 and increased exports. Soon the manufacturing facility was bursting at the seams. A new factory was being enthusiastically built and seized upon by the media; “… Bösendorfer, who in his son Ludwig reared a companion and managing director on a par with himself, constructed an establishment equipped with all the technological advancements of today’s industry in New Vienna, which the company will move into over the course of this year…” the “Neue Wiener Musikzeitung” wrote in 1857.

Nevertheless, Ignaz was denied the opportunity to move into the new premises. He died on April 14, 1859 at the age of 65. The “Neue Wiener Musikjournal” thus commemorated his great standing in Viennese cultural life and his greatly appreciated personality in an obituary: “Bösendorfer’s death will be most deeply regretted by all social classes, since in him we lose a man of honour in the fullest meaning of the expression. Simple, honest and just to everyone, affectionate and open to his friends, generous and noble to artists.” Ignaz inducted his son Ludwig into the high art of piano making early on and thereby secured the continued existence of his great works.

Father & son, two musical inventors and skilled entrepreneurs who through Europe conquered the world – and our hearts. Their love for music and intensive interaction with composers and pianists of their time were a sheer inexhaustible wellspring. Their spirit is also omnipresent even centuries later and inspires us to this very day with renewed drive.

Immerse yourself in the Bösendorfer sound universe …