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  • Muzaffar Shah

A Piano for the Artist

Updated: Feb 15

One of the great strengths of the Pleyel piano brand has always been its close association with leading musicians and pianists. This began from the company’s inception in 1807 by Ignaz Pleyel, one of the most renowned composers of his day.

Not only did pianists and composers idolise the Pleyel piano itself, but they helped to shape the technical development of the piano as the house of Pleyel sought to ensure that the beautiful tone of the Pleyel reflected the comments and suggestions of such persons.

In the Grand Passion Pianos archives, we have various manuscripts charting the progress of the Pleyel piano. However, regarding the association between Pleyel and artists, an interesting letter from 1854 has recently come to light.

On 22 July 1854, Camille Pleyel (the son and successor of Ignaz Pleyel and Chopin’s great friend) wrote to Antoine François Marmontel, an influential teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, who had invited him to sit on a competition jury. He stated that:

“You know how much I am interested in the progress of piano studies since this instrument has been the object of work all my life, first as an artist and then as a maker.”

Camille Pleyel was a prodigiously gifted pianist in his own right, but gave up the concert platform to succeed his father at the helm of Pleyel pianos. He continued:

“I have been able to appreciate all the talent and all the zeal with which you guide the young people who are entrusted to your care… I am particularly looking forward to hearing the performance of the young Guiraud.”

As this letter shows, Camille Pleyel clearly retained a keen interest in piano pedagogy. As with all heads of the Pleyel piano firm, he saw the intimate connection between artistry and the ability of a piano maker to craft the finest pianos. This may seem like a natural thing, but very few, if any, piano makers managed to integrate pianistic life with the progress of the piano in the manner that the Pleyel piano firm achieved. The result is pianos of uniquely beautiful tone - perhaps the most beautiful of all.

Ernest Guiraud

The “young Guiraud” which Camille Pleyel refers to is Ernest Guiraud. Guiraud was a celebrated French composer and pianist who had been born in New Orleans, but moved to Paris for his further education at the Paris Conservatoire. At the time of Camille’s letter, Guiraud was only seventeen, but he was clearly already making an impact at the Paris Conservatory. He went on to be awarded the first prize in piano in 1858, so Camille Pleyel was quite right to have spotted his potential.

This is but one vignette of countless touchpoints between pianists and the house of Pleyel over a history of more than two hundred years. Right up to the twenty first century, Pleyel pianos were intimately associated with artists.

The Pleyel pianos we offer are generally from the period 1896 – 1930. This is because, by this period, Pleyel pianos were fully modern in design, but retained a sound philosophy which harked back to the peak of Romanticism, whilst the era was one in which the finest craftsman and materials combined in Europe to create the finest pianos ever built.

The first page of Guiraud's Piano Sonata, Opus 1, dedicated to Marmontel, his teacher at the Paris Conservatory to whom Camille Pleyel's letter was addressed

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