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Instrument Making in Berlin

Berlin has a long-standing tradition of instrument making, dating back to the time of Frederick the Great, when Friedrich Gabriel A. Kirst had his workshop in Potsdam and several young instrument makers learned their craft from him, among them J. Conrad Griessling and B. Schlott. In 1808 they founded their own business in Berlin, which existed until 1842. They first made woodwind and later also brass wind instruments. At the same time, Johann Gottfried Moritz also settled in Berlin. As a royal instrument maker for the court and academic artist, he improved the valves of brass instruments together with his son Carl Wilhelm and military musician Wilhelm Wieprecht. In 1835, Moritz patented his bass tuba. This instrument matched Wieprecht’s desire to enforce the bass register of the military bands. The Moritz company existed until 1955.

The piano lyre and the giraffe piano were specialities of the piano makers in Berlin during the Biedermeier period. In the late 19th century and at the turn of the century, Berlin then became a centre of piano making, which also supported a large ancillary industry. Most of the piano makers were located in the Kreuzberg district, among them such companies as Wilhelm Biese, Gebr. Schwechten and Theodor Stöcker. But for some years now, of all those workshops only C. Bechstein is still in business.

Despite the fact that there is no uniform Berlin style of violin making, the city had many violin workshops - mostly for repairs and for the trade with more or less valuable violins. Berlin's most famous violin maker was Otto Möckel (1869-1937) who, like his brother Max (1873-1937), learned the craft from his father Oswald Möckel (1843-1912). Otto built new instruments, offered repair services, dealt with instruments and also wrote an influential instruction book for violin makers. Many famous violinists preferred his instruments to Italian master violins. The great violin player Georg Kulenkampff played his concerts on a violin by Möckel, even though he also possessed a Stradivari.

Scholarship on Berlin's instrument making is documented in a comprehensive   publication.