Rediscovering the marginalized legacy of the woman who built Beethoven’s pianos

Posted on: November 11, 2020

“While Nannette Streicher was … one of the closest friends of Beethoven, whose 250th birthday will be celebrated this December, she was also one of the finest piano builders in Europe,” writes Patricia Morrisroe in Sunday’s (11/7) New York Times. “She owned her own company—employing her husband, Andreas Streicher, a pianist and teacher, to handle sales, bookkeeping and business correspondence. But many Beethoven scholars, perhaps finding it inconceivable that an 18th-century woman could build a piano, have turned Andreas into the manufacturer and Nannette into his shadowy helpmate. Born in Augsburg, Germany, in 1769, Nannette was the sixth child of Johann Andreas Stein, a renowned manufacturer who developed an innovative piano action, improving on the mechanism that causes the hammers to strike the strings…. She had mastered many of her father’s building techniques, earning a reputation as a mechanical wunderkind…. By 1809, Nannette had considerably reworked her father’s design, turning out some of the largest, loudest and sturdiest pianos in Vienna. With a warehouse that produced 50 to 65 grand pianos a year, the Streicher firm was considered by many to be the finest in the city…. Her instruments live on, in museums around the world.”