Bösendorfer Journal: The Journey Begins

A Picture is worth more than a Thousands Words

Much falls into oblivion over the years, and the more time passes, the more difficult it becomes to remember. The further stories took place in the past, the more they are reduced to their essence, limited to numbers, dates and facts.

Nevertheless, we dare to attempt to give a face to some dates and facts once more. To understand where you’re going, you need to know where you come from, and it’s easier to gain insight with the known and familiar.

Bösendorfer—a name people associate so much to. Major concert halls, heavenly melodies, rhythms, played tones of the past, technical subtleties, refinement, craftsmanship, progress and tradition. Yet do we know the faces behind the names? Some people may still remember, yet how much of what is tangible today has survived the test of time?

My name is Klaus Hruby and I have been active as an author and journalist for more than fourteen years. Part of my job is to rediscover things that have fallen into oblivion, just as every day I set out in search of stories worth telling. Sometimes you find these stories in archives and sometimes it is by chance or through a good friend. In this case, it was one of my closest friends, who has worked for Bösendorfer for years: Roland Pohl. Together with Roland, I go in search of clues to see what there is to find and what is waiting to be discovered behind the golden lettering.


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 Photo: Roland Pohl


Like so many things, this journey also began with a book. It was actually quite a normal breakfast. The delicious scent of coffee filled the air throughout the kitchen. Jam was spread on rolls and the sunbeams of spring illuminated the breakfast table. Amid all the ordinariness was a book, Wien um 1900 Kunst und Kultur* Vienna around 1900 Art and Culture, with beautiful illustrations, coupled with informative texts—what more could one want on a beautifully set breakfast table? An illustrious era for an illustrious Sunday morning.


Pretty much in the middle of the work is an image, a graphic depicting the most important personalities of the era strolling about on Vienna’s Ringstrasse. In the centre of the image, at the epicentre of culture, so to speak, inconspicuous yet immediately recognizable, is a man who changed things significantly for very many people: Ludwig Bösendorfer.

At a single stroke, a name has another face. What began as a fleeting glance at a picture on a Sunday morning, as the spark and hint of an idea, took on a life of its own from one day to the next, and in an exceptionally positive way, at that. For, if Ludwig Bösendorfer was depicted as the centre of culture in this picture, a number of questions arise, the answers to which would no doubt interest a lot of people. No, it’s not about the really big questions! Rather, it should be about making the person tangible and palpable once again, making him come to life. What was Ludwig’s daily routine? Who were his friends, his companions through the concert halls of history? With whom did he arrange to play cards? Which route did he take to work? And why is Otto Wagner  standing right next to him?

Admittedly, a lot of this seems beside the point at first glance. Yet trust us, you’ll be surprised where these simple questions can lead. Alice once followed a white rabbit down his rabbit hole, and we’re tracing the steps of an Austrian into the heart of music, to a vision that to this day keeps a craft alive, one that is both progress and tradition.

This journal invites you to take a look at the faces behind the golden lettering on black lacquer, in both a literal as well as figurative sense. There aren’t many companies that can look back on a history spanning centuries and continue to exist to the present day. Many of them are right under our noses and within our grasp. What could be more beautiful than following the magic of music and the past into the future?

We are especially happy to get this opportunity to take you along this path, for there is still so much to discover, to seek and to find. In the end, the history also creates an unmistakable sound, as unmistakable as a concert grand and the fascination inherent in those who listen until the last note has faded into silence.

Follow us in the next episode Janaury 30 along the Ringstrasse — a Sunday morning around 1900 ...



"Wien um 1900: Kunst und Kultur. Fokus der europäischen Moderne", Christian Brandstätter (editor), Publisher: Christian Brandstätter (14 August 2014), language: German, ISBN: 978-3-85498-355-2 (The image contains an older edition, the contents of which are identical to the present edition, however.)