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The History of Petrof
When Bartolomeo Cristofori built the first piano in 1690, he provided a gift the world has enjoyed for more than 300 hundred years. And for just under half that time the Petrof name has enhanced and packaged that gift, bringing the enjoyment to new levels through the ages.
The Petrof piano factory was founded in 1864, in Hradec Králové, an industrial town located 100 kilometres east of Prague in the Czech Republic, when Antonin Petrof converted his father’s workshop into a piano shop.
Antonin Petrof’s intelligence and energy, ensured Petrof Piano became successful very quickly and by the early1880s, as the traditional square piano was going out of style, the company switched its focus and started to produce a line of upright pianos. Petrof also saw potential in other markets and by 1890 was increasing production through an aggressive export drive.
Petrof’s original building, located adjacent to the main cathedral in Hradec Králové, still stands and has recently been given a top-to-bottom restoration by the city, which even replaced the original Petrof sign.
Five generations of the Petrof family have owned and managed the business, during which time the company kept pace with technical developments and earned prizes for its pianos at international exhibitions.
In the late 1800s, Petrof became one of the greatest upright and grand piano manufacturers in Europe, with Petrof instruments found in most of the significant music halls at that time. In 1899 the company was named official piano supplier to the Austro-Hungarian empire.
At the end of the 19th century there were approximately 600 piano makers working in the United States and Europe, but mass production techniques decimated those numbers and by 1910 there were less than 50 piano makers left on each continent. Petrof was one of the survivors of this consolidation wave, but had more problems looming with the nationalization of the Czech Republic in 1948, when the state seized control of many business operations.
Communist management expanded the factory and increased production, but product quality steadily deteriorated as managers, who were judged only by output levels, had no incentive to produce quality.
At one stage most of Petrof’s production was shipped to the Soviet Union in exchange for oil and natural gas. Because they were former business owners, the Petrof family was marginalized in a communist society and as they were cut off from their piano company, they struggled to make a living in a hostile environment.
The Petrof family struggled to survive and had to bide their time for the next 40 years until the “Velvet revolution’’ of 1989 led to the formation of a new democratic government in Prague. The next year, Czech president Vaclav Havel announced plans to return property the state had confiscated in 1948, giving the Petrof family hope of reclaiming control of their piano business. In 1991 the 4th generation of the Petrof family, through Ing. Jan Petrof, was able to return to proprietorship, and took over the company again.
Today, it is the company’s president, representative of the 5th generation of the Petrof family, Mgr. Zuzana Ceralová Petrofová, who continues the company’s reputation for excellence. Using state-of-the-art technology, the company strives to achieve the best result possible in building fine instruments.
By opening a new modern research centre, with its own, large-scale, anechoic measurement chamber, the largest of its kind in the Czech Republic, Petrof proved that it was not indifferent to the family company’s tradition.
Innovation and high quality instruments of European origin, represent key elements of the company's strategy and because of this the instruments have met the conditions of European certification and are now allowed to bear the mark European Excellence.
The company has also recently registered its own patent, an action with magnetic acceleration and has increasingly engaged in international cooperation. All this makes Petrof instruments, as well as the company, different from cheaper options.
At present the Petrof company employs 450 people and manufactures 5000 vertical and 1200 grand pianos annually, exporting to about 65 countries. The company provides support to new players, reliability to experienced piano players and inspiration to piano virtuosos.
Together with production of new pianos, the Petrof company is engaged in renovation of old, valuable pianos of any brand. Petrof´s craftsmen are able to turn a destroyed wreck into a beautiful looking and working instrument, complete with all its original attributes.
In addition to all the normal activities of a great piano maker, the Petrof factory, from time to time, builds extra masterful custom-made pianos for special customers. These pieces are specially-designed, original works of art, using the rarest materials. In this sphere Petrof knows no limits, and virtually anything consistent with good musical qualities can be designed and built.
The story of PETROF family printed in the MUSIC TRADES magazine
The company produces six basic types of grand pianos - distinguished by length. There are three models of concert master instruments, the P 284 Mistral, P 237 Monsoon and P 210 Pasat, which are made individually by the best experts in the company. Another three types, the P 194 Storm, P IV and P V are made using the standard method. The stylish variants include the P IV Chipp and P IV Rococo. All grand pianos have four basic arrangements. The most popular is the black shine, with white shine, walnut and polished mahogany other options.
The upright pianos include four basic height types: 118, 125, 131 and 135 cm. The assortment is enriched with instrument of stylish finishes.
Petrof soundboards are fashioned of solid Bohemian spruce. Grand piano rims are largely of beech and birch, and plates are wet sand-cast. The grands and all verticals use special compressed laminated beech pinblocks and all grands produced now use Abel or Renner hammers. Keys are individually weighted. The grands all have a sostenuto pedal, the verticals a practice pedal (except the 53" model P135, which has a sostenuto).
For many years Petrof used either Czech Detoa actions, German Renner actions or German Renner action parts, assembled in Petrof factory, depending on the model. The company has recently designed entirely new grand and vertical actions, called the “Petrof Original,” which are being manufactured in a separate section of the Detoa factory under the supervision of Petrof engineers.
New concert grands in the master series use Renner actions. In the smaller models you will find the Renner action, the Renner-Petrof action or the Petrof Original action.
At present the highest uprights models - the 135 and 131 - use Renner actions. The middle models use Petrof Original or Renner-Petrof. Most of the smallest verticals use standard Detoa actions. Part of their production is equipped with Petrof Original actions, made by Detoa, or by Renner-Petrof actions.
Petrof has also invented and patented a version of its new grand action that uses tiny opposing magnets on the wippens and wippen rail, called Magnetic Accelerated Action (MAA). These magnets significantly alter the dynamic properties of the action and allow reduced amounts of lead weights in keys as a side effect. Special magnets help to initiate only the initial movement of the action parts when the key begins to move from the rest position. When the key is fully depressed, the effect of the magnets disappears giving enough space to control the touch and dynamics by player. The result is agile action with faster repetition, less fatigue, and less physical work needed to reach higher dynamic levels. The action is adjusted in the factory for a standard touch weight and it can be serviced in exactly the same way as a standard action. Any additional adjustment is not recommended because it can change the proper dynamics properties of action. This MAA can be assembled in grands on a special order.