"This Piano Has Everything"
Our client Patrick Selley has kindly written the testimonial below, following his recent purchase of a Pleyel Modèle 3 grand piano (6'8") from Grand Passion Pianos.
It is never too late to have all one’s deeply held beliefs torn up. And sometimes they should be.
Muzz Shah, quietly spoken, confident and musically educated certainly ‘knows his stuff’ and in the course of one morning in a converted factory in Wandsworth everything I had held dear about pianos for some decades went out of that factory window.
Having owned a particularly good late 1990s Steinway Model B from new and deeply regretted selling it ever since and watching the price double I really did know what I wanted. My next piano had to be black, not too old, probably German, easy to control and of course a mind reader in the way that Steinways can be. At the time we met I had narrowed down my choice to a 1960s rebuilt [Steinway] Model B that was in Belgium, or if I baulked at the budget, then a Shigeru Kawai.
Introduced to Muzz through a mutual work contact I was directed to the website of Grand Passion Pianos and listened to the recordings of the various pianos that comprised a good selection of Steinways and Pleyels. I managed to listen through a decent pair of headphones which partly compensated for the inevitably poor quality of a laptop and the clarity and warmth of the Pleyels disturbed me; after all, they weren’t meant to be better were they?
The Pleyel Model 3 is, give or take 3 or four inches, Model B size, and this one was first built in 1914. It had the original soundboard which I had approached with suspicion but appeared to make little difference. Grand Passion Pianos had completely rebuilt it including bespoke hammers made to Pleyel’s specifications. Muzz explained to me patiently that sometime around the beginning of the 20th century Pleyel had begun to use what are recognised as “modern” hammers, the difference being that theirs were unbleached which yielded a different textural quality to the hammer. The action, no longer a Pleyel double escapement action, but a new Renner action was perfectly smooth and balanced.
Difficult to shake off entirely my existing preconceptions it was not until the Pleyel had been delivered to deepest Devon and had been tuned that my confidence grew in this French imposter.
However initial hesitancy turned to confidence and confidence quickly morphed into awe!
Susceptible to infinite shades of tone, and control, with a moody, somewhat chocolatey and resonant bass, that conjures up the voice of Sarastro himself, its bell-like treble and sonorous tenor register, this piano has everything. It is as if hidden within it you stumble across the Chicago brass, the Vienna strings, the Berlin woodwind and thrown in just for good measure, Caruso.
Tonal quality varies wonderfully with touch and volume and pianissimo is easily achieved without the una corda that, when used, serves to add yet further colour to this instrument’s infinite palette.
Of course, its bread and butter is the Romantic repertoire having long been associated with Frederic Chopin. So try the Chopin Op 9 Nocturnes, dedicated to Madame Camille Pleyel herself. Equally wonderful is Bach, Debussy, Shostakovich, and my latest discovery of this piano’s talents, to the adult player the always terrifying, Mozart
In short, this Pleyel is an absolute joy and I would commend it to any serious pianist.
Also, I suspect because it’s French, that even as, God forbid, ‘a piece of furniture’ it is truly beautiful. Its Rio Rosewood is suitably dark and subtle, the legs elegant and anything but simply functional, and the decision to respray it in the relatively modern matt polyester finish is a very stylish touch.