Pleyel et Cie

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Chopin's Pleyel piano in Cell No. 4 in Valldemossa Charterhouse in Mallorca
Chopin's last piano made by the Pleyel company (no 14810) displayed in the Fryderyk Chopin Museum in Warsaw; Chopin played and composed on this instrument in 1848-49

Pleyel et Cie ("Pleyel and Company") is a French piano manufacturing firm founded by the composer Ignace Pleyel in 1807.[1] In 1815, he was joined by his son, Camille, as a business partner. The firm provided pianos to Frédéric Chopin,[2] and also ran a concert hall, the Salle Pleyel, where Chopin performed his first – and last – Paris concerts. Pleyel's major contribution to piano development was the first use of a metal frame in a piano. Pleyel pianos were the choice of composers such as Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Ravel, de Falla and Stravinsky and of pianists and teachers Alfred Cortot,[3] Philip Manuel and Gavin Williamson.[4]

History[edit]

Pleyel pioneered the player piano with the Pleyela line of pianos. These were often very small pianos of a very unusual design.

Around 1815, Pleyel was the first to introduce the short, vertically strung cottage upright piano, or "pianino" to France, adapting the design made popular in Britain by Robert Wornum.[5] Their pianos were such a success that in 1834 the company boasted 250 employees and an annual production of 1000 pianos.

The company's success led them to invest in experiments, resulting in the Double Piano in 1890. Although not the first company to experiment with building two pianos into the same frame, Pleyel (who patented it as "Duo-Clave") was by far the most successful and produced the largest instruments. A very small number of Double Pianos were manufactured in the 1890s and continued to be made until the 1920s. CDs can be bought today of performances on some of these pianos.

In 1913, Pleyel built the "Jungle Piano" for use by Albert Schweitzer in his hospital in Lambaréné (French Equatorial Africa – now Gabon). It was fitted with pedal attachments (to operate like an organ pedal-keyboard) and built with tropical woods that would acclimate to conditions there.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the Pleyel firm produced the first chromatic harp. In the early 20th century, at the behest of Wanda Landowska, it helped to revive the harpsichord.

Today[edit]

Pleyel continued to manufacture pianos until November, 2013, under the corporate auspices of the Manufacture Française de Pianos company. In the 1980s, the Pleyel company bought out the Erard and Gaveau piano companies which also manufactured pianos in France. The Pleyel pianos of today incorporate improvements of these companies and others. In the last two decades, Pleyel Piano was bought by the same family which had bought the Salle Pleyel concert hall in order to revive the name and quality of Pleyel pianos. They built a new factory in the south of France and started making a line of newly designed and improved pianos. Then, in 2008, they decided to downsize the factory and lines of pianos. They moved the factory back to Paris and opened a new factory where they began introducing new pianos designed by famous designers.

The red spruce used by Pleyel comes from the Fiemme Valley in Trentino, Italy. After a piano is fully assembled, it is moved into a voicing room where an expert with an arcane assortment of tools will spend 30 to 40 hours fine-tuning the instrument.[6] In November 2013, the company announced that it would cease piano manufacture in France.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.pianola.org/factsheets/pleyela.cfm
  2. ^ MacIntyre, Ben (17 March 2007). "Chopins true sound can be heard at last after discovery of his piano". The Times (London). 
  3. ^ Pleyel of Paris newsletter
  4. ^ "Letters, Volumes 41-42". Washington, DC.: Time Inc. 1935.  ISSN 9467134
  5. ^ Margaret Cranmer, "Pleyel (ii)", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  6. ^ Hundley, Tom (30 April 2008). "Grand finale: European piano-makers hear their centuries-old industry’s closing notes". Chicago Tribune. 
  7. ^ http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/11/black-notes-on-as-france-loses-its-pleyel-pianos.html

External links[edit]