There has been a lot of change at Feurich lately which has led to some confusion. I will attempt to describe the current lay of the land, AS I UNDERSTAND IT. I have been very close to the main players over the past 2 1/2 years and I believe that I have a pretty clear understanding of what has been happening. But, these are MY OPINIONS. Others, of course, have the right to suggest corrections or different points of view.
In 2010, there were two primary entities: Julius Feurich Klavier-u.Flugelfabrikation GmbH in Gunzenhausen Germany, managed by Julius Feurich and Wendl & Lung Klavierbau u. Vertriebs GmbH, managed by Ernest Bittner, located in Vienna Austria.
Feurich has a long history and by 1970 was producing high quality, rather affordable pianos in a factory in Langlau Germany. However various corporate twists and turns over the next 30 years resulted in Julius Feurich making, by 2010, a limited line of verticals and grands in a very small shop in Gunzenhausen. While some sources put the annual production at around 60, my own personal belief and observations was that the annual output was less.
Julius Feurich is a marketing and administration man, with an advanced degree in management. He had spent most of his life in the family enterprise but is not a trained piano technician or builder. As a manager he had experimented with various ways of expanding the Feurich brand. There was an earlier merger with Bechstein that had not turned out well and different opportunities with Chinese makers had been explored. This last effort resulted in an agreement with Artfield in China to build a line labeled Julius Feurich exclusively for the Chinese market. The Gunzenhausen production was very small making the available pianos rather expensive in a declining market. It is my opinion that while the Gunzenhausen facility was getting by, it was not thriving.
Around 2004 Ernest Bittner founded Wendl & Lung in Vienna to develop and distribute a line of affordable performance pianos, labeled with the Wendl & Lung name. This effort resulted in a successful relationship with Hailun in Ningbo China, who built a series of grands and verticals to Wendl & Lung specifications that were distributed primarily in Europe and Asia.
In early 2011 Wendl & Lung acquired Feurich in a mutually beneficial financial transaction, willingly entered into by Julius and Ernest. The general points were that Wendl & Lung would receive a well known trade name and Julius would receive funding and assistance to continue the Feurich German production. The Ningbo-made Wendl & Lung pianos would be relabeled Feurich and Julius Feurich received a license for the German Feurich production. I got personally involved in the summer of 2011 when I met with both Julius and Ernest in Vienna and agreed to distribute these two series of Feurich branded pianos in North America.
IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING that in the spring of 2012 Julius Feurich willingly cancelled the licensing agreement and established a new company named Julius M. Feurich Klavierfabrik and entered into another agreement with Artfield for Chinese production and distribution. However the German trademark courts took exception to the similarity of the names and, since he had legally transferred the Feurich trade name to Wendl & Lung, declined to allow Julius to use the Feurich name. It is my understanding that Julius has now formed a company called JF Piano and has plans to continue piano building in Gunzenhausen.
Now if you’ve followed this far, I’m sure you can see some of the problems that are developing. Namely, who makes what?
Here is what I know:
Feurich Pianos, headquarted in Vienna Austria and managed by Ernest Bittner, produces a line of pianos made to Feurich specifications by Hailun in Ningbo China.You can learn more about these great pianos by visiting www.feurich.com. These are the instruments that I am helping introduce into North America and you can follow that progress at www.feurichusa.com. This is a really great affordable performance piano and there are some real developments coming up. We’re planning on showing at the Frankfurt Messe in April and at the Piano Technicians Convention in July.
So what about the German Feurich’s?
Having European made instruments has always been important to the Feurich brand. So Julius withdrawing from the agreement was a bit of a surprise. However Ernest is in the process of developing and reintroducing a German made line, based on the historical Feurich designs, to be made near Cologne. One of the primary managers of this new European manufacturing is Fritz Steinbauer, who worked for many years as production manager at the Feurich factory in Langlau.
While it is too early to comment specifically on models and prices, the general goal is more in keeping with the Feurich Langlau tradition, namely high quality pianos at more affordable prices. If you have ever had a chance to see one of these instruments, particularly the model 190, you know they are wonderful instruments with a very charismatic sound. The plan is to bring these instruments back, making every use of modern technology and techniques.
I have respect for Julius Feurich because of his family history. He also introduced me to Ernest and invited me to get involved with the new, combined company. However I am disappointed by the confusion his recent actions have brought into the market. I am also unsure that his approach of hand building very expensive pianos is the right choice for this market. I have freely chosen to continue with Ernest and I am looking forward, with quite some excitement, to the changes and developments in store for Feurich.
But wait! There is a website www.feurichpianos.com. Who is that?
This site is managed by Brian Gatchell of Atlantic Pianos in Florida. Brian used to be the Feurich distributor, before I got involved. Brian has a couple Gunzenhausen made Feurich pianos in his inventory, but has no other involvement with Feurich. Even though he told me he would take this site down, for some reason he has not.
As I said before, you are welcome to your own opinions and I welcome corrections to facts.