William Knabe began building pianos in 1854. Quickly recognized as a serious maker of pianos, he also handled the commercial end of his business so cleverly that by the 1860’s his firm almost controlled the entire market of the southern United States.
His piano was chosen by The Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Opera, and by many others for its beautiful tone, perfectly crafted to be a wonderful accompanying instrument. Concert pianists used it as well. Most notably, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky chose the Knabe to debut Carnegie Hall’s very first concert on May 5, 1891. Other artists also proudly performed on the Knabe, including Artur Rubenstein, Hans Von Bulow, and Ferrucio Busoni.
Other famous owners include scientists Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, singers Lillian Ponce and Dame Nellie Melba, as well as musicians like Saint-Saens and Elvis Presley.
Today’s Knabe piano emulates the original design philosophy in all of its pianos and there are several exact historic reproductions of his original models available. The pianos are manufactured by SMC, who have also been praised for their work in manufacturing Sohmer pianos to their original scale designs.
Recently, Andre Watts was visiting Cunningham Piano Company and helped a friend choose a performance level upright piano. After considering many choices, including some of the finest hand built uprights in the world, Mr. Watts recommended the Knabe 131 professional upright.