Otto Bach made by Knight but also in South Africa?

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Mark R.
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Otto Bach made by Knight but also in South Africa?

Post by Mark R. » 16 Jan 2014, 15:31

Dear members,

I was referred to this forum by the moderator, Bill Kibby, who I had contacted by e-mail.

I'm trying to find out more about Otto Bach pianos. In South Africa, where I live, this is pretty much a household brand.

According to my research, there was a piano factory in South Africa, started by a certain German piano builder by the name of Dietmann, that was in production from the mid 1950s to sometime in the 1980s. They manufactured various brands, amongst them Otto Bach. Their flagship brand was Ibach. Apparently they had a license agreement with Rud. Ibach Sohn, the German manufacturer, to build (or complete partially assembled?) Ibach pianos in South Africa. It also appears that Rolf Ibach actually worked at (or with) the Dietmann factory at one stage, and that these South African Ibachs were actually exported in the 1970s and 80s, amongst others, to their country of origin, Germany - presumably to offer them at a lower price than the German equivalents. I own one of these, and one can clearly see that the workmanship (e.g. bridge notching) is not of typical Ibach standard. Still, it has the typically clear Ibach sound, and the Renner action is a pleasure.

The locally manufactured Otto Bach pianos were very popular (and still are, on the used market) because of their reasonable pricing and quality. They were true work-horses. Every other teacher or household had one. Originally, Otto Bach was a name used by the German manufacturer Zimmermann, in Leipzig, for their export models. I thought that Dietmann had bought this name, and had stencilled it onto Knights. But now, Bill Kibby tells me that Otto Bachs were actually built by Knight in the UK! He remembers tuning them, and for all practical intents, they were Knights - they had identical insides. This has me wondering whether Knight "farmed out" a part of their production to the Dietmann factory here in South Africa, to produce them more cheaply than in the UK. The South African Otto Bachs used actions by BPA (British Piano Actions), which is exactly what Bill has seen in the UK.

Does anyone have any information on this? Did Knight perhaps grant a license to the S.A. Dietmann factory, just as Ibach did? Or did Dietmann perhaps buy the Otto Bach name in the 50s or 60s, stencilled it onto Knights, and possibly even licensed this production back to Knight in the UK? Or were all Otto Bachs perhaps produced here in South Africa, and some found their way on the export market back into the UK?

I'd be interested in any information; as I said earlier, Otto Bach is still very much a household name here in S.A., but very little is known of their pedigree.


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Bill Kibby
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Re: Otto Bach made by Knight but also in South Africa?

Post by Bill Kibby » 06 Feb 2014, 12:15

I have been looking through my old tuning records, and the only 2 Otto Bach pianos I have found so far are definitely dated 1971 on the keys. They are identical to a Knight, although that name does not appear in the piano. Serial numbers 48706 & 47932.

This information appears near the bottom of the page at

“Otto Bach” ~~~~ seems originally to have been a name for pianos exported by Zimmermann, Leipzig for their export range. It appears that they took on the "Otto Bach, Leipzig" name by the twenties. It then seems that Dietmann, South Africa, purchased the "Otto Bach" brand in the 1950s and out it onto pianos they made, apparently not mentioning Leipzig. Alastair Laurence tells me that Knights supplied the piano parts to Dietmann for these, so they were virtually Knight pianos. There are still thousands of these Otto Bach pianos around; besides famous brands such as Steinway or Bösendorfer, it is probably the best-known piano brand in South African homes. By 1971, there were also “Otto Bach” pianos made entirely by Knight in Essex, and identical to their others except for the name on the front.

Because of the varying origins of the name, it is not possible to date the pianos by their numbers.
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Re: Otto Bach made by Knight but also in South Africa?

Post by joseph » 16 May 2016, 22:10

Sorry to resurrect this 2 years later....

But in Norwich I used an Otto Bach piano for a church choir practice, and it was identical to a Knight I used to own, same sound, same touch, same case, different name on the front.

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Re: Otto Bach made by Knight but also in South Africa?

Post by Gill the Piano » 17 May 2016, 15:20

...and at college we 'made' pianos which were really airfix kits of Knight K10s. The frame wasn't badged.
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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