This post is in a way a little history lesson of an illustrious corner of British piano building. Do stay with it because there is an interesting and happy turn of events at the end…
At their height, Danemann pianos were a very significant manufacturer of high quality pianos. They were a British company based in Islington in North London and were famous for their beautiful tone and touch. Their reputation was such that they were suppliers of pianos to the rich and famous of the day, as well as to academic institutions and concert halls.
The company was established by William Danemann. He trained with London based John Brinsmead who himself was a piano builder with a fine reputation. Brinsmead was born in Devon in 1814 and was a piano builder from 1836 later joined by his sons, John and Edgar. With the excellence of training from Brinsmead behind him Danemann Pianos were established in 1893. Production continued until 1983.
They produced a wide range of pianos from small uprights to large concert grands, supplying British Embassies, P&O and even the Royal Festival Hall when it opened in 1951. Not only did they supply the local UK market, they were also keen exporters worldwide, adapting their pianos for all the various climates around the world.
There was a focus on very high quality after WW2 rather than selling to the mass market, there were even commissions to produce pianos for Harrods. To underline this point of quality, Danemann were fitted with the renowned actions from Renner and Schwander. Renner is still regarded in the front rank of makers of piano action today. The decision to focus on high quality was probably very sensible given that most people were just about surviving with ration books and didn’t have the means to purchase luxuries such as pianos in the early post war years.
Their designs in the 20s and 30s were quite adventurous, happily embracing the Arts and Crafts movement. During the 1930s they made extensive use Italian walnut adding to their air of quality.
We are more familiar with Danemann as pianos in our schools. We should not be dismiss an instrument builder supplying schools as moving down market. Materials used in schools need to be robust and of the highest quality to survive in this tough environment. Danemann were the perfect company to supply schools as their products were very robust, being made from the best quality materials available. They even had safety features which included rubber casters for ease of moving around schools. Many thousands of Danemann pianos were produced for schools and it is very likely that there are still thousands seeing active service today.
There are all sorts of twists and turns in the Danemann story. They built pianos for other companies such as Pohlmann as many Chinese companies do today. There was the Harrods commission and later. Since 1982 the company and factory has been sold to various owners bringing with it each time fresh hope for Danemann. Sadly, each time production was short lived, however the name with the illustrious past lives on.
The future in fact is looking very bright. Broughton Pianos headed up by Glenn Morris now owns the Danemann name and is carefully planning a revival of this wonderful name. As with all manufactured products now, from cars, to electronics and to musical instruments including pianos, it is a multinational effort. The drive, energy and a long term plan for Danemann led by Morris has seen production already starting.
We have just one model at Pianolobby at the moment, a Danemann 118 and it is a very promising start. At the time of writing we understand that there is a great deal of research and design underway and many new models of quality is heading our way.
Watch this space.
Thank you for reading.