MASTERS OF INSTRUMENT MAKING
The Pleyel brand is the masterpiece of the accomplished musician, inventor of genius, talent-spotter, generous sponsor and daring publisher, Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831).
First a student and then a friend of Haydn, Pleyel was a renowned musician and composer from the late eighteenth century onwards with 41 symphonies and 70 quartets, quintets and operas to his name. After settling in Paris in 1795, he opened his first music store and, in a pioneering move, published the first popular collections of pocket music books.
Eager to develop instruments to match the changing demands of the composers and artists of his day, Ignaz Pleyel founded in 1807 the 'Pleyel Manufacturing Plant' which has been devoted to this activity ever since.
At his death in 1831, Pleyel had become an established supplier to the Empress Josephine and all the European courts. He exported pianos to Europe, North and South America and the Far East. His son, Camille, a great pianist, took over at the helm and brought tremendous impetus to the family business. It was under his direction that Pleyel acquired its international reputation.
At the height of the Romantic Period, Camille opened his famous 'salons', the acme of Paris musical life at the time, where large numbers of virtuosos and famous composers were heard for the first time
His successors played a significant role in strengthening and broadening the activities of the Pleyel brand. Firstly, Augustus Wolff (from 1855) who introduced numerous innovations improving the reliability and robustness of the company’s pianos, creating new models such as the upright piano and Gustave Lyon, who took over in 1887, a distinguished engineer and pioneer in architectural acoustics.
In 1885, the business developed and modernised with the creation of the Saint-Denis Manufacturing Plant, extending over 55.000 m².
By opening the Salle Pleyel on the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré in Paris in 1927, Gustave Lyon was continuing a long tradition of love of music and fine instruments. Dedicated to all forms of artistic expression, this was the era’s first (indeed the world’s first) holistic arts centre. Within this new space, boasting the best working and interpretation conditions available at the time, the spirit of the famous Pleyel salons took on a new dimension.
Production was then moved to Germany for twenty-five years before being restored to France in Alès (Gard) in 1996.
Since it was established, Pleyel has surrounded itself with the greatest artists, musicians and composers. Their love of music and their passion for fine instruments inspired Ignaz Pleyel in the design and manufacture of his pianos. Always attentive to his contemporaries and eager to satisfy their artistic requirements, Camille Pleyel, in turn, continued to perfect the instruments.
Driven by a taste for musical innovation and discovery, Camille was a gifted talent spotter. It was he that ‘launched’ Chopin’s career in 1832 with a concert in his salons. The two men became friends and Pleyel became Chopin’s official piano supplier. Chopin performed all his Parisian public concerts in Pleyel salons and played his last concert to a packed house, a few months before his death in 1849.
Other musicians have hitched their talents to the Pleyel name: Liszt, Thalberg, Franck, Debussy, Grieg, Ravel, De Falla, Stravinsky etc.
Created by a passionate musician, Pleyel has continued over time to interact with artists by involving them in its innovations. Often at the forefront of innovation in their day, the pianos they designed have since become classics.