Piano making in Estonia was an art practiced during the late 18th century and has been documented as early as 1779. The craft had flourished, and during the late 19th and the early 20th century there were nearly 20 independent piano companies. The most notable of these manufacturers was Ernst Hiis-Ihse, whose handmade piano from 1893 became the prototype of the Estonia piano. After the WW II, Mr. Hiis was invited to establish a larger facility, known today as the Estonia Piano Factory.
Ernst Hiis' Piano Factory
The Estonian Piano Factory originates from the first piano models designed by Ernst Ihse-Hiis in 1893. Mr. Ihse-Hiis made grand and upright pianos. As a piano tuner for world-famous classical musicians, he demanded a great, rich sound of an instrument that became his hallmark.
Tallinn Piano Factory
After WW II, the country now occupied by the soviets, Mr. Hiis was invited to head the design and production at a state-owned company Tallinn Piano Factory and moved the production to a former furniture factory right next to Kalamaja Park. While Estonia-made pianos became prominent on concert stages throughout the East, for which over 7400 Concert Grand instruments have been made, the factory building was expanded to match the demand. Upright piano making was moved to Riga, Latvia, in the 1960-s.
From 1960-62, Mr. Enn Võrk became the Head Engineer at the Estonia Piano Factory. He was a prominent composer of solo, choral and orchestral works and had worked as an organist and choir conductor of St. John’s Church in Tallinn.
Estonia Piano Factory
After the country regained its independence in 1991, the factory was privatized in 1993/94 as a primary management buyout, and with the market shift, it struggled to keep the production going. An Estonia pianist Indrek Laul, while studying at The Juilliard School, over the following years, gradually purchased company stock and became its majority owner. With a team of managers, he initiated the rise of the company. The instruments became redesigned in collaboration with foremost piano experts, and a new model, L168, was introduced.
Estonia Piano Factory
Dr. Laul started inviting his musical family to join while becoming the sole owner of the factory. Venno Laul, CEO of the factory from 2005 -2018, Indrek’s father, built a team to bring the factory to a new level: two new piano models – L225 and L210 – were introduced, and an international network of representatives was established. Indrek’s mother, Reet Laul, headed the quality control team, and each piano was now checked for its musical qualities by a family member. Indrek became the factory’s CEO in 2018.
In August 2022, as per the 2021 national survey conducted in the Republic of Estonia, Estonian Post, a state postal agency, issued the postal stamp and envelope to commemorate the Estonia piano as “a great and beloved item of the country.”