It was a favorite piano of Chopin, Ravel, Debussy, Saint Saëns, deFalla and Stravinsky. Known for its velvet touch and sonorous timbre, the Pleyel piano is a remarkable instrument.
After a concert I had given in 2015 for patrons of the American Museum in Britain, I met a gentleman and his wife at the reception. They said that they had selected and now owned the final Pleyel grand to come out of the Paris factory in 2013 (the factory shut down later that year), and that the piano was in their apartment in New York City. I hope someday to accept their invitation to play that instrument, placed in their own music salon next to a Bösendorfer grand piano. The topic that evening had been the story of an historic Steinway grand piano that my firm had just restored. The evening’s private concert was the setting for describing the complete process of that vintage grand piano’s restoration.
Coincidentally, in Chicago I had a Pleyel in storage, acquired some years earlier with the intention of restoring it for myself. Years pass and so many personal projects vanish because of the busy nature of our lives. There seems to be no time to lavish upon such an instrument for oneself. So it sat for years, until a friend approached me. A dear friend of his was looking for a special piano, not knowing what it might be, asking my advice. Once we determined that this needed to be something quite special, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was unlikely to restore the Pleyel piano I had in storage for myself. I offered it to them as a possible rare find.
After many months of meticulous restoration and rebuilding at the highest level, the beautiful 1880 ebony grand Pleyel piano was done. Playing it was especially exciting as it seemed to transport my thoughts back to a time not long after Chopin’s death. I wonder what might it have been like, then? To be at Salle Pleyel and hear a concert played by Frederick Chopin, the harmonies of some of the most beautiful music ever composed sounding through the fabled red spruce Pleyel soundboards harvested from the Fiemme Valley in Trentino, Italy, and skillfully built in Paris. One wonders…
Jeffrey Cappelli, RPT