Graf, Conrad (1782-1851)

Conrad Graf (1782-1851) began his life as a cabinet maker in his hometown of Riedlingen, South Germany. Around 1798 he began working for Jakob Schelke, a piano maker in Wahring, a suburb Vienna; it was Schelke who taught Graf the trade. Graf opened his own workshop in 1804, around the time of Shelke’s death. In 1811 he moved his workshop to auf der Wieden 182 in Vienna, and operated at this location until 1825, when he moved to auf der Wieden 102 for a year. In 1826, in response to the increased demand for his pianos, Graf moved his workshop to a former ballroom called the Mondscheinhaus (House of Moonlight). There, the workshop evolved into a factory in the way that it functioned. In this new industrialized building process, certain craftsmen were responsible for building a specific part of the piano, and that was the only part they made. The parts were then brought together at the end and assembled into the finished product. Graf’s pianos were some of the first to be built using this new form of production. Graf’s pianos were regarded throughout Europe as being some of the highest quality instruments at the time. Graf pianos were owned by a number of royal families as well as some of the best musicians of the period, including Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, and Lizst. In 1842 Graf retired, selling his factory to Karl Andreas Stein (1797-1863). Throughout his life, Graf made around 3,000 pianos, many of those that survive remain in good condition due to the quality of their construction.

Literature References:

Clinkscale, M., 2006. Makers of the piano, 1700-1820. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.126

Palmieri, R. and Palmieri, M., 2003. Encyclopedia of Keyboard Instruments. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, p.155-156.