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Canadian Piano History -
Mason & Risch
The Mason & Risch piano company dates back to the late 1800ís. They were among the earliest piano makers in Canada. They grew to become a giant of the Canadian piano industry producing more pianos than any other company.
Their motto "Great Is The Privilege Of Achievement" reflected the craftsmanship of the company. The upright pianos that Mason & Risch produced from the turn of the century into the 1920ís stand as a fine examples of the best of the piano makers art.
The pianos of this era featured fine cabinetry. Many of their uprights had full agraffes right up to the last note in the treble section. This is a feature that is normally only found in grand pianos and they are usually only found in the mid section of the piano. The only other uprights that I have ever seen with full agraffes are Bechstein (made in Germany) and some of the Heintzmans made in the last few years of production.
The early Mason & Risch company also made good quality grand pianos. There were many, many Canadian piano makers through the years, but out of all of them, only Heintzman, Nordheimer and Mason & Risch made really good quality grand pianos. Heintzman & Company was widely recognised as the top grand piano maker in the country , but some of the Mason & Risch grand pianos made in the first half of the Twentieth Century were fine musical instruments and are good candidates for rebuilding.
In 1948 Mason & Risch was bought by Winter & Company which was a division of the American giant, Aeolian Mfg.. Quality fell sharply by the mid 1950ís under the new management . By the 1970ís they had slipped to the point of producing pianos that were more pieces of furniture than musical instruments. By the time they ceased operations in the 1980ís there were few in the piano business that were sorry to see them go, especially piano technicians.
The pianos that were produced in their last decade of business seemed to be thrown together. They produced a piano that seemed like its only purpose was to be sold, not to be played or to be serviced. Tuners had knick names like ďMason & RiskĒ because their poor design made it so difficult to avoid breaking bass strings when tuning. The "Century II" piano was particularly bad.
Many times as I have struggled through tuning a Mason & Risch from this era I have looked at the motto on the lid that proudly proclaims "Great Is The Privilege Of Achievement" and thought it should say in brackets "Or So Iíve Been Told".
Mason & Risch pianos often have a second serial number stamped into the soundboard to the left of the action. This is usually the serial number that will give the correct age of the piano. Note the Sterling Action logo on the hammer rail. Sterling was owned by Mason & Risch. This logo is an indication that this piano came from their parent company.
Mason & Risch also produced pianos under - Canadian Piano Company, Cameo, Cecilian, Chopin, Classic, Eaton, Gerhard, Ennis, Haddon Hall, Henry F Miller, Henry Herbert, Harmonic, Homer, Kreisler, New Scale Williams, Mozart, Schubert, Steinbach and Sterling. They also distributed Hallet & Davis, Harrington, Kranch & Bach, Mehlin & Son, Preston and Wadsworth.
For more information on the history of Mason & Risch visit The Canadian Encyclopedia
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