This day in music in 1828, Ignaz Bösendorfer was granted a piano-making license. Son of a carpenter, Ignaz Bösendorfer was an Austrian piano maker in the nineteenth century who founded the iconic Bösendorfer Company. Founded in the historically rich center of Vienna, Bösendorfer has an incomparable place in classical music and piano lore. The ornate and sophisticated aesthetic build combined with its innovative mechanical action make a piano that is still a status symbol.
Of Bösendorfer’s advocates and ambassadors, Franz Liszt and his rapturous displays of virtuosity stands at the fore. Before finding Bösendorfer, a young Liszt broke all of the pianos that were available. When the Bösendorfer didn’t break, Liszt went on to elevate the Bösendorfer brand to royal heights on his rockstar tours of Europe.
Now, owned by Yamaha, the pianos are hallmarks of craftsmanship in the multinational piano business. Though readily available in conservatory models, Bösendorfer stands out through its 290 Imperial model. One of the world’s largest models, the 290 spans 97 keys, eight full octaves, and 9”6’ at a price of $250,000. The added range, originally suggested by the Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni, is all in the bass. The added strings, seldom used unless specified, add a richness to an instrument that already boasts the most distinctive and refined of tones.
Since that July 25th when Ignaz first acquired a license to take over his master’s workshop and start his own line, Bösendorfers have been played by a wide cast of artists ranging from Stanislav Richter to ABBA.