Pleyel et Cie
Pleyel et Cie ("Pleyel and Company") was a French piano manufacturing firm founded by the composer Ignace Pleyel in 1807. In 1815, Pleyel's son Camille joined him as a business partner. The firm provided pianos to Frédéric Chopin, 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, Philip Manuel and Gavin Williamson.
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. Their pianos were such a success that in 1834 the company employed 250 workers and produced 1000 pianos annually.
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's instrument, patented as the "Duo-Clave", was by far the most successful and produced the largest instruments. The company manufactured a very small number of Double Pianos in the 1890s and continued to make them 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.
Pleyel continued to manufacture pianos through 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 incorporated 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 full assembly of a piano, the instrument receives a further 30-40 hours of fine-tuning.
The company announced it would cease manufacturing pianos in France at the end of 2013.
- MacIntyre, Ben (17 March 2007). "Chopin's true sound can be heard at last after discovery of his piano". The Times (London).
- "Letters, Volumes 41-42". Washington, DC.: Time Inc. 1935. ISSN 9467134
- 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).
- Hundley, Tom (30 April 2008). "Grand finale: European piano-makers hear their centuries-old industry’s closing notes". Chicago Tribune.
- Eleanor Beardsley (2013-12-28). "Chopin's Favorite Piano Factory Plays Its Final Chord". Weekend Edition Saturday (National Public Radio). Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- Official Pleyel pianos website
- Pleyel of Paris newsletter
- Salle Pleyel, a Paris concert hall built in the late 1920s
- A web site on Pleyel pianos by Stephen Birkett of the University of Waterloo; includes pictures of Pleyel and of historical Pleyel pianos
- Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2001 s.v., Pleyel (ii), pp. 923–924
- Pictures of several Pleyel pianos
- History of Pleyel and their pianos with many pictures and details
- Rachel Donadio, "Storied French Piano Manufacturer to Close". New York Times "ArtsBeat" blog, 14 November 2013