History Of The Piano — Ritmüller

Ritmüller advertisement showcasing their Premium line of grand pianos.
The Ritmüller pianos excel in every individual part of their construction, and leave absolutely nothing to be desired. There is no doubt that the firm of W. Ritmuller & Sohn will soon take up the foremost position amongst the German makers, a position which is due to their excellent manufacture, and which no connoisseur will venture to deny them.
Dr. Hans von Bülow, Conductor, Virtuoso Pianist, and Composer

A Little Workshop In Göttingen

For a company known to be one of the first manufacturers of pianos in Göttingen, Germany, there is a dearth of public records regarding its lineage. What is notable must be culled from accounts in old German history annals, scraps of counterfactual entries in books on piano makers, and the like—which points to a rich, as yet undiscovered narrative. What we can gather, like most piano origins, is quite fascinating.

Advertisement listed in 'The Strad' for W. Ritmüller & Sohn's pianofortes.
1895 Advertisement in The Strad, Volume 5. 1

Toward the late 18th century (before the addition of pianos), the production of lutes, guitars and harps began in the workshop of Andreas Georg Ritmüller and his son, Gotlieb Wilhelm Ritmüller (1770/72-1828/29), and established a firm reputation for exemplary instrument making. A shift toward the building of pianos began in 1895 (which marks the official birthdate of the company), and the name G. W. Ritmüller became the official signet some time after the father’s death (c. 1800).

A marriage between Gottlieb Wilhelm Ritmüller and Dorothea Schenterlein produced two children, Johann Wilhelm (b. 1802) & Johann Martin (b. 1803), who would eventually succeed their father; and upon Wilhelm senior’s death (c1828/1829), the company became W. Ritmüller & Sons.

The piano factory for W. Ritmüller & Sons at The Hard Hof on Ritterplan in Göttingen, Germany.
The Piano Factory At The Hard Hof On Ritterplan In Göttingen. 2

After much success, the company bought Hard Hof, an estate on Ritterplan, that became a center for cultural life in Göttingen, in which artists and musicians gathered to make music and engage in lively discussions.

From 1855 to 1860, concerts were held in the grand salon of the Hard Hof house, a meeting ground for musicians and artists as well as the center of the Ritmüller workshop. Klara Schumann and Hans von Bulow are among the regular guests hosted by Julius Otto Grimm and his wife Philippine, known by all as ‘Pine Gur.’
Sourced From Städtisches Museum In Göttingen

Schröder From Magdeburg

In 1860, the eldest son left the company to his brother, Johann Martin, reverting the company name to W. Ritmüller & Son. By 1891, after nearly a century of recognition and production, the company became insolvent and had to be bought out by Bernhard Schröder from Magdeburg, reverting once again the name to W. Ritmüller & Sons.

During 1884 and 1885, the company’s grand pianos and uprights received twelve medals and diplomas in Germany and London.

Angled view of a Ritmüller upright piano, c. 1905 from Göttingen, Germany.
Ritmüller Upgright Piano, Göttingen, c. 1905.
( Sold for $3,342, 20 April 2000. ) 3
Section Divider

Re-Engineered For The 21st Century

Since 2007, under the leadership of Pearl River, Ritmüller stands poised to restore its lost connection to the past by committing itself to a standard of excellence that offers German precision craftsmanship and the latest technology in manufacturing.

Portrait of Lothar Thomma for a Ritmüller piano company's promo.
Lothar Thomma, member and past director
of the German & European Piano Manufacturers’ Associations.

After more than 30 years providing professional consultation to 20 major piano brands, master piano designer (and piano teacher), Lothar Thomma, has created a collection of Italian style upright and grand pianos that "characterize the warm, rich tone" of the Euro Sound, while also maintaining affordability. With the incorporation of "Roslau strings, Louis Renner premium hammers from Germany, ebony wood sharps, and solid, music grade spruce for its soundboards," the new Ritmüller Premium combines the best of "old world tradition and state-of-the-art computerized manufacturing."

In February, 2015, Pearl River announced a joint venture with Steingraeber & Söhne to increase the cooperation between Germany and Beijing, continuing their dedication to improved standards in the Ritmüller brand.

Performance Components

Group of various components for Ritmüller pianos, including strings, soundboard, iron frame, and hammer.

Soundboards – Comprised of aged, music grade spruce, "cured and matched for color and grain."

Hammers – Imported Louis Renner premium hammers from Germany.

Piano Action – All-wood, European Hornbeam construction and no composite parts, with "buckskin, premier French damper felt, and English woven felts."

Sand Cast Plates – Heavier than plates utilizing vacuum processing, making them "almost acoustically dead," the curing involves a more intensive finishing that involves a "natural cooling/aging process," thus eliminating unwanted overtones.

Keys & Key Bed – With keys made of "select, straight-grained spruce," a bed built of "Euro-designed butcher-block construction (with no plastic or Styrofoam components)," and sharps from ebony wood, the resulting strength and stability provide extraordinary touch and response.

Roslau Music Wire – The finest premium quality music wire in an appropriate guage for lower-tension scales, with base strings made of solid copper, hand-wound.

It was in the Ritmüller’s private performance hall at Hard Hof that Otto Grimm listened to Brahms' work in progress, suggesting that the two symphonic pieces arranged as pianofortes would be better suited as a pianoforte concerto (what would become Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15).
Sourced From The Life of Johannes Brahms, Volume 1
End of Article

Page Sources

The Strad, Volume 5.  London, New York: Orpheus, 1895.  Google Books.  Web.  25 March 2015.
"The Piano Factory At The Hard Hof On Ritterplan In Göttingen."  Photograph.  Museum.Goettingen.de.  The Städtisches Museum, n.d.  Web.  28 March 2015.  No Known Copyright Restrictions.
"Ritmüller Upgright Piano, Göttingen, Circa 1905."  Photograph.  Christies.Com.  Christie's, n.d.  Web.  28 March 2015.  No Known Copyright Restrictions.