The History of Pearl River
Established in 1956, Pearl River Piano Group has become the largest piano manufacturer in the world, with a production of over 120,000 pianos annually by more than 2,000 workers. The company builds pianos under the Pearl River, Ritmüller, and Kayserburg names, as well as under a few other names for OEM contracts with distributors such as Cristofori (with Jordan Kitt’s Music), and Essex (with Steinway). (See separate listings under those names.)
Pearl River is the best-selling piano brand in China, and is exported to more than 120 countries. After a successful IPO in 2012, the formerly government-owned company began construction of a new, state-of-the-art, 3.5 million sq. ft. factory, to which it will complete a transition in 2018. The factory combines traditional craftsmanship with advanced CNC digital machinery, and complies with European high-level technology and process standards. Pearl River has been operating a European company headquarters in Germany since 1995.
Pearl River Piano
In recent years, Pearl River has revised and streamlined its lineup of models with the assistance of European and American piano-design consultants. Many new models have been introduced, while older models have been reviewed and modified. Currently, Pearl River verticals begin with the 43" console model EU110 leg-and-toe continental (new in 2016) and the EU111 series in several traditional American furniture styles.
They continue with a series of studio models, including the 45" model UP115M5 in a traditional institutional style (legs with toe blocks), and the 45" model UP115E in a school-friendly institutional style with special casters and a full-length music desk. Finally, there are the upright models, including the 46½" model EU118 (new in 2015), and the relatively new 48" model EU122 and 51½" model EU131 concert upright.
Pearl River grands come in six sizes, from 4' 11" to 9', including the new GP150SP with silver plate and hardware, and have been redesigned over the last several years to include features such as vertically laminated beech bridges with solid beech caps, lighter touch weights, German hammer felt, beech rims, and new scale designs.
In 1995, Pearl River and Yamaha forged a $10M joint venture as Guangzhou Yamaha Pearl River Piano Group Ltd. which lasted more than a decade. They created the brand name Yamaha-Pearl River. Yamaha gets a production line for its own low-end items. However, in 2002, Yamaha has established Yamaha Music & Electronics (China) Co., Ltd. Later, Yamaha solely established Hangzhou Yamaha Musical Instruments Co., Ltd. to produce its Yamaha line of pianos in China.
Pearl River also makes pianos under the Ritmüller name, a brand that originated in Germany in 1795. A European master piano designer was engaged in 2007 to design, from the ground up, a line of higher-end pianos that would be distinct from the Pearl River line. The new Ritmüller line was introduced to North America in 2009.
Ritmüller pianos come in three distinct price categories: Premium, Performance, and Classic. The Premium models feature solid spruce soundboards, Renner hammers, hornbeam wood actions, beech rims, and real ebony sharps, among other higher-quality features.
Piano reviewers have auditioned several of the new grand models and have been very impressed withthe grand models GH-160, 170, and 188; GH-148R and GH-188R. In addition, the 48" model UH-121R vertical and the 4' 10" model GH-148R grand have been chosen as “Staff Picks.”
The Performance models, introduced in 2014, feature unique scales, offset backposts, ebony sharps, high-quality hammers with German felt, and a veneered and tapered all-spruce soundboard. In 2018, Ritmüller introduced the R8 SP, a 4' 11" conventional grand piano with silver plate and hardware.
The Classic series, introduced in 2011, is a line of lower-cost instruments currently comprising three vertical models. They feature a veneered all-spruce soundboard and German Röslau strings.
Pearl River's Other Brands
In 1999, Pearl River bought a mature German brand, Ritmüller to complement the Pearl River brand.
In 2013, Pearl River brought to North America the upper-level Kayserburg Artists series. These instruments are handmade by a team of Pearl River’s most experienced craftsmen, personally managed by European piano experts, in what can be described only as a small “German” piano workshop inside a large Chinese piano factory.
The Kayserburg Artists craftsmen have all completed a rigorous training that includes studying the world’s finest pianos and working side by side with visiting European craftsmen. The Kayserburg Artists pianos contain such high-end features as soundboards of tight-grained, solid European spruce, Renner hammers, Laoureux (French) damper felt, German Röslau strings, vertically laminated beech bridges with wood cores and solid beech caps, German natural keytops, and genuine ebony sharps.
In 2016, Guangzhou Pearl River Piano Co Ltd completed the purchase of Germany's largest and most famous piano maker Schimmel. The Shenzhen Stock Exchange listed company now holds 90 percent of the shares in Schimmel-Verwaltungs GmbH, valued at 23.99 million euro ($27.1 million), it said in a statement. For Schimmel, this alliance brings the stability of solid financial backing and the chance to successfully grow our business in China with support from Pearl River, the country’s market leader.