Ernst Hiis formed his own company, E. A. Ihse, in 1893. In 1915, he sold his business and worked for other companies. In 1923, he became the leading expert and manager of the Astron piano company. The Second World War and the subsequent occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union stopped production of pianos in Estonia. The factories were destroyed. Only Ernst Hiis continued his grand piano production. In 1950, by the order of Joseph Stalin, based on The Peoples' Furniture Factory, the Tallinn Piano Factory was established, and the new piano was called Estonia. In April 1951, the first Estonia piano was presented to the State Board. From 1950 to 1990 the company was state-owned and made two grand piano models (190 cm and 273 cm) for distribution throughout the Soviet Union.
The company languished after the fall of the Soviet Union and the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991, and in 1993 the factory was privatized to its managers. After the factory's decline in the early 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the firm was revived by Indrek Laul, who invested in the company and introduced its products to the United States. In 1995 it was sold to Indrek Laul (at that time a doctoral piano student at the Juilliard School in New York), who took over control of the company.
Components and materials are now imported where appropriate, such as German Renner actions and hammers. In 2003 a new factory building was completed and opened.
The Estonia pianos manufactured during the existence of the USSR were surprisingly strong and could demonstrate excellent stability, fast mechanic and grand singing tone. Pianos from that period are very rare to find nowadays, almost being an extinct brand. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the new pianos in the early 1990s were plagued by manufacturing defects. Those made since about 2002 have demonstrated remarkable quality and a unique, sweet singing tone. Additional improvements made in the years 2003–05 have placed the Estonia grand pianos in the highest or second highest tier of quality, based upon the ranking system of Pianobuyer, a recognized reference in the piano industry.
Concert pianist Marc-André Hamelin, after choosing an Estonia piano for himself, commented, "The level of craftsmanship in the Estonia piano can only inspire the highest respect and I have no doubt that this piano will continue to prove essential to sensitive musicians."
Estonia pianos are performance quality acoustic grand pianos manufactured in the Republic of Estonia. Five models are currently (as of June 2014) offered for sale:
- the L168 Studio Grand (168 cm, 5'6"),
- the L190 Parlour Grand (190 cm, 6'3"),
- the L210 Grand (210 cm, 6'10"),
- the L225 Semi-Concert Grand (225 cm, 7'4") and
- the L274 Concert Grand (274 cm, 9'0").
- M. Kokla, A. Stulov (1995). "Grand piano manufacturing in Estonia: Historical review" (PDF). Proc. Estonian Acad. Sci. Engin. 1 (2): 158–171.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Estonia pianos.|
- Official website
- Estonia's pianos increasingly symbolic of post-Soviet transformation. Deutsche Welle, 19-08-2011.