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Bechstein, piano-makers, and Bechstein/Wigmore Hall

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1249 Bechstein Hall
Held at: Royal College of Music
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Full title: Bechstein, piano-makers, and Bechstein/Wigmore Hall
Date(s): 1880-1951
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 43 volumes (c2 linear metres)
Name of creator(s): Bechstein | piano-makers
Bechstein Hall | London | 1901-1916 | concert venue
Wigmore Hall | London | 1917- | concert venue
Arts Council of Great Britain


Administrative/Biographical history:

Bechstein are a German firm of piano makers founded in Berlin in 1853 by Friedrich Wilhelm Carl Bechstein (1826-1900), who founded the firm in 1853 in Berlin. Following successful receptions at the 1862 London exhibition and the 1867 Paris exhibition, the output of the firm grew from 300 instruments a year during the 1860s to 1000 a decade later, 3000 during the 1890s and 5000 in the years preceding World War I. Following the founder's death, his sons Edwin Bechstein and Carl Bechstein assumed control and later Carl's son, also Carl, joined the firm. The importance of the British market to the firm was such that half of the firm's annual output of pianos was sold there. The firm sought to provide an impressive yet intimate showcase for recitals (particularly featuring the firm's instruments). In 1901 the firm opened a concert room in London, known as the Bechstein Hall, next to its showrooms on Wigmore Street; the first concert on 31 May 1901 featured the virtuoso pianist Ferruccio Busoni. The Hall quickly came renowned for its superb acoustics and enjoyed popularity with both performers and the public. Bechstein, like other German firms in Britain during World War One, experienced anti-German hostility and a decline in business. The firm's affairs were wound up in 1916 by the Board of Trade and the entire business - including studios, offices, warehouses, 137 pianos, and the Hall itself - was sold at auction to Debenhams for 56,500. The Hall reopened in 1917 as the Wigmore Hall.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Bechstein of Berlin and London, piano-makers, 1880-1946, and of the Bechstein Hall and Wigmore Hall, 1901-1951, comprising sales books of Bechstein, giving names of purchaser and details of instruments purchased, 1880-1927; wages book of Bechstein staff, 1890-1912 and stock book, 1946; sales ledger, 1916-1921; instrument hire account book, 1912-1917. Bechstein Hall, day book, 1901-1916 (also includes day book of Arts Council of Great Britain, 1916-1951); hire day book, 1911-1916; cash book, 1912-1916 (and Wigmore Hall, 1934-1916). Wigmore Hall cash book, 1917-1924; daybook, 1930-1946; ledger, 1938-1946.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The volumes are arranged as follows: Bechstein, sales books; Bechstein, other ledgers; Bechstein Hall ledgers; Wigmore Hall ledgers.

Conditions governing access:

Usual conditions of the Library of the Royal College of Music apply. See the RCM website or contact the RCM Library for details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying is permitted at the discretion of the Archivist for research purposes only.

Finding aids:

The material is unlisted.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Not known

Allied Materials

Related material:

City of Westminster Archives Centre holds records, 1906-1967; Wigmore Hall holds records, 1901-2001.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Robert Baxter as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project. Source: article on Bechstein by Cyril Ehrlich, Grove Dictionary of Music.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
May 2001

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