Detailing the harmonious blend of richness in tone, finesse in making, enthralling history, and unfaultable mechanics, the Pleyel Grand Piano of 1842 stands as a paragon in the chronicles of pianoforte history. The magnificence of this make is not merely encased within its splendid sound but also with its intrinsic ties to musical greats like Frederic Chopin and Camille Pleyel, thereby perpetuating its glory even further.
The Pleyel et Cie ("Pleyel and Company") was founded in 1807 at the heart of Paris, France, under the careful artistic vision of famed composer and piano manufacturer Ignaz Pleyel. Affiliation with this virtuoso piano firm opened doors that produced over 250,000 pianos before officially closing in 2013. The 1842 Grand Piano was crafted at a time when France was transitioning from the Industrial Revolution to enduring political turmoil of the February Revolution of 1848. This piano survived the ravages of time and political unrest, boasting its resilience.
Taking the shape of a 'Grand Piano,' the Pleyel of 1842 showcases the classic horizontal frame, allowing for a larger soundboard and lengthy strings. The model measures to be an impressive 8 feet 11 inches in length and around 5 feet in width. The maker's number ‘9276,’ prominently engraved on the iron frame, testifies of its authenticity.
Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of this particular model is its utilization of the 'Erard' patent double escapement action, a technical marvel of its time. Patented by the rival firm Sébastien Érard in 1821, this innovative mechanism facilitated faster repetition of notes and improved the tactile responsiveness of the piano keys, massively influencing the romantic-era piano compositions. The Pleyel, though known for its unique lightweight action, incorporated this component for a spell of time, bestowing playability that won the hearts of pianists and composers alike.
Its soundboard, made of European spruce, had a unique grain orientation that contributed to the piano's distinct sonority. The Pleyel grand, being a straight-strung model, possessed a sound quality that was linear, clear, and offered a superior blending of tones unlike the cross-string action in most of the contemporary pianos.
One cannot neglect the piano’s external beauty – the body ornately crafted from indigenous European walnut, the exquisitely carved Louis XV-style Rococo scrollwork, festooned with C-scrolls, acanthus leaves, and shell motifs. The remarkable workmanship testifies to the symbiotic relationship between artistry and function that portrays European craftsmanship's dedication.
The enigmatic connection to Frederic Chopin lends this piano historical gravitas. Famously, Chopin preferred the French Pleyel pianos, and his close association with Camille Pleyel, son of the founder Ignaz Pleyel, affirms this preference. The delicate, intimate, and crystal clear tonal brilliance of the Pleyel pianos remarkably complemented Chopin's compositional style. The Pleyel factory archives reveal that Chopin purchased a Pleyel grand in 1839 before acquiring another – likely our 1842 model – after his return from Majorca. Hence, this particular Pleyel may be one of the very pianos upon which some of Chopin's masterpieces came to life.
In essence, the Pleyel Grand Piano of 1842 encompasses a harmonious fusion of superior craftsmanship, audiological opulence, and historical affinity. It is more than an instrument; it is a befriending time capsule for piano aficionados, gently whispering tales of melodious bygones. It is a legacy set forth in wood and iron, resonating with an intangible tune of the past that reverberates in every key it holds.