Publication: The South African Music Teacher
2015 – 2016
Issue 150
Bladsy:82 & 83
By Stef Schuurman
11/01/1941 – 27/11/2013

“A piano builder begins to learn his trade from the bottom up – not from the pedals of a piano but by sweeping and cleaning the floors in a piano factory. W.K Stolze”

Article Written by Stef Schuurman: A truly inspiring life of one of South Africa’s piano building legends began in the 19thCentury in East Germany where he was born and raised. Born into a family well known for the fine trade of piano building, passed on from generation to generation.

Willy Kurt Hutzelmann was the founder of the family factory “Hutzelmann” in Eisenberg, East Germany in 1919. The only factory in East Germany to survive the Second World War. W.K Hutzelmann’s daughter Margret Johanna got married to Franz Gotward Kurt Stolze, the father of Wilfried Kurt Stolze. F.G.K Stolze also worked in the Hutzelmann factory and the Grotian Steinweg factory. That is how the Stolze family became a part of the Hutzelmann family, factory and the fine art of becoming Master Piano Builders.

F.G.K Stolze, his wife and three children immigrated to South Africa in 1953 after escaping to West Germany. In the year 1959 F.G.K Stolze established a piano shop in Whiteriver South Africa. He imported pianos and built pianos even repairing and refurbishing pianos throughout South Africa.

Born into the piano building family Wilfried Kurt Stolze, now the third generation had begun his training from a young age in order to take over from his father one day. In 1957 Wilfried got onto a Trek Airways flight and left South Africa to go and study in Eisenberg, East Germany. Wilfried had learned the trade of piano building at the Hutzelmann factory. He obtained his degree in 1960 after three years of studying and gaining experience working at the family factory.

Having fled Germany as a child with his parents, yet again fleeing just before the construction of the Berlin wall in 1961, merely a day after his wedding. Back in South Africa Wilfried worked at the Bothners factory in Johannesburg between 1961 and 1962. The factory was known for building Otto Bach & Knight.

Wilfried had mastered the trade of piano building quickly as it was in his genes. With all the knowledge he had acquired through years of experience and his studies in Germany he now had all the tools at hand to start training the fourth generation to continue in his footsteps and continue forth with not only his own legacy but that of the family back in Germany.

Wilfried opened a shop, “Stolze’s Piano Salon” in 1962 in the formerly named Schoeman Street in Pretoria. From thereon the business grew as his youngest son Werner Stolze became the fourth generation to learn the century-old trade of piano building by working alongside his father. A true mentor he was, teaching his son everything that he had to know in order to continue forth the trade and one day himself become a Master Piano Builder…

Wilfried had many accomplishments in his long-spanning career that made him well known and loved by all. Having been written about in numerous newspapers and magazines at the time. Not only making his name a household one but also complimenting him and sharing his wisdom with others known and unknown in the trade. Great at giving advice to others and always willing to help where he could. Wilfried had helped many establishments free of charge because pianos were his passion and reason for living not just a means of making money.

Some of the other special accomplishments of his career;

Travelling to Malawi on special request by President Hastings Kamuzu Banda to tune and refurbish a piano for a special function. (The pianist for this special event was, Natalia Strechenko).

Wilfried had also supplied and tuned the “Hohner” piano that was used to accompany the Pretoria University Choir at the inauguration of President F.W De Klerk on the 20thof September 1989. Wilfried had even received a letter of thanks from President F.W De Klerk thanking him for the piano and the tuning thereof.

In 1997 Wilfried had tuned the piano at the Presidential Home in Pretoria of the then President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela for the visit of the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

The above-mentioned events are just some of the many extraordinary events that defined Wilfried’s career and amazing talent of piano building and tuning. Experiences that made for great stories and amazing memories never to be forgotten but to be told over and over.

All through the years, he had trained, mentored and shaped his son Werner Stolze to one day be able to take over the family business and continue forth with the trade of Master Piano building and tuning. Handing over a priceless gift, the gift of becoming the fourth generation Master Piano Builder.

An inspiring person with a talent that is rare and that will always live on in the stories told by his children and grandchildren. Newspaper articles and photos spanning back three generations will be the evidence of the extraordinary life lived by an extraordinary individual. The music and piano world may have lost a gem, but they have gained so much from his accomplishments. Although the music and piano building world has gained a new fourth generation gem to continue forth…

Sadly in 2013, Wilfried Kurt Stolze passed away leaving behind his wife and three children. A great loss to the Master Piano Builders Trade. He had left behind an extraordinary legacy and life filled with extraordinary accomplishments. A legacy not lost as history will never forget, and in the future, his experience and knowledge live on through his son…

“The knowledge that I have of pianos and the history off all different factories and where they were built will, unfortunately, be lost to the new generation, there are a handful of piano builders (not tuners) left in South Africa, luckily my younger son Werner Stolze is fully trained.”

An inspirational message that Werner Stolze posted on his Facebook for his father, mentor and hero:

Dear Dad,

I thought of you today, but that is nothing new. I thought about you yesterday, and days before that too. I think of you in silence, I often speak your name. All I have are memories and a picture in a frame, your memory is a keepsake, from which I’ll never part.

God has you in his arms, I have you in my heart.  

For more history and photographs view website: