The Schiedmayer Family – Serving the Music Since 1735
The Schiedmayer family has been active for nearly 300 years in the manufacture of keyboard instruments. It is a rare event in the history of musical instrument manufacturing that members of the same family have dedicated themselves to a continually evolving craft for an uninterrupted 300 years.
The Beginnings of a Piano Building Dynasty
Unfortunately, no instruments made by Balthasar Schiedmayer have survived. He died on October 5, 1781, leaving behind his three sons (Johann Christoph Georg (1740-1820), Adam Achatius (1745-1817) and Johann David Schiedmayer (1753-1805)) and an extensive knowledge base of skills, in addition to the house and workshop on 27 Theaterstrasse in Erlangen. The oldest son, Johann Christoph Georg, settled in Neustadt an der Aisch and became a well-known clavichord maker. In contrast to his brother Johann David, he left no shop record book listing the number, kind or recipient of the instruments he made. Some of his clavichords have survived and can be viewed at the Landesmuseum of Stuttgart and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass., USA, among other places. Balthasar’s second son, Adam Achatius, spent his whole life as a piano maker in his birthplace, Erlangen. A square piano made in 1818 by his son Johann Erhard has survived and was played on 10.16.2011 in conjunction with the celebration of the 300th birthday of the firm’s founder.
Fame as Piano Maker
A Wonderful Fortepiano
Carl Friedrich Cramer described this instrument in his Magazin der Musik, Hamburg 1783-87, II/1, p. 126: “December … 1783/ Musical Personalities in Erlangen…N.S. The wonderful fortepiano, which last week left the hands of the local instrument maker Mr. Johann David Schiedmayer, destined for Würzburg, also deserves mentioning since it is finished as splendidly as others that he has produced.”
Court Instrument Maker
Apparently, Schiedmayer’s health was always precarious, to cite the news report from the Royal town of Nuremberg: “On March 20, 1805 Mr. Johann David Schiedmayer, court instrument maker for the Princely Court of Brandenburg and honorary member of the Society for Furthering the Local Industry passed away here at age 52. He became famous through his unforgettable talent for manufacturing splendidly finished instruments.
A Joint Firm in Stuttgart
The New Construction in Stuttgart
A steadily growing demand necessitated the enlargement of the facility, and in 1821 they moved to a new building on Neckar Street, now Konrad Adenauer Street, designed by Thouret, architect of the imperial court. Today the House of History and the State Academy for Music and Representative Arts stand on the former Schiedmayer lot. From this it can be concluded that Johann Lorenz must have been the co-founder of the Music High School/ Music Academy.
A Booklet for Pianists
In 1824, Dieudonné and Schiedmayer published a small booklet, “A Short Introduction to the Proper Knowledge and Care of Forte-Pianos including their Playing, Tuning and Maintenance, in particular Those Made in the Stuttgart Workshop of Dieudonné and Schiedmayer.” A reprint of the booklet was published in 1994 by Elianne Schiedmayer. This work is recommended to every piano maker using either the German or English mechanism.
Johann Lorenz takes over
When Dieudonné died in 1825, Lorenz became the firm’s sole owner with full responsibility for the work. He undertook this task very successfully, as can be seen from the long list of customers and his shipments all over the world. Piano virtuosos and composers, such as Friedrich Silcher, Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt, were already closely associated with the firm Schiedmayer. In connection with the anniversary celebrations on 10.16.2011, Dr. Wolfgang Seibold presented a lecture on “Franz Liszt and his relationship with the House of Schiedmayer.”
The First Reed Organ Factory in Germany
Johann Lorenz had four sons and one daughter, all piano makers. In 1845, the two older sons, Adolf and Hermann, became partners in their father’s enterprise. Thus, the firm Schiedmayer und Soehne, Court Piano Manufacturers, was established. The father sent the two younger sons to Paris, to study the manufacture of reed organs (harmoniums) at Debain. In 1853 upon their return to Stuttgart, their father built for them a workshop for reed organ manufacture adjacent to his plant on Neckar Street. There followed the establishment of the first reed organ factory in Germany, the firm J & P Schiedmayer, later Schiedmayer Pianofortefabrik.
The Two Stuttgart Factories
Schiedmayer & Sons and J & P Schiedmayer became the two largest piano manufacturing firms in South Germany. The company was comprised of two main plants in Stuttgart and satellite plants in Ulm and Plochingen, as well as branches in Berlin and Saarbrücken. In 1890 J & P Schiedmayer started producing celestas, in addition to small upright pianos, grand pianos and reed organs. It also produced unusual hybrid instruments such as: the Schiedmayer-Scheola, a combined reed organ and celesta; and mechanical instruments (Phonola: a player piano with a Hupfeld mechanism).
