Black notes in France as Pleyel stops making pianos

Black notes in France as Pleyel stops making pianos


norman lebrecht

November 12, 2013

The last piano manufacturer in France – and by far the most famous – will cease production next month, it was announced today.

The firm was founded in 1815 and Frederic Chopin was a loyal customer. He would surely have composed an étude on the black keys on hearing this sombre news. 



  • A great shame. How are other European companies faring?

    • Mike Earles says:

      It is a sad tale regarding so many European & British piano manufacturers many consumed by cheap Eastern/Asian manufacturing plants. Look at the chequered recent history even of Bosendorfer, Bechstein and now U.S. Steinway. Beethoven seems to have loved the Broadwood as much as Chopin did the Pleyel. As with most things the West has priced itself out of the market and has only itself to blame. We can even say the same for the huge rise in concert and opera tickets since Karajan waved his wand.

  • Michael Smith says:

    Sad news indeed. And of course, Pleyel made harpsichords in the early C20. Without them, where would the harpsichord revival be?

  • dansk66 says:

    On that site there is the marching band from a US university that has Three ( yes, Three!) conductors. Sync my baton.

  • Martin Bookspan says:

    When Stokowski conducted the world premiere of the Ives 4th Symphony in the mid-60s with the American Symphony Orchestra, three assistant conductors were on hand to sort out the rhythmic complexities. So that made a total of 4 conductors involved in the performance! These days, after Gunther Schuller showed that it was possible to play the piece with just 1 conductor involved, most performances (of which there are still too few!) are accomplished with a single conductor in charge.

  • Parker Williamson says:

    This sad closure was no doubt exacerbated by the absolutely anti business atmosphere in France. Corporate taxation levels in France are the highest in Europe and in the top three in the world, making it extremely difficult for any company, especially one in a very small niche market, to compete. The closure of Pleyel is just one of the weekly list of corporate closures in France and one more step to the nation’s total demise. I live in France and can tell all readers that a revolution of major proportions is due here very soon, within the next three to six months. The current government has absolutely zero business sense, even worse, President Hollande actually openly derides business and business leaders, calling them “groping”, “greedy”, “speculative”, “capitalists”, who need to be punished by having crippling taxes thrown at them. The result is that France is totally uncompetitive and a totally lost country. Sad for Pleyel, but even sadder for France.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I see you can get Fox news in France, too.

      • Pierre Lyon says:

        Sadly, what is written by Mr. Williamson above is totally true and is not a Fox News fabrication. France has become an embarrassment. Any modern thinking, creative, entrepreneurial person would have to be mad to try and “work” in France. It is a country that does everything that is possible to destroy any creative spirit and sense of personal enterprise. France is today a laughable anachronism, like something out of a 1960’s manual of how to run a bloated oppressive bureaucracy, it is and it now looks so outdated and old fashioned. The world has moved on, but France appears stuck in a time warp and soon there will be some insurrection, as the atmosphere has become unbearable and suffocating.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          That’s the impression of how things work there I got from the TV series “Engrenages” (which I, as someone who rarely ever watches TV, was completely addicted to until I fortunately ran out of episodes to watch).

          But then, that’s just, well…TV. So I didn’t take it seriously as a depiction of “reality”. What you are telling us here sounds very similar though and you seem to be an insider. So why do you think that is?

        • Adrienne Fox says:

          How France escapes censure from the EU I cannot understand. They feed their bureaucracy with information about income taxes, domestic taxes and many over-complicated personal details, yet there is little unanimity in the responses.

          Getting qualifications other than those French-validated, recognised is a nightmare. A PhD from Glasgow was turned down for a post because she hadn’t a gold medal! Gold medals are awarded by every tin-pot ‘conservatoire’ in France, out of which possibly 3 would compare with The Royal Scottish Academy.

          This mind-set must be long enduring. Look at Eric Satie’s, ‘Sonata Bureaucratique’. It has a very informative commentary.

          Despite my name, I owe no allegiance to FOX News.

          • Three French conservatiores on a par with Glasgow? I think you’re being very generous, Adrienne…

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            “How France escapes censure from the EU I cannot understand. They feed their bureaucracy with information about income taxes, domestic taxes and many over-complicated personal details, yet there is little unanimity in the responses.”

            So…uh…what does that mean? Isn’t the government supposed to know how much taxes everyone is supposed to pay? I guess I don’t understand what you are saying. Not your fault – I am just a little slow when it comes to subjects like this, I guess.

          • Adrienne Fox says:

            Hi Michael.

            You’re not slow, just logical. The taxes and admin. in France can be chaotic, and vary from region to region. If anyone has a business hanging on a shoe string,they may be lulled into a false sense of security, then hammered enough to send them under. 20

            years ago it was OK, but has deteriorated, – a downward slide not helped by the rudderless government.

      • @Michael – Not at all; it really is that way, here. It would be funny were it not so frightening.

        • As a little aside to the main point, the government has also announced a rise on restaurant VAT from seven to 10 percent, making it less attractive to eat out and, consequently, to support that industry. A rise of one to two percent in solicitors’ conveyancing fees (Frais de notaire) is also mooted for January, meaning you’ll soon have to shell out around €30,000 for a €300,000 property. The list goes on and on, Hollande’s popularity continues to plummet but there doesn’t appear to be any U-turn in sight. In 2007, and even with a legitimate majority, the French media ensured Sarkozy’s feet didn’t touch the ground for five years and yet he lost the election in 2012 by the smallest margin in the history of the Fifth Republic. France is in social and economic chaos and I suspect it’s only down to the left-of-centre mainstream press not being too hard on Président Flanby that has averted mass insurrection thus far.

          • May I just remind all the economically speaking liberal commentators here that Sarkozy’s conservative government left France in a dire state and probably France has a huge tax burden but also among the most generous social securities in the world

            If the Financial Crisis impacted less the poor and middle classes in France, it’s also thanks to the generous social benefits that also help the country have the second highest fertility rate in the EU

            You are expatriates in France living where? In the chic XVIth Arrondissement of Paris? You are of course oblivious to the fate of the common frenchman and woman who voted for the left in 2012

    • Mike Earles says:

      Quite agree and further proof of misguided socialist policies in regard to the arts in particular.

    • Adrienne Fox says:

      There’s something odd here. Steinway were pushed to keep up with demand for their pianos from the emerging Chinese middle class.

      Chirac was learning Chinese in order to get a good trade relationship before most of Europe had registered what was happening with the burgeoning China.

      Hollande is the most unpopular President in History, and that takes some doing! Could it be down to Pleyel themselves for letting things slide? I rarely saw a new Pleyel when I was in France, fleets of Yamahas and some Korean instruments but Pleyel?

  • Bob says:


    S.P.C.P. Sarl

    32 rue du Sabotier

    Vallée de Coquin



    N° de TVA : FR63491993911

  • Pamela Davis says:

    Couldn’t some of these companies move elsewhere, to countries that would welcome them?

  • Mike Earles says:

    What? and loose out on the in bred quality?? No way. Just try to play a chinese piano or may others from the orient.

    • The best pianists today come from east Asia, why can’t they be good piano makers? Prejudice, as always…

      • Mike Earles says:

        Everyone is entitled to his opinion. Yours does not coincide with mine. Did you try playing and thus comparing Far Eastern pianos with those of true pedigree from Central Europe? Will they stand the test of time and long years of use? Even Yamaha’s production is very varied. Please do not concentrate on just one or two piano players who have engaged the undue hype of press and media to spring board them into the public’s ear. Do those you refer to have the benefit of a cultural climate in which to mature and grow into works as demanding as late Beethoven?