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Only Steinway and Pleyel

A Specialist Approach

Grand Passion Pianos is the only piano company in the UK that specialises solely in grand pianos – and exclusively from the makers Steinway & Sons and Pleyel. On this page we look at the history of these illustrious piano brands, and the qualities that led us to specialise in no other pianos than these. 


If you have never played a Pleyel piano before, we invite you to come and try one at Grand Passion Pianos - at an attractive price our rebuilt Pleyel grand pianos offer excellent music performance coupled with one of the most beautiful, pure tones in the piano world. 

The name of Pleyel has been associated with the music world for more than two centuries. The Pleyel piano firm was founded by the famous classical composer Ignace Pleyel (an Austrian immigrant to France) in 1807. Throughout the firm's history a famous concert pianist has been in charge or associated with the firm, giving Pleyel pianos a unique musical pedigree. 


Pleyel’s most important contribution to the piano industry has been the firm's scrupulous manufacturing techniques and acoustic innovation, resulting in the 'Pleyel tone'. This is silvery and burnished, bright yet veiled, creating a wash of sound, yet with excellent clarity.


Chopin was notably fond of the Pleyel tone (and touch), and that tone gave birth to some of the piano repertoire’s most exquisite creations. It was also sought after by Rossini, De Falla, Debussy and Stravinsky, and the 20th-century performers Alfred Cortot, Raymond Trouard and Wanda Landowska. The Pleyel tone has evolved in line with design changes. However, the fundamental sound philosophy that underpins the Pleyel piano has remained.




Ignace Pleyel

Ignace Pleyel 

founder of Pleyel pianos

Pleyel grand piano

With some of the most celebrated musicians of the day at the helm of Pleyel, the business aspired from the very start to create pianos of rare distinction and achieved a unique musical footing among piano makers. Ignace and his son, Camille Pleyel, conducted early experiments with metal bracing systems, patenting a new method of soundboard construction. In 1828, they introduced a new type of pinblock that enhanced the sonority of the piano. Camille then introduced the famous ‘pianino’ upright pianos that Chopin was so fond of. 


Camille Pleyel was succeeded by his son-in-law Auguste Wolff, a musician, critical thinker and excellent engineer. It was under Wolff’s leadership that the Pleyel business underwent its most rapid period of growth. Wolff’s good work was in turn continued by his own son-in-law Gustave Lyon, who took the reins in 1887. 


Pleyel Modèle 3 grand piano

fully rebuilt by Grand Passion Pianos

Wolff and Lyon presided over what has been termed the ‘golden age’ of Pleyel (an epoch that ended with the US stock market crash of 1929). They shared qualities of entrepreneurship and between them introduced many excellent innovations. Wolff experimented with scale design and hammer placement, introducing overstringing to the Pleyel concert grand piano by 1869 (some six decades before Erard yielded to overstringing in its concert pianos). Wolff also invented such novelties as the pedal piano, which was performed on by Saint-Saëns (some 150 years later, the pedal piano has lately enjoyed a renaissance among makers such as Borgato and Fazioli). In 1858, Pleyel delivered a pedal piano to César Franck, who wrote in a letter to Wolff: ‘It surpasses my expectations. The sound is as full […] as possible’. And in 1873, Wolff invented and patented a transposing keyboard.


Gustave Lyon was arguably an even greater inventor than Wolff. He patented a proprietary double repetition action in 1893 which was used widely in the Pleyel grand in the following decades. Pianists often comment on the speed of the Pleyel double repetition action, although it is rather different in ‘feel’ from the modern roller action that is today the only choice of action on the market. For this reason Grand Passion Pianos usually retrofits a Renner action to golden age Pleyel piano unless a pianist specifically wishes to retain the original Pleyel double repetition action. In 1896, Lyon invented and filed a patent for perhaps Pleyel’s most remarkable invention of all – the famous double grand piano with a keyboard at either end of a single case, containing a shared soundboard but two actions and two sets of strings. These double pianos, or ‘duoclaves,’ were very successful in design – not only were two pianos contained within a single case, but the shared soundboard and quantum of strings provided great resonance, particularly in the bass register. Lyon’s inquiring mind also led him to analyse pianos by Pleyel’s main rivals so that the Pleyel piano could be benchmarked against the very finest pianos of other makers. In 1894, the editor of New York’s Musical Courier witnessed on a trip to the Pleyel workshop that pianos by Bechstein, Chickering, Knabe, Steinway and Weber were being studied and investigated to allow the benchmarking of Pleyel pianos against the highest standards of its competitors.

Pleyel Modèle D

fully rebuilt by Grand Passion Pianos

Pleyel Modèle 3, fallboard

fully rebuilt by Grand Passion Pianos

Pleyel Modèle 3bis

fully rebuilt by Grand Passion Pianos

Many people associate Pleyel with the Chopin-era only. However, Pleyel’s greatest financial success came at the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century under the successive leadership of Wolff and Lyon through Pleyel's evolved and fully modern pianos. By 1900, Pleyel was making 2,249 pianos a year, increasing to a peak output of 3,630 instruments in 1913. The pianos ranged from concert grands  (Modèle 1, later the excellent Modèle AL) to domestic uprights (incorporating true una corda mechanisms, very rare in the upright piano). However, one of the most popular models was the keenly designed 164cm Pleyel baby grand – initially known as the Modèle 3-bis, and then, from 1926, with a change in frame design and increased compass, as the Modèle F. There were 15,170 examples of the Modèle 3-bis and Modèle F made by 1971, when Pleyel was taken over by Schimmel. The Modèle 3-bis and Modèle F are superb rebuild candidates and make exceptional domestic pianos.


Pleyel pianos are not only amongst the world's finest instruments but are also beautiful to look at. The maker has always been avant-garde in style and placed great focus on ensuring that the case styling of a Pleyel is design-led and contemporary. For this reason, golden age Pleyels with their stylised legs and precious veneers appear very well in a modern setting.


A Steinway grand piano is the ultimate status symbol. Every Steinway is a work of art and a musical instrument of the highest order. The beautiful tone and touch ensure its enduring popularity in concert halls around in the world, as well as in the home of the piano connoisseur.


The house of Steinway requires little introduction. The Steinway is the choice of 9 out of 10 concert artists around the world, and for good reason. Beauty of tone, build quality and elegance are balanced to near perfection in the Steinway. The Steinway has the capacity to thunder or to whisper beautifully when required and is, for many, the ultimate piano.

For rebuilding, we are particularly focussed on Steinway grands from the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. There was a perfect combination of the finest materials and excellent craftsmanship during this era which imbued Steinway pianos with a rich, powerful and intoxicating tone. Once rebuilt, these instruments are exceptional in every way. We favour Models M, O and B from this period and often have an example of each on display. We also offer more modern instruments, prepared for performance in our ateliers, and recent examples have included a 2007 Model B and a 1988 Model M.

Many consider that vintage Steinways are finer toned than their modern equivalents. Certainly Steinways from the early twentieth century are warmer and rounder in tone than modern Steinways. Grand Passion Pianos considers that older Steinways which are carefully rebuilt represent some of the very finest instruments available.

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