A Family Rivalry
It was expressly stipulated that the parent factory (Schiedmayer & Sons) would exclusively manufacture pianos, while reed organs were to be built in the junior plant. Thus, two plants named Schiedmayer existed in Stuttgart. The family head, Johann Lorenz, died in 1860, and against his wishes the younger sons began the manufacture of pianos, while the older ones started to build reed organs. Thus the relatives became competitors.
The Competition did not end there. The daughter of Johann Lorenz, Louise Schiedmayer, married Karl Müller. Their son Erwin Müller-Schiedmayer learned piano building from his four uncles in Stuttgart and worked at Steinway & Sons in New York from 1868 until 1873. He established the piano manufacturing firm of Müller-Schiedmayer in Würzburg in 1874. The last bearer of the Müller name was Erwin Müller Jr., born in 1898. The plant was destroyed during World War II. The business was sold in 1968 to the Karl Lang Piano Company in Munich which was taken over by the Steinway Company Munich in 2001.
When J. L. Schiedmayer died in 1860, he bequeathed to his sons a plant which long ago had ceased to be a mere workshop and had become a major industrial enterprise that rightly garnered many awards. By 1861 his son Hermann Sr. also died, and the sole responsibility for the firm of Schiedmayer & Sons fell to the other son, Adolph Sr.. The general economic boom at the end of the nineteenth century helped; worldwide exports garnered awards, medallions and honorary diplomas for the firm.
Purveyor to the Court
Life Work Destroyed
The centenary of the firm was celebrated in Stuttgart in 1909. Among the congratulations one came from King Wilhelm II and Queen Charlotte. No one could foresee that World War I would break out five years later. The war brought many losses including border closings, and shortages of materials and workers. In 1919 Adolf Jr., together with his nephew Gustav (son of Hermann Jr.), succeeded in reviving the firm to some extent. But when World War II broke out, the Schiedmayers found themselves in the same situation as 25 years previously with no materials, no work force and no contact with foreign customers. The plant was hit by bombs three times. The third time, on the night of July 26, 1944, it burned to the ground. The life work of the piano manufacturing family Schiedmayer in Stuttgart was wiped out. The company suffered a heavy blow.
After the war in 1946, only a few people believed in the possibility of reconstruction. However, he business head at the time, Gustav Schiedmayer (1883-1957), great-grandson of Johann Lorenz, did not despair. Already in September 1946, temporary reconstruction was started with the means at hand. In the 1960s, Gustav Schiedmayer and his son Georg (1931-1992) drew up a number of plans and applied for reconstruction permits. They were all rejected and finally permanently denied, since the cultural center was already planned for this lot. In 1969 Schiedmayer had to abandon the lot under threat of expropriation. Today, the House of History and the State Academy for Music and Representative Arts stand on this lot.
Manufacturing in Altbach
Piano Production Discontinued
Piano production was closed down completely in 1980. The markets were saturated and Asian piano brands became more and more established as global competitors. Cooperation with the Ibach company to produce pianos under the Schiedmayer label turned out to be impractical, and Georg Schiedmayer quickly withdrew from this unrewarding collaboration. Although Ibach continued to produce pianos under the Schiedmayer label, the Schiedmayer musical-instrument-building dynasty established in 1735 has nothing to do with pianos manufactured by Ibach. This refers in particular to the so-called Schiedmayer Pianos produced for Ibach by the firms of Roth & Junius, Young Chang, Concorde, Kawai, Sauter, Seiler and Steinberger. We want to emphasize that neither the firm of Schiedmayer & Sons nor Schiedmayer Pianofortefabrik, formerly J. & P. Schiedmayer, ever sold their logos or trademark to Ibach.
The Schiedmayer Pianofortefabrik, formerly J. & P. Schiedmayer, which remained the property of Georg Schiedmayer and Elianne Schiedmayer, was still registered under the number HRA 761 at the District Court in Stuttgart. In 2008 the District Court ordered to dissolve the company due to inactivity.
The Specialization in Celestas
In the course of the takeover of the Schiedmayer Pianofortefabrik, the firm of Schiedmayer & Sons extended its business portfolio by incorporating the celesta production. This instrument, invented by Victor Mustel (Paris) in 1886, has been manufactured since 1890 by. J. & P. Schiedmayer (renamed to Schiedmayer Pianofortefabrik in 1875).
In 1980 the firm of Schiedmayer & Sons was rebranded as Schiedmayer & Sons, GmbH & Co. KG. In charge are Georg Schiedmayer and his mother Henriette (Hete) Schiedmayer, née Siekmeyer. From that date on the family Schiedmayer has specialized solely on the production of celestas and the keyboard Glockenspiel.