why this has happened. The answer is that we are seeing a change of culture. In reality, we are building an instrument which is serving a culture of the 19th century that has carried on into the 21st century, resulting in market saturation. Some very big names have disappeared from Germany too – for example Ibach, which was a very respected piano.
A big challenge for Blüthner is the fact that for a long time we weren’t able to promote our pianos internationally: being hidden behind the Iron Curtain prevented us from becoming as well-known as some other brands. So around 20 years ago we began working with a local partner in China to produce an entry-level piano and develop a network. When that failed, I decided to build our own factory there, which has now been operating for around 18 years. Our third brand – Irmler – is produced in China and mainly sold to local customers there, though there is also some demand for these instruments in Europe and America. The number of piano players in China is still increasing every year and is soon expected reach 86 to 87 million people, according to statistics collected by the Chinese Association of Musical Instrument Manufacturers.
Is the company involved in any educational initiatives for young musicians? We are extremely active in supporting art and musical communities through our Blüthner Reinhold Foundation. These initiatives are very important in terms of getting the Blüthner name known among younger pianists. We are also collaborating with competitions, as well as running our own; we have the biennial Irmler Competition in China, which is the largest piano competition in the world and attracts 40,000 participants across 48 categories. The final is held in a baseball stadium and always sells out!
What about performers – do you feel they are becoming more open to trying different pianos than in the past? Absolutely. For example, I know that Martha Argerich is only interested in good pianos. She has said, ‘As long as I like the piano, I don’t care what name is on it – I either like it, or I don’t play it’. She also told me that the concerts she remembers as outstanding were ones in which ‘the piano didn’t simply repeat what I told it to do, but was an instrument that inspired me.’ IP
Craftsmen prepare a soundboard at Blüthner’s factory in Leipzig www.international-piano.com
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