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  • Matt Drinkwater

The World of Design and The Grand Piano

Yesterday was the final day of London Design Festival 2023. Grand Passion Pianos was an official partner of the festival this year. We were very happy welcome guests from all around the world to view our pictorial charting of piano design pieces as well as a number of live art-case Pleyel designs at our showroom.

For the duration of the festival, Grand Passion Pianos explored the intersection of art, design and music through an exhibition at our showroom on Newman Street, Fitzrovia. Our walls were adorned with images of Pleyel grand pianos designed by leading architects, interior designers and artists.

At the festival we also launched a very special Pleyel grand piano designed by Hilton McConnico. This was one of the last pieces created by the legendary French-American designer prior to his death and has now been realised by the Pleyel piano company. This instrument is raised on crystalline legs, with an alternating linear high gloss and ultra-matte motif to the sides of the cabinet bringing to mind the lines of a musical stave. The lid of the piano opens to reveal a bright red vermillion to all interior details – the soundboard, the frame, the dampers and even the duplex scale.

In addition, we currently have several other bespoke Pleyel grand pianos on display, including a classic nineteenth century Pleyel in rosewood with brass inlay, an avant-garde 1926 Pleyel grand in an off-black and burr vavona wood cabinet and a 2023 Pleyel in a high gloss black and muted red finish.

Design-led pianos have been a feature since the earliest conception of the modern grand piano. The basic shape of the grand piano is highly aesthetic in itself and has proved a perfect canvas for leading practitioners of contemporary design movements throughout the grand piano’s history. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, world exhibitions and fairs became significant venues for piano manufacturers to showcase their most exquisite art-case designs. These events often spurred the creation of especially grand and intricate instruments as companies sought to outdo each other and capture the public's imagination.

The rise of modernism and changing musical tastes in the 20th century presented opportunities for emerging contemporary design movements to intersect in the medium of the grand piano. For example, the designer Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann created striking and timeless contemporary grand piano conceptions for the Pleyel piano company – designs still produced on commission to this day.

The past few years has seen a renewed interest in design-led and bepoke pianos. This is of particular interest to Grand Passion Pianos, since our workshop partners are able to work with many mediums to create bespoke instruments, including rare wood veneers, glass, crystal and metal.

Muzz Shah with a guest from Monterrey, Mexico at our recital on 18 September

As part of our participation in London Design Festival, Grand Passion Pianos also hosted a special recital on 18 September combining digital artwork with a performance by concert pianist Jonathan Ferrucci. This involved the display of fifty original digital images and animations which were chosen by reference to sections of the score for each piece performed.

Our thanks also go out to the Financial Times for featuring our exhibition as a highlight of the London Design Festival this year.

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