The Prized Steinway & Sons Grand Piano of 1859: An Examination of its Historical Significance

The Steinway & Sons grand piano of 1859, fondly referenced throughout the piano narrative as the "rosewood trove," was introduced in a time of bountiful artistic flourishing – the Romantic Period. This Steinway masterpiece was crafted during a period in history when names such as Johannes Brahms, Frédéric Chopin, and Richard Wagner were making tremendous waves in classical music. The piano was not a mere instrument to them, but an orchestrion of sound, a confidant to their creative genius. The musical richness of the age was reflected in the craftsmanship of these instruments, and like a resonating chord, it still echoes through history to this very day.

The 1859 Steinway grand piano was, indeed, masterfully crafted. This art-piece, not unlike its contemporaries, was elegantly enclosed in Brazilian rosewood veneer. Its case was fashionably adorned in a Rococo Revival style, meticulously hand-carved with ornate scrolls typically found in nineteenth-century furnishings. This was a piano that commanded attention, a testament to the epoch's appreciation of grace and opulence.

Yet, the 1859 Steinway grand piano was not simply a thing of aesthetic beauty. The creators were men of foresight, innovators who sought revolutionary ideas that would provide unparalleled sound quality. At the heart of this piano lies the patented Steinway design – the overstrung plate. This technological innovation saw the bass strings cross over the other strings – an arrangement that allowed for a larger, more resonant soundboard. This feature, in combination with the specialized action mechanism of the 1859 model, is what gave these pianos their characteristically rich and inviting tone, a feature that continues to inspire the grandeur often associated with the Steinway name.

The Steinway & Sons grand piano of 1859 found its home mainly in the illustrious parlors of the Atlantic seaboard. Notably, in the grand estates of the Vanderbilt and Astor families, where it was famed for its robust, full-bodied tone. However, it was not confined to the American soil alone. It traveled across the ocean and found favor with European aristocracy and even royalty. Queen Victoria is known to have ordered one for Winsor Castle, drawn to its regal voice and physical elegance.

An aspect often overlooked when discussing these vintage models is the intricate process of crafting such a masterpiece. The Steinway piano factory, located in Astoria, Queens, New York, was a hive of artisanal activity. Each instrument, under the expert hands of specialized workers, underwent a rigorous and lengthy process of assembly and refinement. This included the installation of the intricate action mechanism, veneer application, stringing, tuning, and the final beauty-enhancing polish. Over 300 pairs of hands worked on each piano, ensuring a masterpiece of unparalleled quality.

The Steinway & Sons grand piano of 1859 and its descendants numbers among their admirers the crème de la crème of the music world. The piano's legacy lives on in institutions, personal collections and, importantly, in the music that they have helped to create.

In conclusion, the 1859 Steinway & Sons grand piano was, and still is, a timeless icon. Its craftsmanship resonates the cultural climate of its time. Its vibrant, melodious voice tells a thousand tales of artistic evolution and narrative. It stands firm as a sentinel to its illustrious past, as intricately tied to the piano's narrative as the strings to the soundboard. Perhaps it is not just a piano, but a song that history continues to sing.

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